With her election in 1925 to the Territorial House of Representatives as a Republican from Kauai, Rosalie Keliinoi (1875-1952) became the first woman elected to serve in the Territorial Legislature.
Born at Wailuku, Maui, the daughter of Augustine Enos, a Portuguese immigrant merchant and rancher, and Kininia Makaokatani Enos, the daughter of a Koloa, Kauai farmer, Rosalie Keliinoi was educated at St. Anthony’s School for Girls on Maui and Sacred Hearts Convent in Honolulu.
In 1917, Keliinoi and her second husband Samuel Keliinoi — a successful Maui politician who’d been sent by Queen Liliuokalani to be educated at Oberlin College, Ohio — moved from Maui to Kauai to homestead land at Kapaa.
On Kauai, Samuel Keliinoi became clerk to Territorial Senator Charles Rice (1876-1964), of whom longtime The Garden Island Newspaper editor Charlie Fern once said, “If you had Charlie Rice behind you, you were elected. That was it.”
With the support of her politically active husband and with Charles Rice’s backing, Rosalie Keliinoi entered the political arena herself in 1924 and was elected to the 1925 Territorial Legislature.
In her one term in office — during which she was the only woman serving in the Legislature — she proposed 16 bills and is credited with the passage of 4 bills.
One of the bills she introduced, Act 274, a landmark piece of legislation that granted property rights to women by allowing them to sell property without their husbands’ approval, was signed into law by Gov. Wallace Farrington in May 1925.
Lively, animated and devoted to her family, Rosalie Keliinoi loved meeting people and entertaining.
She spoke Hawaiian fluently and was an accomplished pianist and Hawaiian quilt maker. At public functions her typical dress featured a black holoku with a Portuguese comb decorating her hair.
She and her first husband, Maui politician Thomas Benjamin Lyons, with whom she was divorced in 1916, had seven sons.