Island History

No mention of the 25th anniversary of Grove Farm Museum (formerly Grove Farm Homestead Museum) would be complete without substantial mention of Mabel I. Wilcox. The niece of Grove Farm founder George Norton Wilcox was given lifetime use of the property along Nawiliwili Road in her uncle’s will.

The 25th anniversary celebration is a public open house at the museum Jan. 22 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and will include a book-signing session with Dr. Barnes Riznik, author of the biography, “Mabel Wilcox, R.N.: Her Legacy of Caring.” At the time when Mabel I. Wilcox, known affectionately as “Miss Mabel,” wished to become a nurse, such a profession was frowned upon by those of wealth. Her mother made her promise to not talk about becoming a nurse again until she reached the age of 25, her mother certain that she would either be married or into other things by then and would have forgotten about her earlier wish. Mabel I. Wilcox honored her mother’s wishes, but in 1908 became the first person from Hawai‘i to be selected for admission into the Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School in Baltimore, Md. She graduated in 1911. Returning to Kaua‘i, she was hired as the Territorial tuberculosis nurse for Kaua‘i in 1913. Tuberculosis was the major health problem in the islands in the early twentieth century.

Miss Mabel would crisscross the island, making home visits, searching for people infected with the disease, and was referred to as “Wilikoki,” “Wilcox” in Hawaiian, and “Kauka Wahine,” or “woman doctor” or “woman nurse.” Later, she would play an instrumental role in construction of both Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital in Kapa‘a, where she would serve as general manager until World War I broke out and, later, Wilcox Memorial Hospital, as a trustee of the G. N. Wilcox Trust working with plantation and community leaders in creating a 96-bed hospital in 1938, which was named the G. N. Wilcox Memorial Hospital to honor the life of generosity of George Wilcox, who had died five years earlier. Miss Mabel died in 1978 at the age of 96, ending a long life of preserving health and history.

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