Teuira Henry
Born24/(1847-01-27)27 January 1847
Died23 January 1915(1915-01-23) (aged 67)
Occupation(s)scholar, ethnologist, folklorist, linguist, historian and educator
Known forWriting about the culture and history of Tahiti

Teuira Henry (24/27 January 1847 – 23 January 1915) was a British Tahitian scholar, ethnologist, folklorist, linguist, historian and educator.[1] She worked to reconstruct a lost manuscript on the history of Tahiti written by her grandfather, English missionary John Muggridge Orsmond, by using his original notes. Most of her writings were published posthumously by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum as the book Ancient Tahiti.[2]

Early years and education

Henry was born on 24 January or 27 January 1847,[2][3] on Tahiti, as the fourth child and eldest daughter of Isaac Shepherd Henry and Eliza Orsmond Henry.[3][4] Her paternal grandparents were William Henry and Ann Shepherd Henry while her maternal grandparents were John Muggridge Orsmond and Isabella Nelson Orsmond. Her two grandfathers were early English Protestant missionaries to Tahiti. William Henry had been part of the first contingent of the London Missionary Society to arrive on the ship Duff in 1797.[2][3][4][5]

Raised on Tahiti, she was educated at the missionary school run by William Howe and his wife in Papeete. She became fluent in French, English and Tahitian.[3]


Becoming a school teacher, she taught French and English at the Viennot School in Papeete for twenty years.[3] From 1890 to 1906, Henry also taught in the Royal School and Kaahumanu School in Honolulu, Hawaii.[6][7][8]

Henry's maternal grandfather Orsmond had collected significant amounts of oral histories, genealogy, myths, folklore and traditional knowledge such as astronomy and navigation while living in Tahiti between 1817 and his death in 1856. In 1848, he had presented a manuscript about the history of Tahiti to French colonial official Charles François Lavaud, but it was lost before it could be published in Paris.[2][9] During her lifetime, Henry reconstructed this lost manuscript by transcribing the original notes he left behind.[2] Henry collected further similar material, translated and notated the material and wrote articles that were published by journals such as the Journal of the Polynesian Society.[3][10][11]

Henry died on 23 January 1915, in Paea, Papeete, Tahiti, at the age of 67 years old.[3][6]

Her manuscript was posthumously published as Ancient Tahiti by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in 1928.[12][13] Bertrand Jaunez translated it into French in 1951 under the title Tahiti aux temps anciens.[14] In 1995, Dennis Kawaharada re-printed some of Henry's stories alongside others in Voyaging chiefs of Havaiʻi.[15]


  1. ^ "Teuira Henry | NZETC". nzetc.victoria.ac.nz. Archived from the original on 3 February 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Robert D. Craig (2011). Historical Dictionary of Polynesia. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 123, 196. ISBN 978-0-8108-6772-7.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin, Issue 48. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press. 1971. p. v.
  4. ^ a b Dodd, Edward (1983). The Rape of Tahiti: A Typical Nineteenth-Century Colonial Venture Wherein Several European Powers with Their Iron, Pox, Creed, Commerce, and Cannon Violate the Innocence of a Cluster of Lovely Polynesian Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. pp. 64–65. ISBN 978-0-396-08114-2. OCLC 644152523.
  5. ^ London Missionary Society (1896). Register of Missionaries, Deputations, Etc., from 1796 to 1896. London Missionary Society. pp. 3, 36.
  6. ^ a b "Miss Teuira Henry Dies In Papeete". The Honolulu Advertiser. Honolulu. 7 March 1915. p. 3. Archived from the original on 20 July 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ Hawaii. Dept. of Education (1901). Report of the Minister of Public Instruction to the Governor of the Territory of Hawaii from December 31st, 1910 to December 31st, 1912. p. 115.
  8. ^ "Recommendations By Teachers Committee". The Maui News. Honolulu. 18 August 1905. p. 6. Archived from the original on 20 July 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ Salmond, Anne (2009). Aphrodite's Island: The European Discovery of Tahiti. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 12.
  10. ^ "Journal of the Polynesian Society: Tahitian Astronomy, By Miss Teuira Henry". www.jps.auckland.ac.nz. pp. 101–104. Archived from the original on 5 February 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  11. ^ D'Arcy, Paul (2017). Peoples of the Pacific: The History of Oceania to 1870. Routledge.
  12. ^ "[preamble] | NZETC". nzetc.victoria.ac.nz. Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  13. ^ "XVI — The Second Island Sweep | NZETC". nzetc.victoria.ac.nz. Archived from the original on 19 January 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  14. ^ SPC Quarterly Bulletin, Volumes 3–4. South Pacific Commission. 1954. p. 32.
  15. ^ Henry, Teuira; Kawaharada, Dennis (1995). Voyaging chiefs of Havai'i. Honolulu : Kalamakū Press. ISBN 0-9623102-5-5.