Edith Kanaka‘ole, a dancer, composer, teacher, and kumu hula, was one of the leading lights of the Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1970’s. She will be featured on U.S. quarters next year as part of the Treasury Department’s American Women Quarters Program. You can see more designs here:
Edith was born in Honomu, Hawai‘i on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island, in 1913. She was taught hula from an early age and began to compose traditional Hawaiian music in 1946. She choreographed hula to accompany her chants and founded the hula halau, Halau o Kekuhi, in 1953. She taught Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies at Hawai‘i Community College and the University of Hawai‘i, Hilo from 1970 until her death in 1979. Her legacy continues to be felt today through the foundation that bears her name. It’s mission is stated on the website:
Established on the vibrant traditions and rich cultural heritage of the Kanakaʻole family, it is the Foundation’s mission to elevate Hawaiian intelligence through cultural education founded on the teachings and traditional practices of Edith and Luka Kanakaʻole.
Of her songs, my favorite is Ka Uluwehe o Ke Kai (The Plants of the Sea), which tells of a task common to Hawaiians who live near the sea—the gathering of seaweeds for eating. She wrote it in 1978 in the studio when the producer told her there was running time left on her record.