Emma Kaili Metcalf Beckley Nakuina was born on March 5, 1847, at Kauaaia in Honolulu’s Manoa Valley to Theophilus Metcalf, a civil engineer and sugar planter, and the nephew of Chief Justice Metcalf of Massachusetts, and Chiefess Kailikapuolono of Kukaniloko, granddaughter of the legendary Kalani-kupaulakea. Emma attended Sacred Hearts Academy and Punahou School, both in Honolulu, and the Mills’ Seminary for Young Ladies in Benicia, California. She was also privately tutored by her father in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, German, English, and Hawaiian. In 1867 Emma married Frederick William Beckley, a plantation owner and eventually chamberlain to King Kalakaua (1875) and governor of Kauai (1880). Beckley died in 1881 at the age of thirty-six, and Emma married the Reverend Moses Keaea Nakuina in 1887.

While she was attached to the court of Kamehameha IV, the king had Emma trained in laws about water rights, and she was made custodian of the laws. She also became an authority on the workings of all ancient laws. During the 1880s and 1890s, Nakuina was the first curator of the Hawaii National Museum. She wrote many articles on Hawaii; some, like “Ancient Hawaiian Water Rights and Some Customs Pertaining to Them,” have been considered primary sources. She also wrote of Hawaiian folklore and published Hawaii: Its People and Their Legends in 1904. Emma Nakuina died on April 27, 1929.
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