Anna Perry-Fiske

Hawaii’s First Lady of Ranching was a real cowboy.
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Hawaii’s First Lady of Ranching was a real cowboy.
Credit: Anna Ranch Heritage Center

Credit: Anna Ranch Heritage Center

In 1900, Anna Leialoha Lindsey was born the only daughter to a ranching family related to Hawaiian royalty—her family had been among the first to raise cattle on the island of Hawaii. William Lindsey, Anna’s father, operated his own ranch, served as a policeman, and was the assistant general manager of Parker Ranch—the largest cattle ranch in the Territory of Hawaii.

William recognized his fearless daughter’s special talents: She not only loved to ride horses and rope cattle, she also expertly set and mended fences, and exhibited keen business acumen, perhaps first recognized in a childhood game of marbles.

“Only play with the marbles you won today! ... That way my father taught me not only to handle marbles, but how to handle my season’s profits when I began making money on cattle years later,” Anna recalled in her biography by Ruth Tabrah.

In 1939, the family ranch was nearly lost when the elder Lindsey died. Anna was appointed ranch manager and the ranch was renamed Anna Ranch. She discovered only $150 remained in the coffers and that the herd consisted of a few scrub cattle. Desperate, she accepted a loan from the business manager of Parker Ranch, allowing her to restock the herd and to pay off her debts.

“There was nothing kind about it. [He] expected me to fail and to get our ranch and everything on it for a few thousand dollars!” she said.

With no income, Anna alone operated the ranch. In order to decrease butchering costs, she cut out the middleman and became the first licensed female butcher in Hawaii. To improve her herd, she became the first Hawaiian to import Brahma and Charolais cattle. She was also the first to breed Charbray cattle, and to implement new grazing techniques on the island.

In 1943, Anna married Lyman Perry-Fiske, an avid horseman and civil engineer, and the pair spent their days together working the ranch.

Years later, in the 1970s, with the ranch under control and operating smoothly, Anna was able to represent her state and her ranch at both the Tournament of Roses Parade and at the Calgary Stampede. At each event, she rode as a 19th-century pā’ū rider, the traditional Hawaiian horsewoman.

Richard Smart, the late owner of Parker Ranch, described Anna as the “First Lady of Ranching in Hawaii.”

Of herself, in her 1987 biography, Anna said, “I never called myself a cowgirl. I’m a cowboy… riding and lassoing and doing all the things a man does.”

Since Anna’s death in 1995, Anna Ranch has operated as a trust to honor her family and to teach visitors about Hawaiian cattle ranching. It was placed on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places in 2005 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. Anna was inducted into the Paniolo Hall of Fame in 2009.