Madeleine Archambault Hart Jenkins was born in Philadelphia, the only child of Gavin Hart, an attorney, and Virginia Archambault. Her schooling was, initially, typical of that given young ladies at the turn of the century. After her father's death, she lived for a time with her mother in Siena, Italy, where she studied Italian and Italian literature under the Dante scholar Monsignor Orlandi.
Returning to Philadelphia, she was active in volunteer work for Italian children at St. Elizabeth's Church at 16th & Mifflin Streets. She also devoted much time to St. Mark's Church on Locust Street and underwrote the publication of papers of its Rector, the Reverend Frank L. Vernon. Through St. Mark's, she worked with the Sisters of St. Margaret, becoming an Associate of that order.
In 1935 she married Judge Jenkins and spent much of the five years they had together traveling. An air tour of the West, then a remarkable feat, was their wedding trip. And because Judge Jenkins loved long voyages, the couple took several trips to South America.
Many of Madeleine Hart Jenkins' good works were known only to those who benefited from or participated in them. Few knew of the surgeons she sent to Haiti to operate on crippled children in the years before Mellon Hospital was established there. Only by chance did one of her close friends learn that she provided the library at the detention camp for Japanese-Americans in Idaho, described by a Nisei priest as a "life saver."
Erect and somewhat regal in appearance, a slightly austere manner cloaked her warm and sympathetic personality. In Jenkins' will, she carried out her husband's wish to improve legal research in Philadelphia and gave permanent evidence of the love and respect for the law that she inherited from her father and found in Theodore F. Jenkins. It is in his memory that the library was established to benefit the members of the Philadelphia Bar Association and the general public.