A Milestone for Ellen Browning Scripps

By Megan Petersen '15, Copy Editor

One of the most influential women of the 19th and 20th centuries has a big birthday coming up. Ellen Browning Scripps, newspaper woman, philanthropist and founder of Scripps College, turns 175 on Oct. 18.

“175 years young,” said Carolyn Robles, associate director of the office of communication and marketing. Robles said that Ellen’s birthday has been celebrated by alumnae for a while, but that the school wanted to do something special for this milestone.

Wednesday Tea will honor Ellen on her birthday week. The Oct. 19 tea will include special Victorian treats and a raffle of T-shirts with the 1926 Time magazine cover featuring Ellen. Local alumnae have been invited to join current students for tea.

For the month of October, the Scripps College homepage and alumnae relations page will be including a link to a page dedicated to Ellen. From this page, visitors can write posthumous birthday messages for the College’s founder.

The Scripps community has also been invited to vote on their favorite Ellen quotation. The winning quotation will be featured on the T-shirts raffled off at Tea.

Ellen was born in London on Oct. 18 1836. Her family came to the United States and settled in Rushville, Ill. in 1844. Ellen, who graduated from Knox College in 1859, was the only one among her many siblings to attend college.

Ellen taught for several years after college, before leaving teaching to join her brother James, who was starting a newspaper in Detroit, Mich. James’s vision, said Judy Harvey Sahak ‘64, Swan Librarian of Denison Library, was to “spread news and learning to the working class.” Another brother, Edward Wyllis or E.W., founded a newspaper in Cincinnati, Ohio. While Ellen edited and wrote for James’s newspaper, she was invested in both James’s and E.W.’s newspapers. Her investments in her brothers’ newspapers garnered Ellen the fortune which enabled her to leave her mark on numerous institutions.

The list of institutions Ellen supported during her life is as diverse as it is extensive, including the San Diego Zoo, the National History Museum, Scripps Clinic and Metabolic

Sahak said that Ellen didn’t see her generosity as a handout. “She believed she was investing in the betterment of humankind.”

Toward the end of Ellen’s life there was a great push for the advancement of women across the country. Ellen was, of course, right at the forefront of this movement. “She really thought women were capable of saving the world,” said Sahak.

Because Ellen was such a prominent figure in the advancement of women and women’s education, she was contacted when Pomona College decided it was time to realize James Blaisdell’s plan for a consortium in Claremont. In addition to contributing financial support for the foundation of a women’s college in the Claremont Consortium, Ellen was deeply involved in the formation of that institution. Ellen and her ideas were an integral part of the college for the first few decades.

Ellen, who died on Aug. 3, 1932, has been increasingly recognized and celebrated in recent years. “She’s a role model to all the girls [at Scripps],” Sarah Han (‘15) said. “She inspires a spirit of independence and uniqueness.”

If Ellen could see where her school is today, Robles said, “I think she would be proud.”

Ellen’s birthday events are being coordinated through Communication and Marketing, the Alumnae Association, the Denison Library and the Office of the President.