Who Is Diana?

    DIANA HANSEN-YOUNG is an American artist, writer, and mother.

 

    SHE WAS BORN in 1947 in a Mormon farming community in Bellingham, Washington. Her four passions were books, writing, politics, and horses.  She picked strawberries, raspberries and beans between 6th and 7th grades to earn the money for a blue portable Smith Corona on which she churned out short stories, novels, and a musical produced by Bellingham High School, where she was student body vice-president. After graduating with honors, she went on to a freshman year at Brigham Young University, which she hated.

 

      THE DAY AFTER school was out, she set sail for Hawaii -- and adventure -- and never looked back.

     SHE ARRIVED IN SPRING, 1966,  seven years after Hawaii was declared a state in 1959. It was a different, magical time. Don Ho sang Kui Lee songs in the banyan tree bar in the International Marketplace. Hilo Hattie was Princess Pupule (got plenty papayas). Lei sellers sat on lauhala mats on Kalakaua Avenue and wove gardenia leis. On Boat Days, the Lurline and other great liners would arrive, or leave, with leis strung between decks and docks and the Royal Hawaiian band playing "Aloha Oe."  A two-foot lava wall separated the Garden Bar from Waikiki Beach, and if you were too young to go inside, you could sit in the sand and listen to Melveen Leed or Martin Denny or Tommy Sands or any one of the other great entertainers of the day.

     Many Hawaiians were alive who remembered The Day of Shame, Annexation, August 14, 1898, when the beloved Hawaiian flag was lowered over Iolani Palace and the Stars and Stripes were run up the pole to commemorate the United State's takeover of the Kingdom of Hawaii, part of the great territorial acquisitions of the Spanish American War and Manifest Destiny. In 1898: The Philippines, the Carolinas, Hawaii, Guam, Tinian, Saipan, Rota, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

 

      She was immediately hired by Art Rutledge, president of the rough-and-tumble Hawaii Teamster’s Union, to distribute political flyers and register voters on city buses (whose drivers were all Teamsters) in support of the Teamster’s candidate for Lt. Governor, Tom Gill.

 

       Thrown headlong into the world of old Hawaii, she was bitten by the political bug and ran for the Hawaii State Constitutional Convention in 1968 against Mayor Neal Blaisdell’s son-in-law, Jimmy Clarke. With no money, she invented the now-ubiquitous “highway-waving” - a novel way of campaigning. She painted a 4’x8’ piece of plywood into a black and yellow sign that read “DIANA CARES.” She hauled it out to the highway morning and night, propped it up against her old TR3, and waved at traffic. Arrested twice for sign violations, she challenged the law -  and won.

 

      Her district was the Windward Side of Oahu - Kailua, Maunawili, Olomana, and Waimnalo (Hawaiian Homestead lands). She won by 92 votes, and embarked on a quest to right what she saw as an outrageous injustice perpetrated against native Hawaiians: the taking of their lands and heritage, which started before the illegal annexation of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1898, continued through numerous Democratic administrations, and continues to this day.

 

     Although the Constitutional Convention was non-partisan, she quickly learned that in the world of old-style Hawaiian politics, the roles of the Democrats and Republicans had been reversed since World War II. Democrats were the big-business and big-union fat-cats. Republicans, once the pillars of Honolulu society, and big-time sugar planter and missionary descendants, were Republican in name only; they supported the Democratic political powers. True Republicans of Lincoln’s anti-slavery party were few and far between. 

 

      Believing in a strong two-party system, in 1970, at age 20, she ran for the State House of Representatives as a Republican. She was elected, becoming the youngest person in the United States to be elected to any statewide political office.

 

      There were only three women in the State House of Representations -- all Republian:  Patricia Saiki, Dorothy Devereaux, and Diana - and one Republican woman in the Senate, Eureka Forbes.

 

     When the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by the US House and Senate, Senator Inouye immediately telephoned the Speaker of the House in Hawaii. The state legislature was in session, and there was a five hour time difference. Thus, Hawaii became the first state to ratify the amendment, and the only women in the legislature - Pat, Dorothy, Diana, and Eureka - all Republican -  had the historic honor of being the first in the nation -- and the first women -- to stand up and ratify the Equal Rights Ammendment.

