Local Historian to Speak About Leprosy’s Impact on Hawai‘i in KHS Virtual Talk Story

July 6, 2020, 8:48 AM HST (Updated July 6, 2020, 9:40 AM)
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Maile Melrose. PC: Kona Historical Society

A virtual talk story through Kona Historical Society this week will talk about how an infectious disease spread throughout the islands in the early 1800s.

On Mondays with Maile Melrose, the local author and historian, will discuss leprosy, or Hansen’s disease. She will address how the lack of treatment for the illness spurred Hawai‘i to introduce laws that allowed for the arrest and removal of people with leprosy to places of treatment or isolation, including to the Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Moloka‘i.

During the talk story, Melrose will also highlight an article written by KHS historian Jean Greenwell for the Hawaiian Journal of History. The article includes a discussion about leprosy and Dr. Georges Phillipe Trousseau’s role in sending people with leprosy to Moloka‘i.

Melrose said Trousseau was a friend to many, including ali‘i in Honolulu and Henry Nicholas Greenwell of Kalukalu. Kona Historical Society now owns and stewards the historic general store Greenwell ran at Kalukalu. This historic building has been restored to approximately 1891 and is a museum.

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“Epidemics and pandemics are a part of our history that is particularly interesting to me in this time of the coronavirus,” Melrose said. “This will be a brief tale of leprosy and now it affected Hawai‘i, using Dr. Trousseau’s experience to illustrate how the solution to epidemics is never clear cut, often painful, and the cost is paid in human lives.”

Mondays with Maile is a new digital program KHS started in April. It is a collaboration between Melrose and the Society. Through this program, stories and memories of Kona are shared while the speaker answers viewers’ questions and often highlights resources found in the Society’s collections at its Kalukalu Headquarters.

Mondays with Maile will be live-streamed at 1 p.m. on July 13 on the Society’s Facebook Page and later shared on the Society’s YouTube channel.

To view past installments of Mondays with Maile or for more information, go to https://konahistorical.org/mondays-with-maile.

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