Bernice Pauahi Bishop (December 19, 1831 – October 16, 1884), born Bernice Pauahi Pākī, was a Hawaiian alii, a direct descendant of the royal House of Kamehameha, and a philanthropist. She was the great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha I and the last surviving descendant of his royal line. Her estate is the largest private landowner in the state of Hawaii. The revenues from these lands are used to operate the Kamehameha Schools, which were established in 1887 according to Pauahi's last will and testament. Pauahi was married to businessman and philanthropist Charles Reed Bishop.
Her father, lord Alii Abner Kuhooheiheipahu Pākī (c 1808-55), was a noble from the island of Molokai, and son of lady Alii Kawao and lord Alii Kalani-hele-maiiluna Pākī, who himself descended from Alii Aimoku of the island of Maui.
Bernice's mother was Princess Alii Laura Kōnia (c 1808-57), declared Royal Highness by decree of her grandfather Kamehameha I. She was the younger daughter of Alii Pauli Kaoleioku (1767-1818), by his second wife, Alii Kahailiopua Luahine, was an illegitimate but legitimated natural (eldest) son of king Kamehameha the Great. She was name for her aunt Queen Pauahi, the widow of Kamehameha II.
Contrary to a chiefly posthumous but popular belief, the great lady Bernice Pauahi never used in her lifetime, nor was officially entitled to, the title Princess. This frequent error is repeated in a wide variety of modern publications.
Beginning at age eight, Pauahi went to a school called the Chiefs' Children's School until about 1846. Afterward, it was renamed the Royal School. Her teachers were Mr. and Mrs. Cooke. Pauahi greatly enjoyed horseback riding and swimming, and she also liked music, flowers, and the outdoors. She dressed like any fashionable New York or London woman and the trapping of the Victorian Era.
Pauahi married businessman Charles Reed Bishop in 1850 despite the objections of her parents. It had been planned from childhood that Pauahi, born into Hawaiian royalty, would marry her hānai brother Lot Kapuāiwa. Per her request, very few people attended her wedding. One of the few witnesses was Princess Elizabeth Kekaanaiu, her cousin. The couple had no children of their own; they adopted a son from Pauahi's cousin Ruth Keelikōlani, but the infant died at the age of six months.
King Kamehameha V offered Pauahi the throne on his deathbed. But, taken aback, she replied, "No, no, not me; don't think of me. I don't need it." The king pressed on. But she again spurned the throne: "Oh, no, do not think of me. There are others." After considering the alternatives, all of whom were rejected, the king said no more. The king died an hour later. Pauahi's refusal to accept the crown allowed for the House of Kalākaua to come to power. No one knows why Pauahi refused the throne. The answer may have been contained in her letter and memorabilia left in the care of her husband. Unfortunately, they were destroyed during the Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
On October 16, 1884, at the age of 52, Pauahi died of cancer at Keōua Hale, Honolulu. She is interred in the Kamehameha Crypt at Mauna Ala on Oahu. After her death, her husband helped establish the Kamehameha Schools in 1887, and founded the Bishop Museum in Honolulu in 1889 as a memorial to Pauahi.
When she wrote her will, only 44,000 Hawaiians were alive. After Mrs. Bishop's death in 1884, her husband Charles Reed Bishop started work in carrying out her will.
The original Kamehameha School for Boys was established in 1887 on the site of the current Bishop Museum. The girls' school was established in 1894 on a nearby campus. By 1955, the schools moved to their current 600 acre (2.4 km²) location in Kapālama Heights.
In the will, the trustees were instructed "...to devote a portion of each year's income to the support and education of orphans, and others in indigent circumstances, giving the preference to Hawaiians of pure or part aboriginal blood..." Additionally she directed that: replacement trustees be appointed by the Hawaii Supreme Court, and that they be Protestants; that all teachers be Protestant, without regard to denomination. These clauses were deemed unconstitutional in 1993 by the 9th Circuit Court.
On December 5, 2006, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned an earlier ruling in the John Doe vs. Kamehameha Schools lawsuit which ruled the Kamehameha Schools policy amounted to unlawful discrimination. The 8-7 decision allows Kamehameha Schools to continue its native Hawaiians only admissions. Eric Grant, the attorney for John Doe, said he would appeal to the Supreme Court, but the parties settled out of court and certiorari was accordingly denied.