 

      FROM 1970-72, she initiated many reforms, including forcing the Department of Education to release test scores and the creation of a health code for restaurants.

 

     But her passion became the disappearance of Hawaiian Homestead Lands, ceded to the Hawaiian people by mandate, which were drained away into the hands of private landowners and institutions, at the terrible expense of Hawaii’s kanaka maoli - the native peoples, many of whom had waited over thirty years on a list for a piece of homestead land.

 

      DIANA  DID an extensive investigation into the “shrinkage” of the original 400,000 thousand acres of valuable Hawaiian Homelands -- which the Hawaii state government was not allowed to sell -- that "shrinkage" happening by a variety of complicated schemes, including leasing to non-Hawaiians for one dollar a year, or by “trading” valuable ocean-front Hawaiian Homestead property for rocky, unusable state land in Waianae, for example - which put the ocean-front property under the control of the state, who traded, sold, exchanged and leased to the point where some original 400,000 acres ceded to the Hawaiian people by Prince Kuhio became under 200,000 acres of poorly-utilized land. Thousands of Hawaiians had waited over 30 years to obtain their one-acre of Homestead land; many died in dire poverty, never realizing their dream of homesteading.

 

       DIANA TOOK her findings to Washington, where the Hawaii delegation - Senators Fong and Inouye and Representatives Mink and Matsunaga -- all told her it was in her best interest not to “rock the boat.” Senator Inouye was particularly grim in his refusal to do anything, stating unequivocally that “no one should open that can of worms” - something that so shocked her that she remembers that meeting as though it happened yesterday.

 

     SHE MET with then-GOP Chairman George Bush, who would go on to become President of the United States, and other Senate leaders, who also declined to help. Undeterred, she took her findings to columnist Jack Anderson and his young aide Brit Hume who, after exhaustive fact-checking, published them in one of his columns.

 

     The day before the column was published, news of the shocking Hawaiian Homestead scandal was leaked to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Advertiser, owned by descendants of the original Committee of Thirteen who engineered the overthrow of the Queen and Annexation in 1898. They published Anderson’s column, but next to it ran a lengthy rebuttal that had been prepared overnight.

 

       A STORM OF CONTROVERSY greeted her return, and although she was unable to effect any changes immediately, her investigation activated others in the Hawaiian community and was pivotal in starting the movement for recognition of the sovereignty of the Hawaiian people, restoration of the monarchy, and reparations.

 

        IN 1972,  she ran for the US House of Representatives against the seemingly invincible Representative Patsy Mink on a pro-Hawaiian platform and became a familiar sight going door-to-door on the neighbor islands in her yellow campaign jeep. She slept on volunteer’s sofas and knocked on tens of thousands of doors.  The Vietnam War was raging. Hawaii was a major hub of military supply and troop movement. Jane Fonda and Patsy Mink went to Hanoi, causing outrage in Hawaii and across the nation.

 

   As the youngest GOP candidate (technically too young to hold Congressional office, but if she had won, she planned a legal challenge) - and despite the fact that her Hawaiian activism and other political views put her at direct loggerheads with the GOP -- was a frequent guest at the many Republican gatherings at the Diamond Head home of Clare Booth Luce.   Collections of interesting people were  at Luce’s gatherings. President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger arrived and left by helicopter, complete with a red carpet rolled out across her lawn, a spectacle during that decade in Hawaii. The Buckley brothers, frequent guests, always arrived late, on their way to or returning from some exotic expedition. At one gathering, Vice President Spiro Agnew told Diana he would personally send her a tape, endorsing her candidacy. The day it arrived, Agnew had resigned in disgrace, and Gerald Ford was the next to descend from the helicopter onto the red carpet that stretched across the Luce lawn.

 

     DIANA won an extremely high percentage of Oahu’s vote but lost the election to the heavily Democratic unionized neighbor islands, where she found herself campaigning against some of her friends from the Teamster days in 1966. She tried again in 1974, but by then, the national GOP changed their minds and decided she COULD win; her campaign was no longer a home-grown affair; she left decisions to a large campaign committee, which proved to be a fatal mistake.  Plagued by various national campaign committee problems, she scaled back the campaign to run for statewide office, but it was too late.  Broke and unable to find work, she turned to writing and painting to make a living. She married, had two daughters, and started to paint full-time  to support the family in the Jimmy Carter recession of the late 70's..

