A DISTINGUISHED MISS.
The Honolulu Heiress Who Wears a Humane Officer’s Badge.
Miss Helen Wilder, youngest daughter of Mrs. E.K. Wilder, the mistress of a large fortune and one of the most popular society girls in Honolulu, has been specially honored by the attorney general by receiving a commission as a humane officer. The badge of her office, a handsome silver plate, was pinned on her breast by Marshal Arthur M. Brown a few days ago, and Miss Wilder wears it with much pride.
Miss Wilder has the distinction of being the first woman in the Hawaiian Islands who has been appointed a humane officer. The honor was conferred upon her unsolicited by the attorney general in recognition of her frequent efforts to relieve dumb brutes and bring cruel masters to punishment. Miss Wilder is reputed to be the wealthiest heiress on the islands. She is a great favorite in society, and has a very wide circle of friends and acquaintances on the coast.
— San Francisco Chronicle.
Hornellsville Weekly Tribune (Hornellsville, New York) Apr 16, 1897
SHE WEARS A STAR.
A NEW WOMAN IN PACIFIC ISLANDS.
She is One of Hawaii’s Finest — Helen Wilder Wears the Star of the Hawaiian Police Force and Wears it Very Creditably.
Helen Wilder wears the star of the Hawaiian police on her breast. She is probably the only woman police officer in the world. She is wealthy, too, at that, the heiress of a vast Hawaiian estate, and prominent in Hawaiian society. She is simply a plain woman with plain ideas, no fuss or fizzle, believing herself on an equality with man, neither asking nor giving favors. Helen Wilder calls a spade a spade. She chooses to be called a policeman, disclaiming her right to the title of “special officer.” She does not even object to the sobriquet of “cop.” But then the things that Helen Wilder does object to are the very ones that are most dear to the heart feminine. She wouldn’t give a lei of sweet scented maili for all the gowns that Worth ever made. She doesn’t care a fig for dances teas or the dilly dallying of society. She snaps her fingers in the face of conventionality without so much as a “beg pardon.” She dons a short skirt, a shirt waist, a military hat and rides her horse with the daring of a vaquero, or she handles the reins with the dexterity of a pioneer stage driver; in a rowboat she can paddle as swiftly and as easily as a Kanaka fisherman. Wherever she is, whatever she may be doing, she carries a pair of handcuffs to snap on the wrists of the tormentor of children and animals. Above all, she is always Helen Wilder. Like no one else in dress, manner or speech, she can always be depended on to do the unexpected. Honolulu did elevate its eyebrows though when her engagement was announced to Frank Unger. ‘Twas strange, indeed, that she should choose this bon vivant, this light-hearted Bohemian, prince of good fellows. A beautiful cottage was built for them at the beach of the Waikiki.
But the house at the beach has never been occupied. Helen Wilder broke the engagement when the wedding day was almost at hand. Honolulu sighed in relief. “That was just like Helen Wilder.”
Then there came a dashing young officer who laid siege to her heart according to naval tactics. And when he sailed away on the seven seas from each port came a letter for Helen Wilder. But alas! the same mail would also bring a missive for one of the many Afong girls. And gossip said that the officer had plighted his troth a deux. And under its breath it whispered that he was addicted to French perfumes. So the second time Helen Wilder took the circlet of gold from her finger. Helen Wilder is not the girl to droop and pine and wear her heart on her sleeve. Instead she wears a five-pointed bit of silver on her hat and breast, and she is proud of this policeman’s star, for it gives her the power to stop abuses. The native policemen are very fond of this member of their force. On Christmas day she gave them a dinner in the police station. Only those on the “force” sat down to the feast, and many were the grateful thanks which the policemen heaped upon their sister member. The soldier lads who landed at Honolulu have likewise reason to be grateful to Helen Wilder, for right royally did she treat them. Her mother, “Aunt Lizzie,” as she is called, was not less hospitable. A funny story went the rounds, and none laughed heartier or told it more gleefully than Helen Wilder herself. Aunt Lizzie invited a number of the boys in blue to dine. Helen happened to be away. They are Aunt Lizzies _odies and listened to her stories, for which she is noted.
