Sitting under a 105-year-old oak tree in the yard, members of the La Jolla Woman’s Club gathered Oct. 11 for their first luncheon since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold 19 months ago.

The lunch, normally held the first Monday of each month and served inside the Woman’s Club building at 7791 Draper Ave., featured boxed meals from Urban Plates and was arranged outside “for safety’s sake,” said club President Tona Macken.

“It’s great” to have most of the club’s approximately 70 members back for in-person events, Macken said.

“It’s a wonderful way to start again,” said member Kathleen Lundgren.

Macken welcomed those seated under the tree, which was planted in 1916 on the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. “We’re back,” she said. “We appreciate your loyalty.”

The event also included an unveiling of a bronze bas relief of Ellen Browning Scripps, who funded or established many La Jolla institutions in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including the Woman’s Club building.

The La Jolla Woman’s Club unveiled a bronze bas relief of Ellen Browning Scripps.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

The bas relief, commissioned and funded by the Woman’s Club board and created by Berkeley-based artist Jacquelyn Giuffre, shows Scripps’ likeness and her initials, along with a palm tree and waves for La Jolla and a book, as Scripps “always supported education, especially for women,” Macken said.

“It’s very fitting,” Macken said of the October unveiling, as Scripps was born Oct. 18, 1836. “It’s very special.”

The bas relief will be displayed in the Woman’s Club.

Molly McClain and La Jolla Woman’s Club President Tona Macken attend the group’s Oct. 11 luncheon.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

Those in attendance then heard a talk by local historian and author Molly McClain on the origins of the La Jolla Woman’s Club, which began in 1894 as a literary and current-events club made up of several women including Scripps, whom McClain called “the patron saint of La Jolla.”

The group officially became the La Jolla Woman’s Club in 1901.

McClain, who wrote the 2017 book “Ellen Browning Scripps: New Money and American Philanthropy,” said women’s clubs around the turn of the 20th century focused on civic improvement and social justice activism and “kept creative and forward-thinking women from being starved for culture in a new town.”

In early La Jolla, Scripps, also the president of the Woman’s Club at the time, focused the group on community identity, McClain said, as “La Jolla had yet to experience the kind of improvements that would transform this from a sleepy little summer colony into a year-round tourist destination.”

Members of the La Jolla Woman’s Club meet for lunch under a 105-year-old oak tree on Oct. 11.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

The Woman’s Club successfully worked to bring a water pipeline to La Jolla, which until then had only three bathtubs and no indoor plumbing, McClain said. The club also lobbied for a public restroom in the business district.

In addition, the club focused on women’s suffrage, Prohibition “and other progressive causes,” McClain said.

The 1914 building, donated by Scripps and designed by architect Irving Gill, was built to include many open-air spaces “designed for health reasons,” as tuberculosis was a major concern, McClain said.

The permanent home for the Woman’s Club “made possible large-scale entertainments and theatrical productions,” such as Shakespeare’s plays, McClain said, giving the women an “opportunity to assert their modernity [as] spirited, independent forceful women who could effect change in society.”

“It’s been more than 125 years since the first members of the La Jolla Woman’s Club settled along the bluffs above La Jolla Cove,” she added. “And in that time, La Jolla has transformed from a village into a small ‘city’ with vibrant arts and cultural organizations. So there’s no more need for the club to put on plays.

“I think we can all claim descent from these free-thinking, adventurous women who claimed a place for themselves in the modern world.”

The La Jolla Woman’s Club next meets at noon Monday, Nov. 1. For more information, visit

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