Nancie Caraway

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Nancie Caraway

Nancie Caraway is an Hawaiian socialist, Obama appointee and is the wife of former U.S. Congressman Neil Abercrombie.

Obama supporter

At Hawaii's Democratic Party headquarters, on Hawaii primary election night, February 2008, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie borrowed a lei from his wife, Nancie Caraway, a political theorist, before taking the podium to celebrate Obama's large win. He said turnout was so great that at a certain point "we went to the honor system. There was just no other way."

Caraway said that there were upwards of 5,000 people in her polling station. "And it was hot," she added. "I was worried." But she described the turnout as inspirational. "I'm a postmodernist cynic," she said. "This is a new page in American political culture."[1]

Obama appointment

Nancie Caraway is an "award-winning author and authority on international human trafficking." At the request of the Obama Administration, Dr. Caraway currently serves as a consultant to U.S. Ambassador Luis C. de Baca in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. She also serves as a mentor at the East-West Center’s Asia-Pacific Leadership Program, guiding the research of students in human rights, political science and women’s rights in Asia.[2]


When Nancie Caraway arrived in Hawaii from Houston, Texas in the early l970s, she had already been working for ten years at Texaco, Inc. and Delta Airlines. Despite a full-time job, she attended night classes at the University of Houston.[3]

"Each summer, she returned to the small Alabama town where she was born, to visit her beloved grandparents."
When Nancie landed in Hawaii, she brought with her working-class values of self-reliance and resourcefulness and a fierce determination to finish her education. She also brought an awareness of the limitations many face, especially the lack of opportunities for women, that she had witnessed in the South. Nancie was inspired by Hawaii’s sense of tolerance for difference and racial diversity.


Nancie Caraway worked as secretary to the resident manager of the Princess Ka‘iulani Hotel, known then as the “P.K.,” and later, as a guest relations agent in the public relations department at Sheraton Hawaii. On her lunch hour one day in the Minute Chef of the “P.K.” she noticed a small article in the Honolulu Advertiser’s “Calendar of Events” section. A “Community Leadership Training for Women” program was being offered free to women through the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The program promised women an opportunity to learn about higher education and service to the community.

Dr. Amy Agbayani, who is today director of UHM’s Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity, was a coordinator of the program. She became Nancie Caraway's mentor and life-long friend. During the training, Caraway was introduced to many of Honolulu’s professional women—judges, journalists, lawyers, professors, medical practitioners, cultural leaders—all of whom served as committed role models and resources for the women participants. Dr. Agbayani encouraged Nancie to enroll at UHM. With the help of scholarships and student loans, Caraway did enroll and earned a BA, MA and PhD in Political Science from the university.[4]

Meeting Neil Abercrombie

It was Dr. Agbayani who introduced Nancie to her future husband, Neil Abercrombie.

On the festive opening day of the 1976 Hawaii Legislature, Dr. Agbayani, with Nancie Caraway in tow, helped pass out pupus in Neil’s crowded office in the House of Representatives. “He had a mind like a steel trap, a wicked sense of humor, and had read everything,” remembers Nancie of her first meeting with Neil Abercrombie. As fate would have it, the following week, Nancie was assigned to interview Neil for the newsletter of the League of Women Voters, a civic organization she had just joined. [5]

The two began a relationship filled with love, joy, and mutual respect for the other’s independence of thought. They were married on Nelson Mandela’s birthday July 18, 1981, in honor of the great South African leader whom they greatly admired.

DSA member

Early 1980s, DSA Hawaii membership list

The names of Neil Abercrombie, his wife Nancie Caraway, and that of Hawaiian state politician Roland Kotani, appeared on an early 1980s Honolulu Democratic Socialists of America membership list.

DSA Feminist Commission

In 1985, Nancie Caraway of Hawaii was listed as a member of the Feminist Commission of the Democratic Socialists of America.[6]

Thanking New York DSAers

NY Democratic Socialist Feb. 1983

Nancie Caraway wrote a letter to the New York Democratic Socialist of February 1983 thanking NY DSAers for their help in the year she'd stayed in the city. She also said she was one of two DSA members in Hawaii.

