Dr. Lena Madesin Phillips

"Each woman, as a citizen, must bring to the national policy of her own country, the contribution of forward-looking and constructive thought followed by determined action. Each woman must dedicate herself to protect and promote the interest of all other women in business and the professions."

Dr. Lena Madesin Phillips

Founder of International Federation of Business and Professional Women


In 1951 the IFBPW 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, meager to those who value only material things, sufficient for dreamers such as find castles in the clouds, we organized."

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 practiced 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 was a feminist of the early twentieth century who realized that women would never achieve equality with men unless such equality was established on economic grounds. Her writings, articles, pamphlets and speeches, delivered to both men's organizations as to women's organization, demanded many rights that women should achieve, way ahead of her time.


In 1919, Dr. Lena Madesin Phillips founded the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Club in United States. As she sensed what power could be generated by a national movement to organize all women who had a business or a profession. 

Together they could mold 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 organization on its feet became her consuming passion.


In the late 1920s, she crossed and recrossed the Atlantic finding like-minded European leaders, and inspiring them to give their all for the same cause to make soundings for an International Federation. She did not know the meaning of the word barrier. In 1930, she successfully founded the International Federation of Business and Professional Women.


In 1955, Dr. Lena Madesin Phillips was on her way to the Lebanon, the meeting point of three continents, to ignite more fires for the cause of women's equality, when the end suddenly overtook her. She passed away in Marseilles, in 1955, on her way to a conference with Arab women in the Middle East.


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.