As La Jolla Woman’s Club nears its 100th year, members salute founder, Ellen Browning Scripps

By Sally Fuller

La Jolla Woman’s Club Board Member

The community celebrated the birth date of its patroness and benefactor Ellen Browning Scripps on Oct. 19 with a luncheon hosted by the La Jolla Historical Society at La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. Born in 1836, Miss Scripps would now be 177 years old.

Ellen Browning Scripps

Among her many contributions, was the La Jolla Woman’s Clubhouse. At a cost of $40,000 it was one of her first benefactions. The La Jolla Woman’s Club will mark its 100-year anniversary in 2014.

Miss Scripps helped her brother, James, start The Detroit News. She pioneered the concept of the feature article and wrote a widely-distributed daily news column until her death in 1932. The youngest child in her family and a favorite of Ellen’s, was E.W. With her financial help, E.W. founded the chain of Scripps newspapers. When her oldest brother George died, Ellen inherited his estate.

Miss Scripps moved to San Diego with her brother E.W. and his family in 1891. She

was then a woman of 60 with an independent fortune, and for the first time in her life, she  established her own home in La Jolla in 1897.

After founding the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, she founded Scripps College, Scripps Hospital and Scripps Metabolic Clinic. She built the La Jolla Woman’s Club, the La Jolla Library, and the Children’s Pool. She provided scholarships to The Bishops School. She purchased Torrey Pines and other lands and donated them to the public as parks. She made substantial contributions to the San Diego Zoo, and she donated sums to many religious institutions without regard to

denomination. She commissioned works by local artists and architects, including Irving Gill, and

provided gifts for the publication of scientific books, especially books documenting the natural

history of San Diego.

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. She also gave generously to the people of San Diego. She financed the construction of the La Jolla Woman’s Club, the La Jolla Recreational Center, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, the San Diego Zoo, and the La Jolla Children’s Pool.

After a stay in the hospital due to a broken hip, Ellen helped to found  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. Her home, reconstructed in 1915 by modernist architect Irving Gill, was transformed into the Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla.

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

Ellen Browning Scripps died in her La Jolla home on Oct. 3, 1932, a few weeks before her 96th birthday.

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