Dr. Lena Madesin Phillips
Lena Madesin Phillips
1881 – 1955
Founder of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women
In 1951 the LEB.P.W. came of age and Dr. Lena Madesin Phillips, looking back to 1930, made this appraisal: "Common danger had not then, as it has now, taught the peoples of all nations the necessity of international understanding and cooperation. . ."
To be world minded, then, made one seem to be slightly odd. . . But we had enthusiasm and faith, youthful energy, and most important, a cause whose hour had struck. With such equipment, meagre to those who value only material things, sufficient for dreamers such as find castles in the clouds, we organised." Quite unconsciously, with these words, Dr. Lena Madesin Phillips had also appraised herself. She had the courage to be world-minded; she believed that women were capable of creating international understanding and cooperation; she had enthusiasm, faith and energy in such abundance that sagging spirits were rejuvenated in her presence; she knew by instinct when time was ripe for action; she was a dreamer who found castles in the clouds yet kept her feet firmly on the ground.
Admitted to the bar in 1917, the first woman to earn a law degree from the University of Kentucky, she practised first in her hometown, then in New York City in whose teeming streets she came face to face with the injustice, despair and social ills which had never touched her sheltered youth. The urge to serve her fellow man, rising from her deep Christian roots, pervaded her whole being.
Dr. Lena Madesin Phillips quickly sensed what power could be generated by a national movement to organise all women who had a business or a profession. Together they could mould public opinion, set new working standards, improve economic and industrial conditions, and lay enduring foundations for peace for the benefit of all mankind. To get such an organisation on its feet became her consuming passion. In the late 1920s, to make soundings for an International Federation, she crossed and recrossed the Atlantic finding like-minded European leaders, and inspiring them to give their all for the same cause. She did not know the meaning of the word barrier. In 1955, (having founded the International Federation of Business and Professional Women in 1930), she was on her way to the Middle East, the meeting point of three continents, to ignite more fires for the cause of women's equality, when the end suddenly overtook her. In Holland, once, she had said to women younger than herself: "You are now pioneers in the dream of peace and social justice, of international understanding and goodwill. This dream will come to pass. It matters little whether you or I live to see the day. It is only important that each of us struggle without pause towards that day." She enriched us with a legacy and pledged us to fulfill a mandate.