Then a youth asked, “Who is the funny looking girl who wears stars? She’s a freak!” The question made those who knew the truth see stars. Helen Wilder goes wherever her duty calls. If the checkrein of the swellest turnout in Honolulu is drawn too tight she commands the driver to stop and fasten it. Fear she has never felt. Collie, Jap, Kanaka or white man, she arrests them all, in spite of threats. Let the drivers overload the ‘buses, or the Waikiki tram cars pull out overloaded, and out will come her handcuffs. She will brook cruelty toward neither children nor animals. It was reported that the captain of a steamship that put into port at Honolulu had maltreated his children. Helen Wilder boarded the steamship and investigated the charges. She found that the captain for some slight offense had locked the children in a state room for several days, keeping them on bread and water. To the surprise and indignation of the protesting captain this young woman promptly marched him down the gangplank and straight to jail.
But arrived there, she was told that the captain, not being a resident, must be released. So the steamship put off for Victoria, the captain vowing vengeance. When he landed there he found a local society for the prevention of cruelty had been requested from Honolulu to take him in charge, and was met with a formal request to explain things. In this way Helen Wilder followed him up and endeavored to have him punished for breaking the law, as she claimed. Other women in other cities have been made special officers. But Honolulu claims that there never was a special officer like Helen Wilder. She wear her star constantly and she uses the power which it gives her constantly.
Helen Wilder is as much a part of Hawaii as is Mauna Loa. Visitors never fail to ask who she is. For with close-cropped hair and confidant stride, her soft hat and shining star, she never fails to attract attention. Hawaiian society, which is itself complex and odd, does not often frown upon her eccentricities.
They like her because she is bright and original, because her personality is as refreshing as it is peculiar. They recognize her clear-grained human worth. Men who are tired of the inane or the clinging vine act find in Helen Wilder a comrade who is interesting, amusing and altogether charming.
Daily Iowa State Press (Iowa City, Iowa) Apr 29, 1899
A Honolulu Heiress Who Has Her Own Way.
UPHOLDING THE HUMANE LAWS.
In Her Capacity as Police Officer She May Make Arrests Without Warrants, and Brutal Mule Drivers Must Curb Their Anger.
Helen Wilder the Hawaiian heiress, has just been given a judgement by a Honolulu Jury in a suit for damages brought again her by a man she had arrested for cruelty. The case was of unusual interest to Honolulu, because it determined the fact that Miss Wilder, in her capacity as a police officer, may make arrests without a warrant.
The suit was brought by Oloof Hollefson who drives a street car in Honolulu. One day Miss Wilder noticed that one of Hollefson’s mules was bleeding on the shoulder from a chafing collar. She compelled him to leave his car and passengers and drove him off in her carriage to the police station, where she had him booked for cruelty to animals.
There was a heated argument over the legality of the arrest, counsel for Hollefson claiming that as no warrant had been served the arrest was illegal, and therefore $5,000 was due for a damaged reputation and durance vile.
When the jury brought in a verdict in favor of Miss Wilder, she put on her soldier hat and sauntered out of the court room humming “My Honolulu Lady.”
Then Honolulu puckered its brow for a moment over a knotty little problem, ‘Who would have paid that $5,000 had the decision been otherwise? Would the government have been responsible or would Helen Wilder have been compelled to sign a check for that amount?’ However, in Hawaii ?et people do not worry long over useless conjectures.
Even if Miss Wilder had been forced to pay the money it would not have been such a dreadful calamity, for a girl who has $150,000 in her own right, besides “great expectations” can afford to pay for the privilege of arresting a man.
And if it had fallen on the government? Well it is worth $5,000 to have a policeman ?whose? an heiress.
