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Publisher’s Note: Embodying the Spirit of Ellen Browning Scripps

SDM CEO Claire Johnson on celebrating women in this year's November edition
Portrait of Ellen Browning Scripps as a young woman
Courtesy of Scripps College

In 1855, a young woman from the Illinois prairies became the only one of her 10 siblings to attend college. They didn’t give degrees to women at the time, but Ellen Browning Scripps wanted to learn. They granted her a “certificate,” and she became a school teacher in a one-room schoolhouse.

After the Civil War, the young woman left teaching to pursue a career in journalism, helping her brother build a publishing empire in Detroit. She started a column where she broke down news into short, digestible bits—a sign of her media savvy. As a shareholder in his company, she often provided him with business and financial advice. He credited her with saving him from financial ruin more than once. Together, they made a fortune.

She traveled the world, came to California, and bought land in San Diego with her family (Scripps Ranch).

It’s hard to encapsulate the contributions Ellen Browning Scripps made to San Diego. She fundamentally shaped the identity of this city before she was even allowed to vote. She stayed true to her former school teacher self and donated the majority of her wealth to science and education, including Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She funded the San Diego Natural History Museum. She was a fixture at La Jolla Woman’s Club, actively participating in progressive movements.

Today, San Diego continues to be shaped by bold, brilliant, fearless women. Some of the women featured in this issue were born here. Like Ellen, many were not. San Diego is the thread connecting them all, and we offer this issue of SDM as a ripple in the effect they’ve brought, are bringing, will bring.

Read about how MAKE Projects, founded by Anchi Mei, provides refugee and immigrant women job skills through food. Jenny Barber’s company, Talitha Coffee, developed a program to help trafficking survivors rebuild their lives and create community. Check out our feature exploring local women-owned businesses and support their entrepreneurial ventures on your next trip out.

We throw our annual Celebrating Women event on November 2. This year will be different. For the first time, the local public nominated and voted on their fields’ pioneers and rising stars. We had an extraordinary number of votes, solidifying what we were already certain of: San Diego women show up for their peers. Come join us for a panel discussion and a networking reception to celebrate the women shaping San Diego today.

The collage cover image, designed by SDM art director Samantha Lacy, serves as a visual representation of the many facets and angles that women occupy as entrepreneurs, culture-shifters, and tastemakers in this city.

Ellen passed away just shy of her 95th birthday at her oceanfront cottage in La Jolla. Her obituary in The New York Times noted her as a woman who had mastered both “the art of giving” and the “art of living.”

The women in this issue embody that spirit.

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