Myer C. Symonds and the ʻ78 Con Con Archives Document Histories of Change in Hawaiʻi

By Ellen-Rae Cachola, Archives Manager

The Law Library has two collections that may be of interest to researchers examining labor and government history of Hawaiʻi from the 1940s to the 1970s.

  • The Myer C. Symonds Collection documents one labor lawyer’s experience representing the International Longshore Worker’s Union (ILWU), a major labor union for Hawaiʻiʻs agricultural workforce.  
  • The 1978 Hawaiʻi Constitutional Convention News Clippings Archive have been digitized so that the history of the players and the process of this watershed convention can be further studied.
Newspaper clipping titled "Fighters for the Underdog"

The writings of Myer C. Symonds enters the mind of a lawyer who utilized the law to address inequalities of class and political power. The collection is composed of personal writings by Symonds himself, who was the legal partner of Harriet Bouslog, a woman lawyer who represented the ILWU workers during the 1940s and 1950s.  At the time in Hawai’i, lawyers mostly represented the corporate employers and firms. But together, Bouslog and Symonds advocated for worker’s needs, particular a few individuals who were brought under the suspicion of the Committee of Un-American Activities stereotyped as “communists” during a time when the red-baiting of the McCarthy Era was in full-swing across the United States. 

The Law Library also digitized the news clippings on the 1978 Hawaiʻi Constitutional Convention published by the Honolulu Star Advertiser and Honolulu Star Bulletin.  The articles document the process and debates among the delegates who came from districts all over the islands to shape the priorities for the 1978 constitution. The constitution that was created in 1978 continues to be Hawai’i’s constitution today (2019). 

The news clippings also reflect another emerging force during the 1960s-1970s–the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement.  Native Hawaiian people were invoking their rights as aboriginal peoples to end their experience of discrimination in their homeland since the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893. The subsequent constitutions were created according to the interests of the proponents of the overthrow, and their priorities  shaped Hawaiʻi’s government since then.

The 1978 Hawaiʻi Constitutional Convention has invoked a sense of local cultural unity because there were more racial and ethnic minorities, Native Hawaiian and immigrant plantations descendants, in government positions who participated in shaping the new constitution.  Some of the most striking features of the 1978 Constitution were the conservation and protection of natural resources for future generations, the creation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and Collective Bargaining Rights of Private and Public Employees.    

The Law Library invites you to come to your own understanding of how Hawaiʻi’s transformation from the 1940s to the 1970s affects us today.  

Explore the finding aid and indexes for the Myer C. Symonds and 1978 Hawai’i Constitutional Convention News clipping Archive to browse the items in these collections. Please visit the Access page to get in touch with the Archives Manager for further assistance. 

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