A Lady's Place by Mary Jo Gohlke, gives a detailed historical facts and accounts upon a former economic environment, societal hub and history of the City's Philomathean Club, located in the Central Valley known as Stockton. The city has a very distinct and significant past full of economic fluctuations, agricultural contributions along with philanthropic milestones. History of Stockton could not be discussed without the mention of it's Philomathean club, a women's club centered around their love for literature, knowledge and the goal to meet with the understanding of meeting social, civic needs of the community.
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Mary Jo Gohlke provides accountable examples of how Stockton has transformed itself over the past century and what it was founded. Although not all events shaped Stockton for the better, the history of a once vibrant Central Valley city is noticeably different to this day. Although Stockton may be overlooked by many cities, it was at one point where the social, and economic power here rivaled California's capital. People can't talk about Stockton's history without talking about the women of the Philomathean club, this club created and served as a great reminder of how they helped shape the city. Stockton holds a deep part of California's history in regards to how important it was in the 1900s, the philomathean club and how series of events led them both to decline.
Stockton attributed many things that help hold its significance in the early 1900s including agricultural enterprising, even enough to be called "the garden spot of America" by Park Arbington Buell, a prominent member of the city's early history (23). Along with its strong agricultural presence, the city had a strong impact on manufacturing for products as well. One account detailing, "The city was puffed up with pride, calling itself the most important manufacturing center in the West," (28). Stockton products were sent all over the world and continued to be to this day. Another reason Stockton was an important to California was the social significance it provided to the people in the early 1900s. The Philomathean club was a perfect example of how people of society had great regard for themselves while participating in community events in Stockton." The club became exclusive at some point in this era.
Membership was limited to 500 in the waiting list was started. The opening luncheons called for the highest fashions, with hats and white gloves," (81). This example is just one account of how high regards people who lived in Stockton carried themselves.
Unfortunately Stockton faced social and economical decline gradually over time, things that contributed to this could be speculated but the city still faces scrutiny to this day. The city's decline could be contributed to its tarnished reputation due to scandals even dating back to it's past members of high society.
In 1947 raids of gambling houses lead to a community reinvestment, " there was 16 gallon spots close down. There is one unforeseen consequence: the lineup of 400 men, all calling themselves professional gamblers, overwhelming employment office." (95). Poor urban planning that lead to Stockton's economic class segregation also played a part in the decline of the city. Due to the crosstown freeway Stockton was not only cut directly in half but much of the city's rich history was gone along with it. " The city of Stockton's planners we're trying to halt the flood of businesses from downtown to the north, up Pacific Avenue across March Lane and further to Hammer Lane. "If this 'urban renewal' scheme did not totally destroy the entire downtown, the crosstown freeway was rammed right through....effectively cutting the city in half," (109). The introduction of automobile accessibility is when Stockton really began to lose interest from people because people would rather commute to a city with more to offer. "When automobile and trucks became accessible for transportation in the 1920s, Stockton began to lose its edge on other towns...Stockton's Golden Era was over," (110). This is when Stockton began to fall through the cracks so to speak.
The Philomathean club existed so that women in Stockton could empower themselves through discussions about literature and later community concerns. The club originated with only 2 original members and flourished to have more than some set of 500 members with many more waiting to join the club (106). The club also provided a place for women to share ideas and advance their knowledge through coordinated events. As mentioned "Margret and L. Clare, who were not related, envisioned an organization for women that would improve their intelligence. The club would also be a source of learning and fellowship and an agricultural, railroad and inland port of more than 14,000 that many of these women, most hailing from important Eastern Backgrounds and ancestry, found lacking in the areas of culture and education" (9). The Club also provided an outlet for women to gather around one another socially with meetings and conferences. One quote stated how forming the club was an escape outside their domestic lives, "The Women forming these clubs, an organizational culture, were stepping outside domestic lives and into interaction with their communities" (14). The Philomathean Club also provided a support to social issues affecting the community it worked so hard to preserve. The club would often hold events to help with improving Stockton, in one case even fundraising for the railroad system in town. " The women produced the one-of-a-kind newspaper whose proceeds benefited the Stockton and San Joaquin Valley railroad company's Stockton terminals," (19). The philanthropy these women provided the city was one of the many great things they did and aligned with their goals as a club.
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The decline of the Philomathean Club is tragic considering how much the club has done for Stockton. Club numbers started to dwindle slowly alongside the decline of the city's economic and social decline, slowly but gradually the club followed. Some could argue that social clubs were a thing of the past considering how much of them failed away, previous generations had limited to no access of electronic media. "Television encouraged a generation of couch potatoes." (111), with social media being so easily accessible, many people just must have felt little need for the club anymore. Another reason the club declined was the amount of women accepted into the club and if the club was meeting their interests. "Socially, then, the Philomathean Club became less important to the people it had always wish to attract the affluent housewives," (114). The club however did try and recover some of the glory it had lost in its decline by reinventing itself and improving its community facilities to attract those who will come. One question club members asked themselves was, "Perhaps such exposure and its rich history will be the clubs survival?" (119), this led the club to publicize their role in history to attempt to accredit their reputation.
I believe that the Philomathean Club could bring relevancy to their name to this day and age by supporting local community projects, become more social media present and sharing Stocktons rich history to encourage local involvement from residents. The Philomathean Club was an organization that helped the Stockton community through its "devotion to community charities and causes," (8) and it can help the city once again through the same dedication it had before. Although social media can become a problem with peoples strong fixation on the number of followers or likes, it can help bring this club back to relevancy and highlight club events. Just how the clubs engagement was mentioned in news papers, the club can take it upon itself to share their presence on social media, (1). Lastly the club can bring to life more of Stocktons rich history through funding museum exhibits. "Publicizing their existence and history to those who enter the clubhouse doors," (119). Through more events with this goal, the Philomathean club can bring back the respect that Stockton previously had. Although the city's reputation may have negative connotations associated with it, I believe that the Philomathean club can bring back a passive perceptions of this city.
Gohlke, Mary Jo. A Lady's Place. Tuleberg Press, 2017.
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