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People in your Neighborhood: Meet La Jolla Woman’s Club president Tona Macken

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La Jolla Woman’s Club president Tona Macken helps keep the Club at its best.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD:

2019 and 2020 will be busy years for the La Jolla Woman’s Club and its president Tona Macken. The Club will host celebratory events in honor of its 125 years, the 105 years of the building where it still is housed at 7791 Draper Ave., and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.

La Jolla resident Macken will lead the Club through these commemorative events, in addition to her day-to-day presidential duties of keeping an eye on the facility so it stays in tip-top shape for the weddings held there, developing a new website, shepherding a roof-replacement project, and modernizing the facilities (specifically, the plumbing).

What does the role of Club President entail?

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“I help with the little things, and if something comes along and we need to spend money, it goes through me. I make sure everyone is doing their job. I have to be on top of things and approve decisions.

We always want to honor our patroness Ellen Browning Scripps and her legacy, so whenever we have to make a decision about the Club, I ask myself whether Ellen would like this. Most of the time, we think it’s something she’d be in favor of, such as the women’s issues we are concerned with and our partnership with Feeding America.

We support Feeding San Diego as a community project over the summer so children get healthy meals, and we do so during the school year, as well. We are also looking to expand our philanthropic efforts by way of scholarships, but that’s in the exploratory phase. We turn to our members for suggestions and guidance on how we can better serve the community because that is what Ellen was all about.”

What does Ellen Browning Scripps mean to you personally?

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“Oh wow. Even though she lived so long ago, she was a modern woman. She never married, but that didn’t bother her. She was strong enough to be a spinster and use her money for the good of the community. She loved San Diego and she wanted the best of everything.

She was concerned that children be healthy, which is why she built the playground at the Rec Center, and she was a supporter of children’s education, which is why she helped build The Bishop’s School.

So I admire her. She went against the stereotype that a woman had to be a homemaker and she never apologized for it. She and her sister, Virginia, were two strong women who left their mark on La Jolla and made it a better place to live.

How will your presidency honor her?

“We want to continue Ellen and Virginia’s vision by being concerned with and furthering women’s issues and education. We want women to take their votes seriously in all manner of elections in honor of their suffragist efforts.

Ellen wanted to help people who didn’t have the money or the power that she did, and so do we.

And she loved this building ... I want to make sure I leave it in better condition that when I got here, that’s why the roof project is so important. It took us eight or nine years from the time we said we needed a new roof to actually get one.

Historical buildings interest me, so to have a Club in such a beautiful structure is wonderful. It’s like an oasis. This building has been described as ‘the jewel in the crown of architect Irving Gill’s work,’ and to me it is.

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The building received an AIA award for being historically significant, built by a famous architect, and still used for its original purpose. We are one of the few in California. A lot of Gill’s buildings have been converted, but this was built as a woman’s club and still is a woman’s club.”

How did you become involved with the Club?

“I was in a Woman’s Club in New Mexico when I lived there, and when (my husband Howard and I) moved to La Jolla, I actually read about the La Jolla Woman’s Club in the Light! There was a phone number so I called and came to a few events and liked it so much I started volunteering. My first job was at the building’s 100th anniversary event in 2014, and gradually, I started helping with programs. When it came time to elect a new president, I was nominated and accepted.”

What do you enjoy about Woman’s Clubs, given you’ve been in more than one?

“The New Mexico Woman’s Club was also a leader in making the community better, and that’s what I enjoyed about it there. This one appealed to me so much because of the history and the connection to Ellen Browning Scripps. Woman’s Clubs are a nice place for women to get together through similar interests and have a relaxing time and do good things for the community and women’s issues.”

Can you tell us about upcoming events?

“Annually, our meetings go from October to June with a lunch, a general meeting, some socializing, and usually a speaker. We do not meet in the summer (to accommodate wedding season).

Later this month, we will resume our Women in Leadership speaker series with Timken Museum director Megan Pogue, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28. That event is open to the public.

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In October, we will celebrate our Club’s 125th anniversary. (The Club was established in 1894 by local women as a book club and place to talk about community events. These women were also suffragettes who worked to gain the right for women to vote.)

For the 105th anniversary of our building, we will host a big gala, themed Casino Night. We’ll have gambling tables and a sit-down dinner with tents here on the grounds.

Next year, we’ll add a musical component to our events, with songs the suffragettes would sing. It’s going to be a great few years!”

— Learn more about the La Jolla Woman’s Club by visiting lajollawomansclub.org

Editor’s Note: La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! If you know someone you’d like us to profile, call us at (858) 875-5950 or send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalight.com


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