Keeper of Memories
Barbara Kawakami, a 1979 Fashion Design and Merchandising alumna, was honored by the Hawai‘i Historical Society at their 125th Anniversary celebration in October 2017. She was given the Kahu ‘Ikena (Caretaker of Knowledge) Award for her dedication to the preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiian history and her tireless efforts to gather, record, translate, and share the memories and stories of Issei women in Hawai‘i. Barbara’s interest in immigrant clothing started as a Fashion, Design and Merchandising college term paper for which she interviewed immigrant Issei women about their clothing and lives. Her research culminated in her first book, entitled Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawaii 1885–1941. This book was the winner of the Association for Asian American Studies Outstanding Book Award in 1994 and winner of the Ka Palapala Po‘okela Award of Excellence for Reference Books in 1995. Barbara’s second book, Picture Bride Stories, was based upon interviews with 250 Issei women across Hawai‘i over a 40-year period. Barbara was honored for this book by the American Library Association conference in Adult Non-Fiction. At 96 years of age, Barbara is a role model, and gratitude is due to her for her historical contributions and preserving the stories of Issei immigrant women for future generations around the world. Photo courtesy of Stephen Fong.