 

      DIANA started with small tourist paintings by the roadside, and slowly grew an art business that by 1990 was publishing and selling tens of thousands of images, calendars, mugs, women’s clothing, perfume, jewelry, art books, and a line of children’s plush, toys, clothing, books, and video built around her popular Mango Hill children’s series, which was based on stories she told her daughters about the many animals who lived on their farm named Mango Hill in Kahalu’u, Hawaii 

 

     DIANA WORKED closely with retailers Liberty House, WalMart, JC Penny, Jack-In-The-Box, and others to develop special lines for their outlets. In 1990, she developed a method for creating animation on computer, and wrote and produced three half-hour television specials for children based on the Mango Hill series, and a one-hour animation for grown-ups, a murder mystery entitled “Honolulu Nights,” set in Hawaii in 1931. Her corporation grew to some 52 employees, and she began to burn out from the relentless business part of art.

 

     IN 1992, Mayor Frank Fasi announced he intended to evict a tent camp of homeless people from Honolulu’s Aala Park. Diana invited them to pitch their tents on her farm, Mango Hill, until they found work and housing -  and there started a month-long battle for the rights of the homeless in Hawaii. In 1994, she sold her gallery in order to return to painting and writing full-time.

 

     IN 1997, she was accepted at NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theatre Program in New York City. Accompanied by her two daughters, she moved to Brooklyn, where her two daughters, who had attended Punahou, also enrolled in NYU for their undergraduate degrees.

 

      AFTER HER GRADUATION in 1999, she accepted a job offer fundraising for NYU, which gave her daughters free undergraduate tuition for the next three years as part of the employment package  She was in lower Manhattan on 9/11, and will never forget the experience of waiting for one of her daughters to return (which she did, after the first tower collapsed) from her part-time job with Mayor Guiliani, and an attorney on Vesey Street, the north side of the tower.

 

     DIANA CONTINUED her writing and painting, dividing her time between her beloved Hawaii, Paris, and New York. , and in 2004, the Adirondack Theatre Festival mounted the first production of her thesis musical, MimiLeDuck (Diana wrote book and lyrics; her collaborator, Brian Feinstein, wrote music). LeDuck went on to rave reviews at the Fringe Festival. In 2006, it  opened off Broadway at New World Stages, starring Eartha Kitt, Annie Golden, and a cast of stellar Broadway actors. LeDuck was loved the audiences, but trashed by the NY Times, Variety and other critics. It ran for a respectable 58 performances, and closed on December 3, 2006 managing to ran for a respectable 58 performances. It closed on December 3, 2006. The song “Everything Changes” from Mimi LeDuck became a staple in Eartha Kitt’s ongoing concert performances, and is heard regularly in cabarets in New York City.

 

     IN 2007, after serious complications from a broken leg, she had surgery that included a knee replacement. Her She went to Oregon to care for her mother, who passed in November, 2007. Her father, an engineer who had a “third” career as a native plant expert, began to exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s, and she traveled back and forth from New York to Salem to care for him. She had a second knee replacement in 2008, and in 2009, the same day her father passed away, she felt serious stomach pains, which turned out to be a burst appendix. She was rushed to the hospital, where she remained in ICU, close to death, for nearly a month, during which her kidneys failed; it took 13 surgeries to address the unrelenting sepsis from the appendix. She survived, and began what was to be a five year (and numerous surgeries) to return to health.

     These experiences caused her to rethink her priorities and rearrange her life, which included a divorce. She set two goals: Regain her health and her creativity, both lost somewhere over the last years.

 

     She began writing and painting again, this time with joy, and now divides her time between Brooklyn (where her oldest daughter, a successful YA writer, has a darling dumpling son), a suburb of DC and her second daughter, who is an appellate environmental lawyer for DOJ, and her beloved tiny apartment in Paris.

     She misses Hawaii terribly, and considers it her home; but how can one live 11 hours away from one's children and grandson?

     DIANA is a maker. She now creates art out of pen and ink, words, paint, beads, felt, found objects, fabric, and just about anything. She writes short mystery stories and is a published member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She has three whimsical coloring books out by Diversion Books: Cats In Hats, Llamas In Dramas, and Pigs In Wigs. 

    

    

 

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