Mary Frances Williams Elder (1919-1999) was born on 14 November 1919, in Lexington, North Carolina, but her family moved to Bristol, Tennessee, during the Depression. They returned to North Carolina in the mid-1930s, and moved from Shelby to Burlington in 1937. That year Elder graduated from Burlington High School and enrolled at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). She completed the secretarial program the following year, and went to work at May Hosiery Mill.
In November, 1942, Elder was inducted into the WAAC at Fort Bragg. Two months later she was sent to Daytona Beach, Florida, for basic training. Elder was assigned to the 1st Separate Battalion and stationed briefly at Camp Polk in Louisiana. She then transferred to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, for overseas training and preparation. In 1943, she departed from Camp Shanks, New Jersey, aboard the Aquitania and sailed to Europe. She disembarked in Scotland before reaching Norwich, England, where she served as an aide to Col. Charles B. Westover and Gen. James Pratt Hodges. She was then quartered at Ketteringham Hall near Hethel Air Force Base and worked for Gen. Francis Griswold through the end of 1944. In January 1945, Elder returned to the United States for Officer Candidate School in Des Moines, Iowa. Following her completion of OCS in May 1945, Elder was assigned to the Pentagon in the Air Intelligence Division. On 14 November 1945 she was discharged from the army.
In 1946 Mary Elder married Delos Elder and returned to Burlington, North Carolina, where she enrolled in psychology classes at Elon College on the GI Bill. Following the birth of her three children, Elder returned to work at the May Hosiery Mill, which was then owned by Burlington Industries. Five years later she began work at Wachovia Bank, but left shortly thereafter and took a job at Glen Raven Mills, where she worked for many years and helped to found the custom fabrics division. Elder died on 7 May 1999.