Ellen Browning Scripps

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Ellen Browning Scripps
Ellen browning scripps.png
Born (1836-10-18)October 18, 1836
London, England
Died August 3, 1932(1932-08-03) (aged 95)
La Jolla, California
Alma mater Knox College
Known for Philanthropy, Journalism
Parent(s) James Mogg Scripps
Ellen Mary Saunders
Relatives James E. Scripps, (1835–1906; brother)
E. W. Scripps, (1854–1926; half-brother)

Ellen Browning Scripps (October 18, 1836 – August 3, 1932) was an American philanthropist who was the founding donor of several major institutions in Southern California. She made a fortune by investing in a growing chain of newspapers in the West.

Family history[edit]

Ellen Browning Scripps was born on October 18, 1836, on South Molton St in St. George Parish, London.[1]:p.2 Her father, James Mogg Scripps (1803–73), was the youngest of six children born to London publisher William Armiger Scripps (1772–1851) and Mary Dixie (1771–1838).[1]:p.2 [2]:p.14 He was apprenticed to Charles Lewis, the leading bookbinder of London where he learned the trade. [3]:p.2 James married his cousin Elizabeth Sabey in 1829 [4]:p.6 and had two children, only one of whom lived to maturity, Elizabeth Mary (1831-1914).[1]:p.2 Elizabeth Sabey Scripps died the day after the latter's birth.[1]:p.2 Two years later, James Mogg married Ellen Mary Saunders. They had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood: James Edmund (1835-1906), Ellen Browning (1836-1932), William Arminger (1838-1914), George Henry (1839-1900) and John Mogg (1840–63).[1]:p.2 Ellen Mary Scripps died of breast cancer in 1841. [5]:p.2

After the failure of his bookbinding shop and the death of his second wife, James Mogg emigrated to the United States with his six children in April 1844.[3]:p.2 They headed to Rushville, Illinois, where the Scripps family owned property.[1]:p.3 James Mogg married his third wife Julia Osborn in November 1844.[3]:p.4 They had five children: Julia Anne (1847-1898), Thomas Osborn (1848-53), Frederick Tudor (1850-1936), Eliza Virginia (1852-1921), and Edward Wyllis or E.W. Scripps (1854-1926), the well-known newspaper tycoon and founder of The E.W. Scripps Company.[1]:p.4


Early life[edit]

Ellen Browning Scripps was an imaginative, independent thinking child. An enthusiastic reader, she studied Latin in elementary school and taught her younger brother E.W. through recitations of Shakespeare, Tennyson, and Scott.[1]:p.7[1]:p.8

Along with her brothers and sisters, Ellen worked on the family farm in Rushville. She carried the milk from the milking barn to the cellar and followed the goslings to make sure none drowned in the pond.[1]:p.4 Ellen helped her stepmother run the household. She cooked, cleaned, sewed, and washed from age ten until the day she left home for Detroit.[5]:p.18


Ellen Browning Scripps was the only one of her siblings to attend college.[1]:p.16 In 1856 she was admitted to the Female Collegiate Department at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois [5]:p.19 after spending two years teaching and saving her money.[6] The women studied in separate classes from the men and received certificates, rather than diplomas. In 1859, she graduated and returned to Rushville where she worked as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. She became the highest paid teacher in the county, making $50 a month.[1]:p.16 Ellen Browning was awarded a Doctorate of Letters from Knox College in 1911.[1]:p.16

Newspaper journalist[edit]

While Ellen Browning was at college, her brother James Edmund had become an owner and publisher of The Detroit Tribune. In 1865, James convinced Ellen to take a job as a copy editor.[1]:p.18 After five years in Detroit, she returned to Rushville to care for her ailing father.

In 1873, a fire burned down the offices of the Tribune, allowing James and his brother William to collect an insurance settlement.[1]:p.21 They reinvested this money and founded The Detroit Evening News, a short, inexpensive, and politically independent newspaper pitched to the city's working class. Ellen returned to Detroit as a journalist and editor in 1873. She wrote a daily column, nicknamed "Miss Ellen's Miscellany," that reduced local and national news to short sound bites. According to Gerald Baldasty, "Her columns of "Miscellany" and other topics became the inspiration for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, a news features service that Edward Scripps established in 1902." [7]

A shareholder, she played an important role in Scripps councils. She gave business advice to her younger brother Edward and sided with him in family financial disputes. He credited her with saving him from financial ruin in more than one instance. She made a fortune by investing in his growing chain of newspapers in the West.[7]

Americans Abroad[edit]

In 1881, Ellen and E.W. travelled to Europe so that the latter could take a break from work and recover his health.[5]:p.53 They took the railroad through France to the Mediterranean Sea, crossed by ship to Algeria, then headed north into Italy, Austria, and Germany. Ellen wrote letters back to The Detroit Evening News about their travels, describing her impressions of people and places.[8] [9]:p.78–83

When Ellen returned to her job at the News, she found that she was no longer needed at the copy desk.[1]:p.48 She began a decade of travel, heading to the American South, New England, Cuba, and Mexico. In 1888-89 she made a second trip to Europe that included a visit to L'Exposition Universelle in Paris and three months in Spain. A decade later, she toured France, Belgium, and England.[5]:p.58:p.62


In the early 1890s, Ellen Browning's sister Julia Anne moved to Alameda, California, to escape the harsh midwestern winters. Soon afterwards, E.W. and Ellen bought land in San Diego and established Miramar Ranch with their brother Fred.[5]:p.65 Ellen lived, on and off, at Miramar until 1897 when she moved into a seaside cottage that she had built in La Jolla. She named it South Moulton Villa after the street on which she had been born.[5]:p.66 Her sisters Annie and Virginia shared her home. Annie was quiet, clean, shy, and introverted, while Virginia was boisterous, bold and extroverted.[5]:p.83 The two women became prominent citizens of the small beach town.

