At the turn of the 19th century, La Jolla was a simple village sparsely populated by small cottages. Without the right to vote and to have legal custody of their children, women faced a number of issues. In 1894 a small group of women in La Jolla met to talk about current affairs and literature. This group, initially known as the Women’s Literacy Club of La Jolla, evolved into a large and prominent group. Speakers such as Helen Keller and Lucy Stone were invited to speak on a variety of topics including women’s suffrage and the lack of female representation in the American political system. In 1901, Ellen Browning Scripps became president of the club and the name was changed to La Jolla Woman’s Club.
The club became very influential in local and national politics. Legislation for child welfare (child labor laws and the pasteurization of milk) was heavily influenced by members of the club, along with a California bill to protect the redwoods and national forests and insisting upon the appointment of women to the Board of Education. Special programs for children with disabilities in public schools was another interest of the club members. In 1914, Club President, Dr. Mary Ritter, (State Chairman of Public Health of California) adopted the slogan “All knowledge is futile that is not used for others” and the club embarked upon an ambitious program of events and fundraising. The club endorsed a resolution to the 65th U.S. Congress recommending, as a War Measure Legislation, the early passing of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment to the Constitution (women’s right to vote), and investigated subjects such as “The Value of a Scientific Education”.
The members became activists for women’s and children’s rights. During World War I the club formed a War Emergency Service Committee with money collected for the Red Cross and raised more than $100,000 for War Bonds. In 1919, the club voted to endorse a resolution favoring the formation of the League of Nations to pursue peace. In 1920 the club launched an appeal to raise money for starving children in Europe and raised more than $2000. During the Great Depression, members donated Christmas food baskets to more than 200 people.
With war again in Europe, the Red Cross appealed to club members to knit and sew articles of clothing for those in need. The club held frequent fundraisers for the Red Cross. In the Summer of 1940 the clubhouse was turned over to the Red Cross for making surgical dressings and members were asked to volunteer as hostesses for the USO, and in 1941 the clubhouse was used as Civilian Defense headquarters. In 1942, the clubhouse was open four days a week for five hours each day for volunteers to work on surgical dressings. In 1945 the club members donated 800 Christmas boxes. Following World War II, the status of women was forever changed. Previously closed doors opened. Women were welcomed into the Chambers of Commerce, all levels of government and politics, civic organizations and corporate boards. Thus, the emphasis of the Woman’s Club gradually evolved into a more social setting where members meet and enjoy activities such as a monthly luncheon and program, bridge, yoga and book club. For membership information, contact our membership chair Debbie Williams (858) 454-2354