A revolutionary on behalf of women and their children, Mary White died last Thursday, June 2, at the age of 93. Mrs. White was a co-founder of La Leche League International (LLI) and a devoted wife and mother. A longtime friend of Thomas Aquinas College, she was the mother of three alumni and the grandmother of nine more.

In 1956, frustrated by the lack of support for women who wanted to breastfeed their babies, Mrs. White and six friends formed LLI. In short order, the organization, which its founding mothers initially ran out of their homes, gained international prominence. It also overturned a deeply rooted societal bias against breastfeeding — overcoming severe social pressures, intransigence from the medical community, and hostile opposition from the baby-formula industry — to the point that, today, nearly all of popular and medical opinion has shifted in favor of breastfeeding.

“We owe everything to Mary White,” LLI spokeswoman Diana West told the Chicago Sun Times. “Countless women throughout the world have been touched by the efforts Mary White championed.”

Mrs. White was the wife of physician Dr. Gregory White, who died in 2003. Among the couple’s 11 children are alumni Clare (Daly ’84), Maureen (Smillie ’87), Elizabeth (Dillon ’92), and Anne White, a member of the College’s New York Board of Regents. The Whites were also blessed with 61 grandchildren — including Elizabeth (’13), Madeleine (Mohun ’15), and Joseph Daly (’19); Marie (Cantu ’10), Therese (’13), Sara (’15), and Michael Smillie (’18); Cecilia Dillon (’15); Margaret White (’95); and Paul White (’95)  — and 108 great-grandchildren.

In addition to entrusting the College with their children, the Whites were consistent benefactors to its Annual Fund, which supports student financial aid, and regular members of the President’s Council. The couple also supported the Thomas E. Dillon Memorial Scholarship Fund, established in honor of the College’s late president and the father-in-law of their daughter Elizabeth.

“Mary had a gentle but very strong spirit, deeply in love with Christ and in love with the Catholic Church, of which she saw no separation between the two,” says His Excellency James Douglas Conley, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska. “Her faith was natural and effortless. She was a true matriarch, in the best sense of that word. Like Holy Mother Church, she took her role as mother and teacher very seriously, mater et magistra.  Her legacy will live on through her family for generations.”

A wake is scheduled from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. today and tomorrow at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home in Oak Park, Illinois. A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 9, at St. Luke’s Church in River Forest, Illinois, with burial to follow at Calvary Cemetery in Evanston.