Copyright 2005
Girl's Best Friend Foundation

Feminist was girls' best friend

By Tracy Dell'Angela
Posted: Nov 30, 2023

Cynthia McLachlan

Feminist was girls' best friend

By Tracy Dell'Angela
Tribune staff reporter

November 30, 2023

Cynthia McLachlan spent her life growing into the role that would define her--feminist advocate. But it was one she embraced with passion.

Her parents expected little from her, so she had kept her dreams small, friends say. She attended college, but only because she wanted her wedding announcement printed in The New York Times, an honor then reserved for graduates.

A longtime Chicago resident and philanthropist, Ms. McLachlan, 65, died of lung cancer Thursday, Nov. 24, in the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

One of Ms. McLachlan's most rewarding achievements was the foundation she created with her three children after unexpectedly inheriting a fortune when her husband died. Created in 1994 with a $15 million endowment, the Girl's Best Friend Foundation has spent nearly $5 million supporting grass-roots programs that target the health and developmental needs of girls and young women.

Despite a four-year battle with cancer and moving to a remote island town in Washington, Ms. McLachlan cherished her connection to the people and programs of the foundation.

"She lived each day with such joy and pleasure," said Alice Cottingham, executive director of Girl's Best Friend and a close friend of the founder.

This mindset was hardly a natural one for Ms. McLachlan, who was told by her parents that she wasn't smart enough to aspire to anything more than a husband and home, according to her husband, Gary Tabasinske. Her marriage to the late Donald McLachlan--a founding partner of the law firm of McLachlan, Rissman and Doll--was a traditional one.

She did not know much about her husband's business, and so she had no idea he left her a wealthy woman. The news of the inheritance shocked her.

She was a lay chaplain for several years at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago after receiving her bachelor's degree in pastoral care and counseling from DePaul University.

After launching Girl's Best Friend, she decided to build a home on Lopez Island in Puget Sound, a remote spot where she had vacationed for years.

She hired the architect who planned the retreat of her dreams--and soon realized he was the man of her dreams as well.

"The thing that was so alluring to me was that she was so filled with life and light," said Tabasinske. "She was bemused that people thought what she did was such a big deal."

In addition to her husband, survivors include her sons, Jason and Devin McLachlan; her daughter, Katherine McLachlan; and her sister, Nancy Knowles Parker.

A memorial celebration is scheduled for Jan. 14 on Lopez Island.



Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune


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