FILENE, family of entrepreneurs, social reformers, and philanthropists in Boston. Progenitor of the family in America was WILLIAM FILENE (1830–?) who emigrated to the United States after the German revolution of 1848, and became owner of two stores in Lynn, Mass. In 1881 William Filene founded William Filene's Sons Company, a department store, in Boston. He turned over control of his stores to his sons in 1890, and together they built a multimillion-dollar merchandising empire. EDWARD ALBERT. (1860–1937) and A. LINCOLN FILENE (1865–1957) were innovators in merchandising techniques and employer-employee relations. They introduced the idea of the "bargain basement" where goods were sold at reduced prices. They pioneered in establishing minimum wage scales for female employees, employee welfare plans, paid winter vacations for employees, employee purchasing discounts, profit sharing, health clinics, insurance programs, and credit unions, Filene's was the first department store in Boston to establish a five-day, 40-hour week.
Edward Filene was born in Salem, Mass. Entering his father's dry goods business in 1880, he became president of Filene's department store in 1908. He was a leading member of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, which he helped organize; later he was a founder of the United States Chamber
A. Lincoln Filene was born in Boston. He became treasurer and chairman of the board of Filene's in 1941, and was long active in civic and communal affairs, Lincoln believed that mass purchasing by department stores, and research to improve their efficiency, would benefit the consumer by allowing lower prices. He himself was a leader in the development of scientific methods of retail store management. In 1937 he established the Lincoln and Therese Filene Foundation, which funded the first educational television station in Boston in 1955. Lincoln Filene wrote Merchants' Horizon (1924).
Both brothers were social reformers who believed that capitalism had to operate more efficiently to avert radical reforms and advance the welfare of the individual. Both Edward and Lincoln Filene actively backed President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. At a time when most American employers attacked Roosevelt for being too radical, the Filene brothers helped prevent a complete split between the president and the business community.
G.W. Johnson, Liberal's Progress (1948); Filler, in: DAB, supplement, 2 (1958), 183–5.