The answer: They are ALL of Queen Emma of Hawaii.
Or properly known as Queen Emalani Kalanikaumakaamano, wife of King Kamehameha IV, of Hawaii. Younger than Mary Ellen, the top portrait was taken in San Francisco in 1866 when Queen Emma was in San Francisco.
–– September 26, 1866. The New York Times reports on the Queen’s stopover on her way home after a lengthy stay abroad. For Mark Twain’s dispatch to the Daily Hawaiian Herald concerning the same event, read here. For a related story on the Queen’s mission in England and her financial difficulties, read here.
Queen Emma was 30, MEP 49 during Emma’s visit to San Francisco. Not only do the dark circles show up in several other photos of Queen Emma, Queen Emma has a slighter larger upper lip on her right hand side- identical to the one in the supposed photo of MEP.
This is the only known photo of Mary Ellen Pleasant taken when she was about 70 years old in 1887.
She is a very attractive 70 year old with a beautiful bone structure and a lovely expression on her face. It looks like she still favors the dark but luxurious fabrics of her youth on Nantucket, but her clothes are not the top of the line royal as Queen Emma’s are.
She has only a passing resemblance to Queen Emma. She did make claims now and then that she was part “Kanaka” ( Hawaiian) and this confusion may attest to it. Helen Holredge fought for the top portrait being MEP, but the Hawaiians who have all the photos of Queen Emma disagree. They say every photo on this page except the final one, is of Queen Emma.
Also if the top portrait is her, then the third portrait must be too, but Helen did not fight for that one, because the model is wearing Queen Emma’s jewelry. So give it up and quit using that portrait with the dark shadows under the eyes.
Mary Ellen did not have dark shadows and her lips were thinner than Q E’s.