Margaret Wright Schneidman Tilghman, 85, a former fashion model and volunteer with cultural and horticultural organizations, died of heart failure Sunday, Dec. 4, at Beaumont, a retirement community in Bryn Mawr.

Mrs. Tilghman was a member of the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for more than 40 years and was a volunteer guide at the museum for several years. In 1977, she cofounded the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show. Now in its 35th year, the annual show features expert craftsmen selected through a competitive jury process.

In 1981, Mrs. Tilghman was chairman of the craft show judges, and in 1984, she chaired the show's preview party. She considered her involvement in the show one of her proudest achievements, her daughter Liddy Lindsay said.

Mrs. Tilghman completed the Barnes Foundation Art Program and its horticulture program and opened the garden at her home in Bryn Mawr to several garden tours.

She was a member of the horticulture committee at the Morris Arboretum. Paul W. Meyer, director of the arboretum, wrote in a tribute: "Peggy was a loyal member of the arboretum for decades. For the last 15 years, her special interest was the Rose Garden, and she led the effort to add architectural features and diversify plantings. Today, the Rose Garden reflects her enthusiasm and flair. We will greatly miss her irrepressible spirit and exuberant style."

Mrs. Tilghman was also a longtime member of the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Born into a prominent Main Line family, she graduated from Agnes Irwin School and made her debut at the June Ball in 1945. While still a teenager, she began modeling for Nan Duskin, then an exclusive women's clothing store on Rittenhouse Square.

In 1948, she married Milton Schneidman, Duskin's nephew and the store's personnel manager, in what The Inquirer's society column called "a very quiet ceremony." Schneidman was Jewish.

According to The Inquirer, "the Quaker City's social register set had a terrific jolt when news of the wedding [leaked] out. Evidently, according to Philadelphia snobs, you can model for, but you cannot marry, the owner of a dress shop."

"Her family all but disowned her," Liddy Lindsay said, "and warned her of the dire society consequences."

But her mother told friends her marriage was more important than country club memberships, Lindsay said.

Even after the birth of her first child, she modeled occasionally. In 1951, she modeled diamonds from J.E. Caldwell's in Philadelphia and a red satin gown from Nan Duskin at the Diamonds U.S.A. show in New York.

Schneidman went on to become president of Nan Duskin and a civic leader. In 1963, he suffered a fatal heart attack, leaving his wife with four young children.

She went to work at the Franklin Shop in Haverford, then became a manager and buyer at the Salon at Saks Fifth Avenue in Center City when Pucci dresses were all the rage, her daughter said. Later, she worked part-time, including modeling and organizing fashion shows for the Natalie Collett shop in Strafford.

In 1967, she married Joseph F. Tilghman, a banking executive, and as his wife was welcomed back into society. In 1974, Mrs. Tilghman chaired the Academy of Music Anniversary Ball. She and Tilghman eventually divorced.

Mrs. Tilghman was a member of the Gulph Mills Golf Club and the Merion Cricket Club. She was a volunteer at Community Clothes Charity, an annual sale of designer clothes in Wayne. In her late 70s, she modeled at a fashion show at the Acorn Club in Philadelphia, and she "never lost her flair for fashion," her daughter said.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Tilghman is survived by sons Sydney and Witney; a daughter, Margaret Brownell; and seven grandchildren. Her former husband preceded her in death.

A memorial service was held Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr.

Donations may be made to Morris Arboretum, 100 E. Northwestern Ave., Philadelphia 19118.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.