Marlborough: Another Neighborhood Treasure

by Laura Foti Cohen (March 2013)

Founded five years before the Ebell of Los Angeles, Marlborough School has strong and long-standing ties to our beloved club, with many alumni and Marlborough mothers among our ranks present and past. Parallels between the oldest independent girls’ school and the oldest women’s club in Southern California are not surprising, given the emphasis of both on supporting the educational and philanthropic interests of a diverse group of girls and women.

Marlborough moved to the Hancock Park area 11 years before the current Ebell clubhouse opened in 1927. The school’s campus at Third Street and Rossmore Avenue has grown substantially in the 97 years since then. With 77 full- and part-time faculty and about 600 students in grades 7 through 12, the school, as former President of the Marlborough Alumnae Association Linda Myerson Dean, “has always been on the forefront of educating girls.”

Current Head of School Barbara Wagner says of Marlborough and the Ebell, “We’re both longstanding, important institutions that have been dedicated to women in our neighborhood. I find that to be unique in this part of the city. Clearly the two organizations are not conjoined but both share a real interest in the advancement of women.”

Barbara credits the late Beatrice (Beatsie) Challiss, a 1919 graduate of Marlborough and a member of the Ebell, for teaching her about the neighborhood and both institutions’ roles in it. “She epitomizes to me what it was to be committed to the role of women and what that meant at that time. To me, she represents the importance of our two institutions in this neighborhood. In this part of the city, we were real precursors.”

Ebell member Laurie Brown retired a few years ago from Marlborough, where she was a teacher and administrator. She taught a financial literacy class and one on philanthropic funds. Laurie says, “The girls wanted to start their own fund. We contacted the Women’s Foundation of California, which advises funds how to donate. Then we held a fundraiser.”

At the time, Marlborough was under construction, so the first fundraiser was held at the Ebell. For several years the fund held fashion and talent shows at the Ebell. To date, says Laurie, “The Marlborough Student Charitable Fund has donated $80-90,000 to women’s charities, like the Ebell’s Rest Cottage.”

Linda Dean says, “Marlborough is one of the most important institutions in my life. My mom graduated in ‘46 and my daughter Parker will graduate in 2014. It’s an extraordinary school, especially with Barbara Wagner at the helm. So much has changed since my mom went there, but Marlborough at every stage of its history has been on the vanguard of educating young women.

“During the recent activity [a school lockdown during a police search for burglary suspects on February 8th] everything was handled so brilliantly.” She notes that her daughter is a Red Cross first responder at the school, and that day an emergency drill had been scheduled. “Marlborough is run like well-oiled machine, with attention to detail and oversight. We [parents] received constant communication and our children were well taken care of.”

Sandy Boeck lives by this quote from Marlborough founder Mary Caswell’s 1901 commencement address: “Instead of asking… yourselves what you can find to do that is most agreeable, ask yourself what you ought to do for somebody else and do it.” Sandy, a former teacher herself, says, “I believe the education we received prepared us for college and for leadership in the world to benefit the community locally and globally. I have fond memories of my years there and have stayed in touch with several women from our class. In fact, two of them [Lucia Barbaro and Kathie Gauld] are new Ebell members!

Cici Sears followed her mother (class of 1942 and also an Ebell member) to Marlborough. “Except for my senior year,” Cici says, “my attendance at Marlborough was in the old school building, built during World War I at the current location.” Cici provides some history: “Prior to Rossmore, Marlborough was downtown near USC and in the 19th century, it was in three separate locations in Pasadena.”

Several alumni mentioned the dress code. Cici says, “When I was a tenth grader, my older sister was Chairman of the Uniform Committee to make sure we were all dressed to code: only three pieces of jewelry max (no earrings!);  hairbands no wider than 3 inches; no nail polish, lipstick or any make-up whatsoever; full white slip, white bobby or knee socks, and polished saddle shoes. At breakfast time, my sister would inspect my shoes and always find scuff marks and immediately write me up demerits!”

Lisa Hutchins notes, “They don’t have the purple and pink and yellow uniforms from my day any more – they looked like nurse’s uniforms. I don’t know when they got rid of the pastels but now it’s a white shirt and gray skirt.” Of the school itself, Lisa says, “It’s entwined in the fabric of our neighborhood, a world class experience. Long after the exams and the stress are over, there is still a strong community of women. You make lifelong friends there.” She and her mother Lucy McBain both graduated  from Marlborough, and Lisa’s daughter will be applying next year.

Linda Sallas sent two daughters to Marlborough, one currently in attendance and one alumna. She says, “The school is terrific. It would be interesting to see the parallels with Ebell. There are many Marlborough alumni and many Ebell members whose mothers and grandmothers also went there. Marlborough is a special place and they got to grow up there and be empowered as women. Similar to the Ebell, there is a wealth of opportunities for women and they wanted the same for their daughters.”

Patty Lombard’s daughter Emily graduated from Marlborough and says, “We are so lucky to have such an excellent institution in our neighborhood for our girls.  Emily received a terrific education and truly benefited from the all-girl environment.”

Other Ebell members who are Marlborough alumni include Marcia Alessi, Patte Barham Inman and Donna Russell.

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