The laughing lady in pink was the former president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs and served as deputy special assistant to President Reagan while on the women's council in the White House.
She was a feminist of the vintage variety. You might not recognize her type these days as she believed in promoting "family unity and free enterprise". My kind of feminist.
The impressive woman in mention happened to be my Great Aunt Mary Elizabeth (emphasis on "great"). She passed this February 25th. I was touched to see today's women leaders take a page to memorialize her life:
"Born and raised in eastern Kentucky, Mary Elizabeth was orphaned by age 16 and took the responsibility of caring for her brother and four sisters. Mary Elizabeth joined the Pikesville Women’s Club after marrying and went on to live a life of volunteer service as a member of GFWC for over 75 years... After her term as GFWC International President, Mary Elizabeth worked in the White House, where she served as President Ronald Reagan’s liaison to national social service and volunteer groups."
Her extended bio at GFWC reads a little more cheekily:
"Raised in eastern Kentucky, orphaned at 16 and married two years later to an older man who thought women should not work, Mary Elizabeth Preston ended up a White House aide and friend to presidents. "It's only in the United States of America that something like this could happen," Preston said, "where an insignificant hillbilly could have such a wonderful life."
As a teenager I was inspired by her accomplishments and secretly hoped to leave a legacy as impressive as hers. She didn't let her Kentucky poverty or family tragedy become a hurdle for her success. That just wasn't Aunt Mary Liz.
She never had children (save her poodles), but remained a great matriarch of sorts for The Ratliff Clan. She was the first of her siblings and the last of them to leave this earth. Ninety plus years of incredible impact.
May I become half the woman Great Aunt Mary Elizabeth Quint Preston was.