Saturday, November 8, 2008

Julia Platt

(Photo: Julia Platt, undated, removing fence from the bath house area at Lover's Point, from Barlow Geneaology.)

Besides John Steinbeck, who is the most interesting person in the history of Pacific Grove? One candidate is the great Julia B. Platt (1857-1935): scientist, politician, and visionary. A brilliant zoologist, she moved to PG at age 33 to continue her post-doctoral research at Hopkins Marine Station. Try as she might, she could not find a good teaching job anywhere in the country – she was excluded from the halls of science by her gender. "If I cannot obtain the work I wish," she said, "then I must take up with the next best." This, she decided, was civic duty in PG, where she served as mayor, drafted a city charter, re-established public access to Lovers Point by taking an axe to a privately-owned gate, and ushered the creation of a state marine refuge between Point Pinos and Monterey, which made possible one of the world's greatest pedestrian paths.

Julia B. Platt blasted her way to fame in PG by shooting neighbors' chickens who dared to enter her flower garden. After the police were brought in to the dispute, Platt was successful in getting an ordinance passed barring livestock from certain areas of the city.

Before running for mayor, Platt worked to beautify Lover's Point. Tall and formidable, she carried her tools the city down to the Point. As mayor, Platt passed ordinances regulating swim wear and enforcing moral behavior at the bath house area. Before her term ended in 1933 she fought for the concept of "work relief" rather than the "dole", and as a result the Lover's Point area became a WPA project.

Even in her death in 1935, Platt continued to shake things up. As per her wishes, her body was placed in a wicker basket. The city fathers felt obligated, by tradition, to accompany her body out twelve miles in the ocean to her final resting place.

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