The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1978, Volume 24, Number 3
Thomas L. Scharf, Managing Editor

By Dick Carlson

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While “Sports and Madams” controlled part of downtown, a woman called the “Purple Mother” reigned over hundreds of acres of God’s Kingdom a few miles away on Point Loma.


Katherine Tingley, whose personal taste ran to heavy purple robes, had arrived in San Diego in 1896 at the age of forty-four. She had already gained attention on the East Coast with her “Do Good Mission and Soup Kitchen” in a rough and tumble New York City neighborhood.


Within a few years in San Diego her idealism, Hindu philosophy and fund raising ability had coalesced into “Lomaland”—headquarters for her Theosophical Society of America. The school became famous, though not without its critics. Basics were mixed heavily with art, philosophy, music and drama.

Katherine Tingley

The “Purple Mother’s” energies were boundless and may have ultimately been her downfall. She was publicly accused of an affair with another woman’s husband (politely referred to as “alienation of affection”) was sued and lost. She borrowed money from sporting goods magnate A. G. Spaulding (one of her financial backers) to satisfy the large verdict but could not pay it back. “Lomaland” began to founder and when Katherine Tingley died in a 1929 auto crash, her dream was dying too. Lomaland ultimately closed and the property sold. It is now the site of Point Loma College.