Our Namesake

Miss Ellen

Education implies growth, and growth means change and progress, not security and status quo.

I always objected to having teachers as figures of authority sitting behind desks with pliant students before them. I prefer a circle of teachers and students around a table or a fireplace to stimulate ideas, not merely get ideas from textbooks.

-Ellen Browning Scripps (1836-1932)

Ellen Browning Scripps was a remarkable woman by any standard of time or human judgment. In a man's world, she quietly held her own. In the world of women, she was a role model for the country. A lifelong champion of women's rights and the soul of the Scripps newspaper empire, she epitomized altruism. Among her long list of philanthropic deeds are many firsts. Here are a few for which she is credited:

  • Regarded as the first columnist and the first foreign correspondent.
  • First female graduate of Knox College.
  • Established the first public playground in the United States and deeded it to San Diego.
  • Established Scripps Memorial Hospital.
  • Established Scripps Clinic, the second such facility in the United States.
  • Established Scripps College, the foundation for Pomona College.
  • Established, with her sister Virginia, the Bishop's School and James-by-the-Sea Church.
  • Established Torrey Pines State Park.
  • Established, with her brother Edward, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
  • Was the first benefactor of the San Diego Zoo.

Ellen was born in London in 1836, but lived there only a few years. In 1844 her widowed and bankrupt father, John Mogg Scripps, took his young family to Rushville, Ill. They joined relatives who had been settled in that prairie town for some 50 years. Here, Ellen began her education, taking advantage of the available schooling and the fine library that her father, a bookbinder in London, had brought. An acute intellect coupled with a strong character soon emerged, and by her late teens she was teaching school to earn enough to attend nearby Knox College. She matriculated in 1856, becoming one of the first women to attend college in the United States.
After completing her studies in 1859, Ellen returned to Rushville to resume teaching, soon becoming the most highly paid and very probably the best teacher in the area. Moreover, she extended her intelligence and wisdom to caring for her family, with whom she lived. In particular, she became deeply attached to her younger half-brother Edward Wyllis Scripps, teaching him his letters and passing on her liberal philosophy and ideals. This close relationship continued throughout their lives, and was a major factor in the success of the vast newspaper empire "E.W." was to create.


Preece, C. (1990). E.W. and Ellen Browning Scripps: An Unmatched Pair. Michigan: Bookcrafters.

Ellen Browning Scripps Elementary School Dedication Ceremony, January 17, 2002.

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