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Timeline / Defining Rights and Responsibilities / 1866: Hawaiian leprosy patients sent to Moloka‘i Colony

1866: Hawaiian leprosy patients sent to Moloka‘i Colony

The first leprosy patients are sent into forced quarantine at Kalawao on Moloka‘i. About 3,000 more follow over the next 18 years. How the disease originates and spreads was a mystery, so authorities turn to isolation as the best attempt to treat it. Patients are separated from friends and family once they go to the colony.

“In 1866, the first boatload of patients was torn from their weeping relatives and departed from Honolulu en route to Kalawao. Upon arrival, they found that the so-called hospital had no beds, that medicines and doctors were in short supply, and that food shipments were undependable. Living in sordid conditions and cast out from society, most of the victims gave in to depression, hopelessness, and alienation. Soon, the worst elements were running the settlement with the rest subject to their whims. No attempt whatsoever was made to cure the dread disease.” —Joseph G. Mullins, Hawaiian Journey


Kalawao Leprosy Colony on Moloka‘i, 1880

Courtesy Hawai‘i State Archives