Standing six feet tall and weighing 300 pounds, Kaahumanu was one of the most beautiful and most powerful women in Hawaii in the early 1800s.
When her husband, the king, died in 1819, she became kuhina nui (coruler) with the new king.
Kaahumanu stood up against many of the kapus (religious taboos) that restricted women’s rights.
At the time, for example, Hawaiian women were not allowed to eat with men, but Kaahumanu persuaded the new king to dine with her. In 1824 she announced Hawaii’s first code of laws, forbidding stealing, murder, and other crimes.
After learning to read and write from Protestant missionaries, Kaahumanu urged all Hawaiians to attend school, and she eventually converted to Christianity.
She continued to help rule the islands until her death in 1832.