- First Name
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- United States
- CA California
- University of San Diego
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- San Diego, La Jolla, women's history, philanthropy, women's clubs, Ellen Browning Scripps, Irving J. Gill, Alfred R. Mitchell, Alice Klauber,
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- About Me
Molly McClain, PhD, is a native Californian and author of Ellen Browning Scripps: New Money and American Philanthropy, 1836-1932 (2017). She is a professor of history at the University of San Diego and former co-editor of The Journal of San Diego History.
A graduate of the University of Chicago (BA) and Yale University (MA & PhD), McClain began her career as a historian of early modern Britain. Her first book was Beaufort: A Duke and His Duchess, 1657-1715 (2001). She also explored the early life of Queen Mary II, best known for her royal partnership “William & Mary.”
A ninth-generation San Diegan, she felt strongly about the need to encourage writers to explore the region’s fascinating, and understudied, past. She began writing articles on San Diego history, many of which focused on women’s activities in the region. These included a history of ZLAC Rowing Club, founded in 1892, the world’s oldest rowing club for women, and “A Room of Their Own: The Contribution of Women to the Panama-California Exposition, 1915,” among other articles. An invitation to explore the origins of The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, CA, led her to the vast, and newly cataloged, papers of Ellen Browning Scripps at Scripps College. She spent nearly a decade exploring the life of one of California’s most important philanthropists.
In 2017, McClain published Ellen Browning Scripps: New Money and American Philanthropy, 1836-1932 to outstanding reviews. Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, wrote that Scripps’s “progressive legacy undergirds the best of San Diego. This compelling book breaks the glass ceiling in Southern California biographies.”
A trustee of the La Jolla Historical Society, McClain co-curated From Jazz Age to Our Age: Architects and Developers of 1920s La Jolla (2016-17). She also wrote “Architecture as Nature’s Canvas” for Irving J. Gill: Illustrating New Architecture (Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, 2016). She is currently working as historical consultant for Tangible Memories: Portraits, Relics, and Reliquaries of La Jolla Women Pioneers (La Jolla Historical Society, 2019) and as a consulting archivist at the San Diego History Center.
- Recent Publications
Ellen Browning Scripps: New Money and American Philanthropy, 1836-1932 (University of Nebraska Press, 2017)
Jazz Age to Our Age: Architects and Developers of 1920s La Jolla with Seonaid McArthur and Diane Kane (San Diego: La Jolla Historical Society, 2017)
Beaufort: The Duke and his Duchess, 1657-1715(Yale University Press, 2001)
“David Lion Gardiner: A Yankee in Gold Rush California, 1849-1851,” The Journal of San Diego History62, nos. 3-4 (Summer/Fall 2016): 131-158.
“Architecture as Nature’s Canvas,” in Irving J. Gill: Illustrating New Architecture, ed. Kathryn Kanjo (San Diego: MCASD, 2016).
“A Room of Their Own: The Contribution of Women to the Panama-California Exposition, 1915,” The Journal of San Diego History61, no. 1 (Winter 2015).
“The La Jolla of Ellen Browning Scripps,” The Journal of San Diego History 57, no. 4 (Fall 2011): 273-92
“The Scripps Family’s San Diego Experiment,” The Journal of San Diego History 56, nos. 1-2 (2010): 1-30
“The Bishop’s School, 1909-2009,” The Journal of San Diego History53, no. 4 (2008): 235-67
“A Letter from Carolina, 1688: French Huguenots in the New World,” William & Mary Quarterly3rd. ser., 64 (April 2007): 377-94 (with Alessa Ellefson). Republished in Major Problems in American Colonial History,3rd ed. (Wadsworth Publishing, 2011).
“ZLAC Rowing Club, 1892-2007,” The Journal of San Diego History53, no. 3 (2007): 89-116
- Media Coverage
- KPBS, San Diego Union Tribune, Preservation Magazine, SDNews.com, La Jolla Light
- Country Focus
- Expertise by Geography
- British Isles, United States, Western Europe
- Expertise by Chronology
- 17th century, 19th century, Early Modern, 20th century
- Expertise by Topic
- Libraries & Archives, Local & Regional, Public History, Women