I met with Denise Berrian the other day at the Bonita Golf Course to talk about the Chula Vista Woman’s Club.
It has been some time since we have written anything about this organization and we feel that we have been utterly remiss in this instance. It is, after all, one of the longest running such entities in the South Bay and deserves some type of recognition.
Berrian is the club president and it looks like she is going to preside during a high mark in the club’s history. In July, of the coming new year, the club will observe—and celebrate—its 100th anniversary. President Berrian told me a bit of the early history of the organization.
The exact founding date was July 13, 1913. It seems that a group of ladies, numbering 26, go together and formed the club and at that early stage picked out a few objectives that they could embrace for the common good.
In retrospect it might be said that the founding of the local Woman’s Club came about in historic times, at least, historic for the Southern California area.
The year, 1913, was also the year of the Panama-California Exposition that ushered Balboa Park into the South Bay scene. The founding president of the Woman’s Club was Ella Penfold, a lady who was not without influence. Her husband, Henry, was the Secretary of the Exposition having been lured to California from Nebraska where he had successfully headed a similar celebration. Ella had thus arranged for the ladies of the newly formed club to visit the exposition en masse where they were photographed in front of one of the park’s buildings.
Club members, as is the case of most fledgling organizations, met, for the first few years, in the homes of members.
The club had almost immediate success and, as a result, the membership grew. The ladies decided that the time had come to have a permanent home. Property was donated by the Ralph Pray family at Del Mar and Madrona Streets and this became the site for the club’s first clubhouse.
By 1927 the membership was, once more, overwhelming and a new clubhouse was needed. The ladies established a building fund that was supported by Living Pictures Productions, community dinners, fashion shows and wine-tasting events. The search for a new site was solved when a local citizen, Thomas Howe offered a gift of two adjoining lots at Garrett Avenue and G Street. There, however, was a condition. Construction had to be started within a year of the donation. The club met those conditions. In October of 1928 the new clubhouse that is the current home of the club was completed and dedicated to the community.
In the ensuing years the club has left its mark in Chula Vista with the many events it has spawned and sponsored.
Fiesta de la Luna, a long time yearly event was started by the club in 1930. The C.V. Garden Club, the Art Guild and the theater guild were all started as a result of the Woman’s Club. The clubhouse has been the site for many a meeting of other community organizations and churches.
President Berrian tells me that the club continues to support other organizations within the city. They donate to a dozen charitable organizations. They raise funds through fashion shows, a Christmas tea and silent auction. For 100 years the impact of the Chula Vista Woman’s Club has been considerable and the membership is determined that that same dedication will continue for the next hundred.
Berrian, by the way, is a local product having spent her entire life in the Chula Vista area. She went to the local schools, was educated at a local college and later went to work in the elementary school district. She was a teacher at
Rohr Elementary School until her retirement in 2008.
She is active in other organizations. We will hear more of the Chula Vista Woman’s Club in the coming months as they observe their centennial year.