…..[the rest of the article repeats text from other articles]
Fort Wayne News (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Apr 15, 1899
The Only Policewoman.
Honolulu has a policewoman. Her name is Helen Wilder, she is 23 years old, and is a regularly appointed officer of the Hawaiian police force. She wears a soft felt hat, on which glitters the silver star that shows that she is a policewoman. She carries a revolver and is not afraid to use it. She has made several arrests unaided. Miss Wilder loves children and animals, and wherever she is, or whatever she may be doing, carries a pair of handcuffs, which she is quick to snap upon the wrists of the enemies of her small and lowly friends.
Daily Iowa State Press (Iowa City, Iowa) May 3, 1899
The Honolulu Heiress a Bride.
San Francisco, June 5. — It has leaked out that Miss Helen Kinau Wilder, the Honolulu heiress, who has gained fame through her humane work in the Hawaiian islands and her eccentricities abroad, was secretly married on May 16 to Horace Joseph Craft, manager of the Pacific Cycle company at the Hawaiian capital. The wedding took place at midnight in the Honolulu Theological seminary, the officiating clergyman being the Rev. Jolin Nua, a native theological student. The bride went immediately to her home after the ceremony. On the following day she took passage on the steamship Australia for this city.
Naugatuck Daily News (Naugatuck, Connecticut) Jun 5, 1899
In a little country cottage near San Francisco an eccentric young heiress is spending the queerest honeymoon in the world. Helen K. Wilder of Honolulu always declared that when she should get married she would spend her honeymoon alone, says the New York World. A few weeks ago she married H.J. Craft in Honolulu and told him he had given her the opportunity to carry out her wish. The next day she sailed alone to San Francisco. She is now waiting for the month to elapse before going back to take up her wifely duties in Hawaii.
Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Jul 17, 1899
This refers to her husband, that she divorced:
ELKS FOLLOW THE FLAG.
The Baby Elk Lodge in the Newly Acquired Hawaiis.
Tom Reed, esteemed leading knight of the local lodge of Elks, has received from Honolulu a group photograph of the latest lodge of Elks that has been instituted. The Elks cannot go outside of the United States, but now that the Hawaiian islands have been annexed there is a baby Elk lodge there, instituted on April 15 last.
In the group are two well known Butte Elks, who have removed to Honolulu. They are Horace J. Craft and Francis Brooks. The number of the Honolulu baby is 616.
The Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana) Jun 23, 1901
HELEN WILDER’S ROMANCE.
Writes my Hawaiian correspondent: “Like the scent of pressed roses recalling an old romance was the suit in court last week for the cancellation of a trust deed conveying to E.D. Tenney the property valued at something over $100,000. The deed was executed in 1897 by Miss Helen Wilder and was made in contemplation of marriage to Frank Unger of San Francisco, to whom she was then engaged.
The engagement was soon afterwards broken off, and Miss Wilder a couple of years later married Horace J. Craft, from whom she was afterwards divorced, though I understand they are still very good friends. Unger was quite a prominent figure in society on the coast in those days. He had traveled extensively, he had a pleasing musical skill, could tell good stories, and was altogether companionable.
Incidentally he had furnished two or three of the musical selections in the “Geisha Girl,” which was then in the height of its success. Helen Wilder was the daughter of the late S.G. Wilder and grand-daughter of Dr. Norman Judd, one of the early missionaries. Her father died, leaving a very comfortable fortune as fortunes were counted those days, the days before some of the sugar barons began paying taxes on incomes of a million yearly.
Helen was an athletic girl who rode and drove the best horses in Honolulu. It was her fondness for horses that led her to start a movement, the first in Honolulu, for the prevention of cruelty to animals. When she found that the native police showed neither enthusiasm or judgement in the matter of making arrests she secured a commission as a special policeman herself, and spent her time, or a good part of it for several years, in looking after animals that were being cruelly treated. The work she did in this line was of the most wholesome and effective sort, and its influence last to this day.”
