Will theReal Mary Ellen Pleasant Please Stand up?


Is this Mary Ellen Pleasant?

Or is this?

Is this Mary Ellen Pleasant?

Who is this person?

Or this one?

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.

Queen Emma in San Francisco 1866                 This one was taken at the same time and at the same place.

–– 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.

3 thoughts on “Will theReal Mary Ellen Pleasant Please Stand up?

  1. The photo that HH used came from Captain Isiah Lees, of the San Francisco Police, as part of his “Rogue’s Gallery”. In December of 1976 The California Historical Courier published “Real Mary Ellen Pleasant Found!” by Terry Wm. Manga, Curator of Photographs who states “We have obtained a print of the only picture known of her. It portrays a quietly self-confident woman of 87, who looks like neither a queen nor a sorceress”. I obtained reprints of images at New York Public Library that are owned by SFAAHCS, happy to send them – one of them is still mismatched. There is a letter dated May 17, 1991 from the Hawaii State Archives to SFPL stating the Bradley & Rulofsen photos are of Queen Emma. The final point in Queen Emma’s favor is that Mary Ellen was running from UGRR prosecution. No way would she sit for a portrait, they’d find and arrest her.

    • Thanks for your comments! I would love to see a copy, but I think I have seen it many times. It is the only authentic portrait of her.

      I agree with all but final point. She was never a slave. Or, at least as soon as she got to Nantucket, she was not. I think she was likely a relative of the Husseys. The Quakers were not into indentured servants, especially not children. Maybe adults for the price of passage, but that was very limited. My mom’s father’s ancestors were all Quakers.

      She did worry about being stopped, but it was so well established that she was free, there were Quakers in SF who knew hew as Mrs Smith. and perhaps before. It would have been a hassle, but they could not have kept her had someone taken a mind to trap her. She was way too well known.

  2. Pingback: SEEKING MAMMY PLEASANT | Santa Rosa History

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