Helene Hale, center, with Hilo Zontians Julie Tulang, left, and Mele Spencer, right.
HILO, HI, February 8, 2010 — In recognition of United Nations International Woman’s Day, the Zonta Club of Hilo will present its Rose Award to Helene Hale for her lifetime of service as an elected official representing Hawaii County.
Ms. Hale, 91, will receive the award at a dinner sponsored by the Zontians March 8, 5:30 p.m. at the Naniloa Hotel Sandalwood Room.
“Helene Hale epitomizes both the struggle and achievements we seek to emphasize,” said Hilo Zonta Club president, Kathleen Nielsen. “She holds a history of firsts and proves there are no boundaries for women.”
Ms. Hale came to the Big Island in 1947 and was elected to the Board of Supervisors (predecessor to the County Council) in 1955. By 1962, she was elected Chairman, which was the equivalent of Mayor. This made Hale the first woman to hold an executive office in Hawaii government since the reign of Queen Liliuokalani.
She was also the first African-American to hold elected office in Hawaii.
More recently, Ms. Hale is best remembered for her service in the state House of Representatives as a dogged legislator from the Puna district. She’s been honored with the Pahoa School gymnasium being named after her, since she fought zealously to get it started, some 37 years after the state first promised it.
Ms. Hale is an avowed internationalist; she started the United Nations Association Chapter here and went to Beijing in the ‘90s with the League of Women Voters to participate in the U.N. Forum on Women.
“I’m basically an educator,” she said, and so was instrumental in the Model U.N. here. While she is a committed Democrat, Ms. Hale gives Gov. Linda Lingle great credit for having an international outlook.
“Hawaii has something to offer the whole world,” she said. “The aloha spirit. We could teach them an awful lot about how to get along. That’s because of the Hawaiian culture.”
Ms. Hale said that women still have a long way to go. “Back in the ‘20s, when we first got the vote, they said things would change;” except for pockets, they really haven’t, she said.
“The U.S. is one of the very few countries in the world” that hasn’t adopted a statement on equality for women, she said. The U.S. is one of the few that hasn’t ratified the United Nations’ “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”
The dinner to honor Ms. Hale is open to the public, with reservations. There is a $27 fee for dinner. For information, contact Julie Tulang at email@example.com or at 969-1601.
The Zonta Club of Hilo is part of Zonta International whose mission is to advance the status of women worldwide. The Hilo Club does this through service, fundraising and fellowship.