THEY SUSPECTED UNGER.
“When she was on the witness stand the other day giving testimony in behalf of her petition for the revocation and cancellation of her deed of trust, she very frankly explained the reasons why it was made. She said that her family believed that Frank Unger’s affection for her was inspired largely by her wealth and yielding to their advice she had made the deed whereby only the income of the property was reserved for herself, the principal to go to any children she might have, or, if she died childless to be disposed of by will. The engagement was broken off soon after the deed was made, and she never married Unger, the consideration for the deed had failed and she therefore wanted it cancelled, so that she would again have the direct control of her property. After her divorce from Horace J. Craft she resumed her maiden name, went to California and bought a ranch near Watsonville. There she has lived ever since.” — Town Talk.
Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Dec 8, 1906
It appears her family’s suspicions were probably correct:
The Late Frank Unger
Bohemians gathered Monday on the sad mission of laying in the grave all that was mortal of Frank Unger. He was a strange and singular character — traveler, musician, wit, bon vivant, raconteur and good fellow. He was a man of the world in the fullest sense. Without considerable means and not following any occupation that brought in wealth, he lived like a prince. He was ever the companion of rich men and women, yet it never seemed in an unworthy sense. For more than thirty years he came and went, and no doubt he found congenial friends wherever he might chance to be — whether in his own land or at the ends of the earth. For many years he was the fidus Achates of Harry Gillig and wandered with him and Mrs. Gillig about the globe. He was as much at home in Paris as in San Francisco. He traveled around the world a number of times, the last time within a year as the guest of Raphael Weill, himself one of the most notable of Bohemians. And so Frank Unger went through life, getting more out of it than men generally do, counting his friends by legion, brightening existence for all with whom he came in contact, but coming at last at the age of 65 to that final scene which all must meet. He would have like it that way — with friends and companions with whom he was wont to gather when life was at its full, performing the last rites, saying the heartfelt thing, dropping a furtive tear into his grave.
Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Dec 26, 1915
Helen K. Wilder Passport Photo
Passport application: Click for larger image:
Passport Application 1918
The letter that is attached to her application, explaining her reason for traveling to Russia is very interesting:
I am not sure if she ever made this trip because I cannot find her on the passenger lists and according to Britannica.com, Russia was in a state of unrest at the time:
During World War I Vladivostok was the chief Pacific entry port for military supplies and railway equipment sent to Russia from the United States.
After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917, Vladivostok was occupied in 1918 by foreign, mostly Japanese, troops, the last of whom were not withdrawn until 1922. The anti-revolutionary forces in Vladivostok promptly collapsed, and Soviet power was established in the region.
Samuel Gardner Wilder
The following biography text images refer to Helen Wilder’s father, and come from the book: LEOMINSTER MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL AND PICTURESQUE By William A. Emerson
LITHOTYPE PUBLISHING CO. Gardner, Mass. 1888: (Click for larger images)
Samuel G. Wilder Biography
I think it is rather interesting that Helen is not mentioned at all, but then some of the information doesn’t seem to be exactly correct, as it does not mention his son, Samuel Gardner Wilder, Jr., unless they just got his name wrong.
Guardianship Over Man, 23, Is Sought
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 4. — The guardianship petition was filed in the superior court today on behalf of Miss Helen K. Wilder, of Watsonville, over the person and property of her nephew, Samuel Gardner Wilder, 23 years old, son of S.G. Wilder, a banker of Honolulu. The young man is at Lane hospital and is about to be removed to the Livermore sanitorium. It is declared that he is mentally and physically incompetent following illness in Hawaii. He was brought here by an uncle, A.L.C. Atkinson, who filed the formal petition yesterday in behalf of Miss Wilder.
Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Oct 4, 1921
Helen Kinau Wilder died Feb 4, 1954 in Santa Cruz County, California. I was not able to locate an obituary for her.