Soroptimist International of Los Angeles
Notable Members
Photos of notable members
About SI About SILA Notable Members I Notable Members II Early Service

Susan Miller Dorsey. At a time when few women went to college, Susan Miller was an 1877 graduate of Vassar. Four years later she returned to Vassar to teach in the classics department. In 1881 Miller married Baptist minister, Patrick Dorsey. They moved to Los Angeles where he accepted a position at the First Baptist Church. While Miller was teaching at Baptist College in Los Angeles, her husband deserted her, taking with him their only child.

Susan Dorsey went on to teach at Los Angeles High School before moving on to a career in school administration. Starting as Vice-Principal of Los Angeles High School, she became assistant superintendent and then Superintendent of Los Angeles City Schools. During her time as superintendent, the public school system experienced rapid growth going from 47,000 students in 1920 to nearly 360,000 by 1929. At the age of 72 years, Dorsey resigned from a third term as superintendent to began a long period of service. She was a charter member of SILA, as such she was instrumental in the formation of the SILA Foundation. Dorsey was the recipient of numerous honors and tributes. Susan Miller Dorsey High School was dedicated in 1937. The Susan Miller Dorsey Hall at Scripps College, houses 70 students, and was financed almost entirely by women. 

Mildred Lillie. Lillie's first job was working in a local San Joaquin Valley cannery during the Great Depression. Later she worked a number of part-time jobs to earn her way through U.C. Berkeley undergraduate and law school.

After law school and two years of private practice, Mildred rapidly moved up the judicial ladder:

  • In 1947, Governor Earl Warren appointed her to the Los Angeles Municipal Court,
  • In 1949, Warren moved her up to the California Superior Court,
  • In 1958 Governor Goodwin Knight appointed her to the Court of Appeals,
  • And in 1984, Governor George Deukmejian named her Presiding Justice, Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, where she remained until retirement in October of 2002.

Her success almost resulted in an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court when President Richard Nixon considered naming her as the first woman justice. The American Bar Association evaluation committee did not approve and the seat was eventually filled by William Rehnquist. Some felt the evaluation committee did not feel it was time to have a woman on that high court. Mildred lived to see Sandra Day O’Connor (a former Soroptimist from SI Phoenix) achieve that milestone.

Before her death, Justice Lillie witnessed the evolution of women into the law profession. “Today more than 50% of the students in our nation’s law schools are women and I have watched with pride the upsurge of women in the profession." Lillie has been characterized as ”the most revered and accomplished jurist in the history of the State of California.” As a tribute to her excellence,  the Los Angeles County Law Library building was renamed the Mildred L. Lillie building.

Mae Carvell. Although Mae graduated from law school, as a woman she could not get a job in the law profession comparable with her education and abilities. But Mae had a very valuable talent: a way with figures. Her mastery over numbers helped her to become the head of accounting for Broadway Department Stores, a position especially significant for a woman in those days, and sometimes even now.

Mae was the first Treasurer of SILA, during which she proposed a buy out of the Soroptimist name. She went on to head the negations with Stuart Morrow, ending up with a payment of $5,500 ($69,685 in today’s dollars).

Please click to learn about Muriel Morse, Barbara Jury, and Betsy MacCracken

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