Her Chosen Path, The Story of Mary Lowther Ranney

For Westridge, the “rest is history.” Much of what defines the essence of Westridge School in its Centennial Year can be found in the values held by Mary Ranney as a teacher, an educational thinker, and as a person. Westridge, and all who have passed through its doors, are in her debt. Her hidden hand has nurtured the dreams of generations and created a lasting legacy.

Fran Norris Scoble

Fran Norris Scoble was the head of Westridge School for 18 years, from 1990 until her retirement in 2008. During her tenure as head, she knew scattered facts about Mary Lowther Ranney, but realized as the 100-year history was being compiled that she really knew very little about the woman who founded the school. That set her on a quest to learn all that she could about the founder, who was both a refined, conservative Episcopalian from Chicago and a suffragist with a very progressive view of education, art, and architecture. There is still much about Mary Ranney we do not know—and likely will never know—but this slender book reveals the sources of her courageous commitments and her paradoxical imagination; sensibilities that still today define the culture of Westridge School. In 2011, Fran Scoble was named chair of the Westridge Centennial Steering Committee. With assistance and support from many individuals, she has written this biography of Mary Ranney as well as the 100-year history of Westridge School.

Description

The life journey of Mary Lowther Ranney from the late 19th century into the twentieth; from her birthplace in Chicago to Pasadena, California; from teacher to architect to founding headmistress, is remarkable. From the particular perspective of the school she founded, shaped, and led with an intelligent and graceful sensibility for 25 years, her life and work were pivotal. She came of age in Chicago as that city was literally rising from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1871 and was no doubt fascinated by the architectural boom around her. She attended a girls’ Episcopal boarding school, Kemper Hall Academy, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and then returned to Chicago to become a teacher and enrolled in classes at the recently established University of Chicago.

In 1904, she moved with her parents to Pasadena, California, where she secured a job as a draftsman with the Greene & Greene architectural firm. Just a few short years later, she responded to a request from a group of parents in southwest Pasadena to open a school for girls. For Westridge, the “rest is history.” Much of what defines the essence of Westridge School in its Centennial Year can be found in the values held by Mary Ranney as a teacher, an educational thinker, and as a person. Westridge, and all who have passed through its doors, are in her debt. Her hidden hand has nurtured the dreams of generations and created a lasting legacy.

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