THE ROLE of women in the Mummers Parade is as fundamental as the song "Alabama Jubilee," but much more understated.

Women have been designing costumes and gluing feathers and sequins for as long as Philadelphians have marched on Broad Street. There is a shot within this gallery of a woman named Sandy Daly, her fingers mangled by the slice of sewing machines and the singe of glue guns.

There was a time when women were prohibited from marching in the parade, a restriction that has long passed as society has evolved. Women have captained string bands and been integral parts of Fancy Division championship themes.

When Mary Braun, a matriarch of a Mummers family, died in 2002, we received this letter from Frank Conforti, who had broadcasted numerous parades for local television:

Mary Braun was laid to rest on July 2.

For over 40 years, she and her husband, Carl, created Mummers costumes in their Two Street shop in the 1700 block. South Philadelphia Costumes was a major headquarters for many a Fancy Brigade and String Band to have their New Year's Day suits measured, sewed and put together by Mary, with her Two Street style, and Carl, with his quiet manner.

Mary was the Annie Oakley of 2nd Street - she told it like it was and her words spared no one when she argued her point. But that smile, and that Mummer gleam in her eye, was the street beat and heartbeat that she brought forth on New Year's Day. When the Mummers made their way back down Second Street on New Year's Day, her shop was always a strut and musical stop.

Mary Braun was a wife, mother and grandmother-and a Two Street legend. She was part of the strut world where Mummers live and breathe their art.

Mary was one of the Two Street artists.

FRANK CONFORTI, Philadelphia

So here's to Mary and Sandy and all the women who have provided much of the beauty for this parade from behind the scenes. The parade's not always perfect, but their work was - and is - always impeccable.