About My Ancestors · Tombstone Tuesday · Women's History Month

Tombstone Tuesday: Maria Pacheco Iida, another Fearless Female

Although Tombstone Tuesday is not on the Fearless Female calendar this week, I thought I’d take the opportunity to introduce you to another fearless female in my tree.

This is the tombstone of Maria (Pacheco) Iida, daughter of Antonio Pacheco and Alexandrina Jose.

tombstonemariapachecoiida

It reads:

Maria P. Iida

July 13, 1891

Dec 27 1961

According to my research, Maria was really born 13 Jan 1890 in Kilauea, Kauai, HI.  Maria was the first of being the first Pacheco grandchildren to marry.  She married Benedict Iida 14 Jan 1905 at Immaculate Conception Church in Lihue, Kauai, HI.

Maria and Benedict have the distinction of being the first interracial couple in my family tree.  She being the daughter of Portuguese immigrants and Benedict being a Japanese native.

Benedict and Maria first lived in the Kilauea Sugar Plantation housing.  Benedict started out as a plantation laborer.  By 1910, he had worked his way into the office as an assistant bookkeeper.  By 1920, Benedict had been promoted to bookkeeper.

The couple stayed on the island of Kauai their entire life.  They had seven children, five of them making it to adulthood.  They also raised the daughter of a friend.

Within the confines of Hawaii, their interracial marriage probably didn’t matter much.  However, I have heard family stories about the interracial couples (which were many among the Pacheco’s) who visited California. Some of their relatives looked down on them in disdain.

It was even worse for those who chose to migrate and make California their home.  It was one thing to have a visiting cousin whose husband was not White, it was quite a different thing to have them move next door.

I remember hearing a story about how Maria’s Mother fretted over the validity of their marriages for legal reasons as well as religious ones.  Interracial marriage did not become legal in California until the late 1940s and I doubt that Catholic Churches were marrying interracial couples before that time, though I could be wrong.  I imagine these issues may have weighed into why this part of the family moved away from the rest of the family to a more rural setting.  There they could live in peace without the judgemental stares of their other relatives.

Maria died at the age of 71 just a few months before Benedict.  They are both buried at Kapaia Catholic Graveyard in Lihue, Kauai Co., HI.

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