Lizzie's Reviews > Honor Killing: How the Infamous "Massie Affair" Transformed Hawai'i

Honor Killing by David E. Stannard
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's review
Jan 01, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: history, read-in-2009
Read in January, 2009

This is a fascinating book about the 1931 Massie affair in which a white Navy wife accused a group of islanders of rape. Navy and business people acted swiftly to try to railroad the alleged rapists, with help from the conservative press, but the prosecution couldn't succeed in getting the jury to convict. Mrs Massie's mother and some sailors who worked for the Massies then kidnapped and killed on of the accused rapists. Clarence Darrow came from the mainland to defend them, arguing that there is a "higher law" that allows a husband to execute his wife's rapist.

I love this kind of history - he describes Hawaii and its politics at the time, and goes into the background of every character in this story. I'd known the history of how Hawaii was taken over by American businesses but hadn't realized the extent to which the Navy controlled things, too.

Stannard argues that this case was the beginning of a liberal trend in Hawaii, as Hawaiians, Japanese, Chinese, and mixed people came together to support each other and fight discrimination. After the Massie case unions began to organize as mixed-race groups and conservatives were voted out and replaced by liberals.

It's a terrific history and an absorbing mystery.
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