CFW Founders: From L to R: Iris J. Krieg, Lucia Woods Lindley, Sunny Fischer, and Marjorie Craig Benton.

Letter from Sunny Fischer with Reflections on Lucia Woods Lindley’s Passing

It is with great, great sadness that I write to you today.  Lucia Woods Lindley, a founder and exceptional supporter of the Chicago Foundation for Women, passed away this past Monday in New York City.  An obituary will be published later this week, but Emily asked that I write to you today to let you know.

If you were among the CFW’s first board and staff, you would have met Lucia.  By 2010, she and her husband Dan were spending most of their time in her Manhattan apartment, so here is some history for those of you who didn’t know this remarkable woman.

Lucia was on the board of The Woods Fund of Chicago and Chair of the board for many years beginning in the 70s, and learned through that work and from other women philanthropists how underfunded women’s organizations were.  She was the impetus and the inspiration behind CFW’s creation and its first major donor.  The Sophia Fund was her private foundation, the only one in the country at that time to make women’s issues its only focus.  I had the privilege of being its executive director from 1983 until it became a CFW program fund for advocacy in 1991.

Even before The Sophia Fund and CFW were born, Lucia was a leader in women’s philanthropy, an early feminist voice supporting reproductive rights and economic justice.   She always preferred to be anonymous, never seeking the limelight. But with our other founders, Marjorie Craig Benton and Iris Krieg, she realized women had to become more public to help other quiet women philanthropists speak out for the need, and she did so.  She was integrally involved in CFW’s founding, its philosophy, and values, and brought us, supporters and advisors, from across the country. She remained involved and a major donor throughout the years.

Lucia was an artist above everything else.  A talented photographer—a number of her landscape photographs are in the Art Institute’s collection—she published a beautiful book, Willa Cather: A Pictorial Memoir, in 1973.

She was a true original—her clothing, her bearing, her home reflected a rare eye and imagination,  combining colors, countries, and patterns that only an artist could invent.  Though demanding and serious in her work, her curiosity, her wry, witty sense of humor, her warmth, sensitivity, and generosity made her a remarkable person to work with and for.

In The Sophia Fund’s last annual report, Lucia wrote:

Sophia is the name the Greeks gave to a particular, female kind of wisdom.  We look to its feminine sense of process…wanting to be concrete and personal, inclusive and realistic, which with being nurturing and compassionate are necessary to, but not always part of, philanthropy.

It is helpful, at a time of transition, to recall Willa Cather’s belief that the road is all, the journey not the destination, the important thing.  To have travelled these … years with Sophia’s grantees, with those in the women’s community and in philanthropy, in Chicago and across the country, has been humbling and exhilarating.  I look forward to our continuing the journey—to our working together in varying ways, individually and together, to enhance women’s lives for the benefit of all.

It is hard to imagine the world without her, but Lucia’s legacy is that her journey, our journey, continues.

With love and gratitude to you all,

Sunny Fischer

Condolences can be sent to:
Chuck Wheatley
Woods Family Office
1 N Franklin St.  Suite 2360
Chicago, IL 60606-3545


CFW Founders in 1991: From L to R: Sunny Fischer, Iris J. Krieg, Marjorie Craig Benton, and Lucia Woods Lindley.