Our Miss Scripps joins Women’s Hall of Fame

La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps’ name graces hospitals, schools, recreation and science centers, just about every public institution you can think of in and around the Jewel.

Now her name is being added to one other milestone list: the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame.

Scripps will be one of six San Diego women, two in the trailblazer category, to be inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame this year at a ceremony to be held Saturday, March 24 at 5 p.m. at UCSD’s Price Center Ballroom.

There are currently 31 women enshrined in the Hall, whose inductees have their portraits on permanent display at the Women’s History Museum and Educational Center, 2323 Broadway, Suite 107, in downtown San Diego. The Hall of Fame enshrinement caps Women’s History Month in March.

Affectionately known as “Miss Scripps,” Ellen Browning was nominated for inclusion on the historical women’s who’s who list this year by the La Jolla Historical Society. Historical Society archivist Kara West and historian and Carol Olten submitted the nomination in January.

“We hold Ellen Browning Scripps to be one of the greatest women of her time,” said archivist West. “The philanthropy she demonstrated to La Jolla, to San Diego, and even beyond those geographic borders is remarkable.”

“She was interested in the La Jolla community as a cultural center,” said historian Olten, “and as an educational place for people to live and work and improve their lives. She had a very human spirit about her. She contributed, not only to La Jolla, but to a lot of things in San Diego County - the San Diego Zoo, The Bishop’s School, Scripps Hospital, La Jolla Woman’s Club. The Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla was her home. Practically everything we have in La Jolla as open space, or as a place to enjoy life and culture, is indebted to her.”

West noted that, in 1929, the people of La Jolla were so proud of their benefactress that they presented Miss Scripps with a plaque that read, “That she may know that they appreciate her many generous and unselfish efforts to develop, improve, and uplift the cultural, social and spiritual life of the community.”

About Scripps’ Hall of Fame nomination, West said: “Today in 2007, on behalf of the Historical Society and the people of La Jolla, we are pleased to demonstrate that this sentiment still holds true.”

A beloved member of the La Jolla community, Ellen Browning Scripps made her home in La Jolla the last 35 years of her life, and her public spirit stands immortalized in the gifts she made for the benefit of the public. Her lasting legacy includes the Woman’s Club, the La Jolla Public Library (from which the La Jolla Historical Society was founded), Scripps Memorial Hospital and Metabolic Clinic, The Bishop’s School, the Community House and Playgrounds, Children’s Pool and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as well as financial aid she offered in building many churches in La Jolla.

Scripps also gave generously throughout San Diego, including the Natural History Museum, the Zoological Garden and Research Laboratory located in Balboa Park, and the Welfare Building, housing the welfare activities of the city.

Hall of Fame nominees are considered for major accomplishments or contributions in one of five categories: trailblazer, empowerer, activist, cultural competent or historian. The women honored every year are remembered for their efforts in a Hall of Fame exhibit housed at the Women’s History Museum and Educational Center.

Begun in 2002, the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame was a project organized by the Women’s History Museum, the San Diego Commission on the Status of Women, the UCSD Women’s Center, and the Department of Women’s Studies at SDSU. The Hall of Fame’s mission is to acknowledge and honor women who have significantly contributed to the quality of life and who made outstanding contributions in San Diego.

This year’s Hall of Fame nominees, and their credentials, include:

-Ellen Browning Scripps

(1836-1932) created a newspaper empire with her brother and became an activist for women’s rights and political influence.

-Belle Jennings Benchley

(1882-1973) led the San Diego Zoo to an international showplace when she became the world’s first and only female zoo director in 1927.

-Sister Patricia M. Shaffer, Ph.D.

has encouraged women to study science since the 1950s as a research chemist, university professor, nun, and member of scientific associations. From the classroom to Tijuana orphanages to migrant worker children, her contributions are legendary.

-Tanja Winter

has been a tireless activist/organizer for peace and justice in San Diego for 35 years. From the historic national Women Strike for Peace to the current Peace & Democracy Action Group and Activist San Diego, she has pounded the pavement and government offices for equal rights, empowerment, and a safe world.

-Clara Estelle Breed

(1906-1994), beloved librarian for 42 years, created the countywide “Serra” lending system. A children’s librarian during World War II, she sent books, clothing and candy to the Japanese internment camps, corresponded with hundreds of camp students, visited camps, wrote journals, articles and retained mementoes of her moving Japanese-American friendships.

-Sara (“Madre Sarita”) Macias Vasquez

, 97-year-old indigenous Mexican immigrant, healer, and teacher, carries on traditions of spiritual healing in Toltec, curanderismo and other holistic native healing traditions; she is recognized by medical professionals and Chicano activists and artists alike.

-Joan Embery

, champion of environmental, conservation and preservation issues and spokesperson for the Zoological Society of San Diego, will also be honored in 2007 as one whose work embodies the Spirit of the Hall of Fame.

-Sarah Williams

, executive director of the Women’s History Museum and Educational Center, noted the Women’s Hall of Fame was created in part to inspire women to transcend the boundaries that American culture, in the past, has placed on them.

“Women before were born to a generation whose parents told them they can’t be ministers or firefighters, because women had never done things like that,” said Williams. “We wanted to reclaim women’s history, hence the museum’s name. Our mission is to really preserve, educate and inspire this generation, and future generations, about the contributions, and experiences, of women. Women’s History month is about making those accomplishments known.”

Williams applauded Ellen Brown Scripps nomination to this year’s Hall of Fame.

“When I moved here from Chicago a year ago,” said Williams, “the first name I noticed was Scripps. Acknowledging and honoring women who’ve contributed to improving the quality of life in San Diego County: We wanted to recognize the women that are doing that on a local level.”

The La Jolla Historical Society’s offices and archives, are at 7846 Eads Ave. in La Jolla and are open to the public Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call (858) 459-5335 or visit