La Jolla Historical Society Wisteria Cottage Museum, 780 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037, Stati Uniti
Knox College, 2 E South St, Galesburg, IL 61401, Stati Uniti
S Molton St, Mayfair, London, Regno Unito
Rushville Cemetery, S Liberty St, Rushville, IL 62681, Stati Uniti
Ellen Browning Scripps (October 18, 1836 – August 3, 1932) was an American journalist and philanthropist who was the founding donor of several major institutions in Southern California. She and her brother E.W. Scripps created America's largest chain of newspapers, linking midwestern industrial cities with booming towns in the west. By the 1920s, Ellen Browning Scripps was worth an estimated $30 million (or $3.5 billion in 2016 dollars), most of which she gave away.
In 1924, she founded the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, CA. She appeared on the cover of Time magazine after founding Scripps College in Claremont, California. She also donated millions of dollars to organizations worldwide that promised to advance democratic principles and women's education. She never married.
Ellen Browning Scripps was born on October 18, 1836, on South Molton St. in St. George Parish, London. Her father, James Mogg Scripps (1803–1873), was the youngest of six children born to London publisher William Armiger Scripps (1772–1851) and Mary Dixie (1771–1838). He was apprenticed to Charles Lewis, the leading bookbinder of London where he learned the trade. James married his cousin Elizabeth Sabey in 1829 and had two children, only one of whom lived to maturity, Elizabeth Mary (1831–1914). Elizabeth Sabey Scripps died the day after the latter's birth. Two years later, James Mogg married Ellen Mary Saunders. They had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood: James E. Scripps (1835–1906), Ellen Browning (1836–1932), William Arminger (1838–1914), George Henry (1839–1900) and John Mogg (1840–1863). Ellen Mary Scripps died of breast cancer in 1841.
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. They headed to Rushville, Illinois, where other members of the Scripps family owned property. James Mogg married his third wife Julia Osborn in November 1844. 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.
Born in London and raised on the Illinois prairie, Ellen Browning Scripps was the only one of her ten siblings to attend college. She studied science and mathematics at Knox College in Galesburg, IL, one of the few educational institutions to admit women, even if it did not yet grant college degrees. She graduated in 1859 with a certificate from the Female Collegiate Department. Afterwards, she returned to Rushville, Illinois, to teach in a one-room schoolhouse.
After the American Civil War, Scripps gave up her job as a schoolteacher and headed to Detroit, at that time a burgeoning industrial center in the West. She joined her brother James E. Scripps in publishing The Detroit Evening News, a short, inexpensive, and politically independent newspaper pitched to the city's working class. This was to be the start of the Scripps family fortune. 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." In the 1870s and 1880s, the Scripps papers expanded to include The Cleveland Press, The Cincinnati Post, and the St. Louis Chronicle.
A shareholder, Ellen Scripps played an important role in Scripps councils. She gave business advice to her younger brother E.W. and sided with him in family financial disputes. He credited her with saving him from financial ruin in more than one instance. In the 1880s, E.W.'s attempt to seize control of the Scripps Publishing Company failed, resulting in a divisive lawsuit and a break with his brother James.
In 1881, Ellen and E.W. travelled to Europe so that the latter could take a break from work and recover his health. 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. When Ellen returned to her job at the News, she found that she was no longer needed at the copy desk. She began a decade of travel, heading to the American South, New England, Cuba, and Mexico. In 1888–1889 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.:76-86
In 1887, Ellen's sister Julia Anne moved to Alameda, California, to seek a remedy for crippling rheumatoid arthritis. She found a home at the Remedial Institute and School of Philosophy, one of the many utopian communities founded in the late nineteenth century.:4 Concerned about her sister's welfare, Ellen made her first trip to California in the winter of 1890. Soon afterwards, Ellen and E.W. bought land in San Diego and established Miramar Ranch with their brother Fred. Miramar Ranch encompassed what is now Scripps Ranch, a suburban community, and the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The ranch house was torn down in 1973.
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 Molton Villa (sometimes spelled South Moulton Villa) after the street on which she had been born.
Ellen gradually stepped out of her intimate family circle and began to acquire a large set of female acquaintances. La Jolla had a growing number summer and year-round residents, many of whom were unmarried women or widows. She remarked that in the early days, "It was a woman's town.":142 She was a founding member of the La Jolla Woman's Club and became involved in a wide variety of progressive causes. In 1909, she and her sister Virginia helped Joseph H. Johnson, the bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese of the Episcopal Church, to establish The Bishop's School as a preparatory school for girls.
South Molton Villa, located on Prospect St. in La Jolla, was located next to Wisteria Cottage, a bungalow owned by Virginia Scripps. Wisteria Cottage was renovated in 1910 by architect Irving J. Gill a pioneer in the modernist movement. It now serves as the gallery and exhibition space of the La Jolla Historical Society.
After South Molton Villa was destroyed by fire in 1915, Ellen Scripps commissioned Gill to build a new, fireproof concrete structure in the same modern architectural language as The Bishop's School, the La Jolla Woman's Club, and the La Jolla Recreational Center. It has been described as one of Gill's "masterworks." In 1941, Ellen's trustees donated her house to The Art Center, later the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. The structure was altered beyond recognition. In 1996, a renovation by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown exposed the original facade.
Ellen Browning Scripps died in her La Jolla home on August 3, 1932, a few weeks before her ninety-sixth birthday. 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." 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.