Inheritance and donations[edit]

When their brother George died, Ellen and E.W. inherited his stock in The Detroit Evening News, causing a three-year battle over the estate.[5]:p.72[7] Ellen won the suit and added immensely to the wealth she already had accumulated.

Interested in science and education, she donated the bulk of her fortune to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, and the Scripps College in Claremont, California.[10] She also financed the construction of the La Jolla Women's Club, the La Jolla Recreational Center, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, and the La Jolla Children's Pool, and she was an important early supporter of the San Diego Zoo.[5] After a stay in the hospital due to a broken hip, Ellen helped to found the Scripps Memorial Hospital and funded the Scripps Research Clinic. These organizations eventually became The Scripps Research Institute, and two of the core providers now comprising Scripps Health—Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and Scripps Clinic.[5]:p.86 During her lifetime, she gave gifts and donations to charitable causes that totaled more than $2 million (equivalent to $34,688,000 in 2015) dollars.[11]

Her home, designed in 1915 by modernist architect Irving Gill, was transformed into the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla.


Ellen Browning Scripps died in her La Jolla home on August 3, 1932, a few weeks before her 96th birthday.[1]:p.112 Shortly thereafter, the leading newspaper trade journal Editor & Publisher praised her contributions to American journalism: "Many women have contributed, directly and indirectly, to the development of the American press, but none more influentially and beneficently than Ellen Browning Scripps."[7] The New York Times, meanwhile, recognized her as "one of the pioneers in modern American journalism." Her obituary described her as a woman who had perfected "the art of living" as well as the art of giving.[12]


Scripps was nominated and inducted into the Women's Hall of Fame in 2007 hosted by the California Museum; Commission on the Status of Women; University of California, San Diego Women's Center; and San Diego State University Women's Studies.

From the 1920s, Scripps was the major benefactor of the San Diego Natural History Museum, financing its building and education programs.[13] In 1933, Scripps estate donated over 1,000 watercolor paintings of California wildflowers by A. R. Valentien to the San Diego Natural History Museum.[14][15]

The following are institutions she helped to establish or fund:

  • Scripps College in Claremont, CA
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, est. 1903, formerly known as the Marine Biological Association
  • Scripps Research Institute
  • Scripps Aquarium, La Jolla (now Birch Aquarium at Scripps)
  • The Bishop's School in La Jolla, CA
  • Scripps Memorial Hospital
  • Scripps Metabolic Clinic
  • La Jolla Woman's Club
  • Torrey Pines State Reserve
  • The Children's Pool, est. 1931
  • Donations to
    • Pomona College
    • Knox College
    • Cleveland College
    • Constantinople Women's College
    • San Diego State University (Scripps Cottage)
    • City of Rushville, Illinois
    • San Diego Museum Association
    • La Jolla Athenaeum Music & Arts Library
    • San Diego Society of Natural History
    • The San Diego Museum of Man's Ancient Egypt exhibit
    • San Diego Zoo
    • San Diego YMCA and YWCA
    • Community Welfare Building

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Preece, Charles (1990). Edward Willis and Ellen Browning Scripps : an unmatched pair : a biography. Chelsea, MI : Bookcrafters. 
  2. ^ Scripps, James E. (1903). A Genealogical History of the Scripps Family and Its Various Alliances. Detroit, MI : Private Circulation. 
  3. ^ a b c Hepner, Frances K. (1966). Ellen Browning Scripps; her life and times. Friends of the Library, San Diego State College. 
  4. ^ Dessau Clarkson, Edward (1958). Ellen Browning Scripps : a biography. The Author. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Britt, Albert (1960). Ellen Browning Scripps : journalist and idealist. Oxford : Printed for Scripps College at the University Press. 
  6. ^ Klenn, Monica. "Ellen Browning Scripps". The Almanac of American Philanthropy. The Philanthropy Roundtable. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d Baldasty, Gerald J. (2000). "Scripps, Ellen Browning" in American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press. 
  8. ^ Scripps College (1973). A Sampling From Travel Letters, 1881-1883. Claremont, CA : Scripps College. 
  9. ^ Schaelchlin, Patricia A. (2003). The Newspaper Barons: A Biography of the Scripps Family. San Diego, CA : San Diego Historical Society. 
  10. ^ The Philanthropy Hall of Fame, Ellen Browning Scripps
  11. ^ "MISS ELLEN SCRIPPS DIES AT AGE OF 95". The New York Times. August 4, 1932. Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  12. ^ "A Modern Mid-Victorian", The New York Times, August 5, 1932 
  13. ^ Engstrand, Iris; Bullard, Anne (1999). Inspired by nature: The San Diego Natural History Museum after 125 years. San Diego: San Diego Natural History Museum. pp. 64–65. ISBN 0918969042. 
  14. ^ Kamerling, Bruce (Summer 1978). "Anna and Albert Valentien: The Arts and Crafts Movement in San Diego". Journal of San Diego History 24 (3): 343–65. 
  15. ^ Dykens, Margaret N. (2003). Plant portraits: the California Legacy of A.R. Valentien. Irvine, Calif.: Irvine Museum. ISBN 0971409250. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]