Creative work

Nancie Caraway was taught more about her new home with the 1983 publication of the renowned text ‘Olelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings by the legendary Hawaiian scholar Mary Kawena Pukui. At the Bishop museum’s celebration of this "treasured book, Nancie was encouraged to do a documentary on Pukui, which received the generous support of Hawaii Public Television." Nancie Caraway's work on this documentary gave her an opportunity to visit Pukui’s Big Island birthplace and home. This experience was a revelation and profound learning experience. It instructed her in the Hawaiian concept of onipa‘a, which "informed her thinking" and led to the creation of her award-winning book Segregated Sisterhood: Racism and the Politics of American Feminism published in 1991.[7]

All that followed in Nancie’s career—her Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, her lifelong support of women’s rights, her work to end the exploitation of human slavery, her dedication to serve as a mentor to her students, and her commitment to education as a force for social change—are rooted in these first experiences in Hawaii. She has worked to leverage her academic and professional resources as lifelines to others, who, like herself, strive to give back to the community.

“Hawaii has given me everything: my husband, my education, and my community,” Nancie says. “Hawaii has made me alive to the dignity of all people and the need for wise stewardship to protect the fragile cultural and natural environment of this unique and inclusive land of Hawaii Nei.”

Women for Tulsi


April 13th, 2012, a coalition of Hawaii women, including first lady Nancie Caraway, announced their support for Tulsi Gabbard in the race for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District.

“The person who holds the seat of our beloved Patsy Mink in Congress needs to be of the highest integrity and intelligence,” Caraway said Wednesday at a news conference on the state Capitol lawn to announce the launch of Women for Tulsi.

“I have seen Tulsi in action. I’ve seen her with people. She works beautifully with people. She listens to them. She thinks on her feet and she’s a genuinely reciprocal human being,” Caraway said.

Others declaring their support for Gabbard included City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi and prominent diversity advocate Amy Agbayani.[8]

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood of Hawaii, on February 16, 2013, held "our most successful gala ever" at the magnificent Monarch Room of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, attended by over 400 political and community leaders.

During dinner, Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng accepted the Bette Takahashi Service Award given to Madelyn Dunham, President Barack Obama’s grandmother, posthumously. Ms. Dunham served on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood of Hawaii starting in 1976.

The Bette Takahashi Service Award is given in recognition of Ms. Dunham’s commitment to women’s rights, reproductive freedom, and her enormous positive influence on our President in his formative years. During the presentation, guests watched a tribute video from President Obama, Love and Values of a Quiet Hero , produced by Rai Saint Chu, Gala Advisory Committee Chair.

Rep. Marilyn Lee, Governor Neil Abercrombie, Senator Mazie Hirono, Senator Brian Schatz, and Mayor Kirk Caldwell attended the event. Co-Chairs of the event, Chivas Nousianen and Karen McKinnie, were in attendance, as were Honorary Co-Chairs Dr. Nancie Caraway and Dr. Linda Schatz.[9]

"Caring Across America"

The Age of Dignity, Ai-jen Poo’s book about the challenge of elder care in America is "a daunting picture of need that outstrips our current capacity to meet it." Organizer of immigrant women workers, co-founder of Domestic Workers United, and Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) is purpose-filled and optimistic about building what she calls the “Care Grid.” In calling for the creation of nothing less than a national infrastructure of care, Ai-jen Poo sketches out a landscape of elder care and shifting demographics that demonstrate why “a universal baseline of support” is a matter of national security that merits the level of priority the US gives to defense.

Ai-jen Poo addressed several audiences while in Honolulu, last stop on a 16 city Caring Across America tour to spark the conversations families and the broader community need to have to radically remake the way we approach elder care. She spoke to a packed room at the University of Hawai’i, Mānoa, at a forum hosted by the Department of Sociology and co-sponsored by the Hawai’i State Commission on the Status of Women, the Hawai’i Immigrant Justice Center at Legal Aid, the William S. Richardson School of Law, the Women’s League of Central Union Church and Departments of Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies.

Ai-jen Poo acknowledged the leadership of Dr. Nancie Caraway and Governor Neil Abercrombie, who were present for her talk, in making Hawai’i the first state after New York to adopt the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.[10]



  1. [1] US News and World Report, Anna Mulrine, February 20, 2008
  2. [2] Abercrombie for Governor website, accessed July 10, 2010
  3. [3] Abercrombie for Governor website, accessed July 10, 2010
  4. [4] Abercrombie for Governor website, accessed July 10, 2010
  5. [5] Abercrombie for Governor website, accessed July 10, 2010
  6. DSA Feminist Commission Directory, 1985
  7. [6] Abercrombie for Governor website, accessed July 10, 2010
  8. AdvertizerFirst lady for Tulsi, April 13th, 2012 By B.J. Reyes
  9. Planned Parenthood of HawaiiVolume 2013 Issue 1 • June 2013
  10. [7]