Few knew or appreciated the natural wonders of Maui as well as Armine von Tempsky, who grew up on a cattle ranch on the slopes of Haleakala. Yet readers worldwide came to see Maui, and the rest of Hawai'i, through her uniquely gifted eyes, thanks to the string of popular novels she wrote in the 1920s and '30s.
Von Tempsky, daughter of rancher Louis von Tempsky and granddaughter of Maori War veteran Major von Tempsky, was born in 1892 and spent much of her life working on the ranch.
A young widower, Louis von Tempsky took on much of his two daughters' education by himself and instilled in them an appreciation for the land and its native people.
Louis von Tempsky died in 1921, two years after an accident left him disabled, and Armine and her sister, Lorna, turned their house and a horse pasture into a dude ranch in order to make a living.
Despite the long hours of hard labor, Armine von Tempsky was intent on pursuing a literary career. As she once told The Advertiser, "The desire grew within me to write a literature of Hawai'i that was authentic, to picturize the life as I, a child of the Isles, knew it. "
Her first two novels were rejected, but her third, "Hula," caught the eye of a publisher in New York, who agreed to publish all three. "Hula," a romance about a girl who grows up on a Maui cattle ranch, was the first to make it to the shelves (von Tempsky was 35 at the time) and eventually was made into a "talkie" starring Clara Bow and Clive Brook. Her most popular book was "Born in Paradise," a remembrance of her childhood on the ranch.
Von Tempsky, who wrote several pieces for The Advertiser, offered an unflinching look at Maui's pineapple plantations in her novel "Hawaiian Harvest," much to the chagrin of local growers. The book, which contains material that contemporary readers have read as racist, was recalled by the publisher without explanation soon after it was released.
Von Tempsky married California real-estate agent Alfred Ball in 1933 and left the Islands. She died 10 years later during a visit to Fresno at the age of 51.