Thursday, September 22, 2005

Molly Yard: 1912-2005

Molly Yard, an indefatigable advocate for women's rights, passed away last night in her sleep in Pittsburgh at the age of 93. Molly had suffered a major stroke in 1991, but kept working until the late 1990s at the Feminist Majority. Throughout her long life, Yard worked for women's rights, civil rights, workers' rights, and social justice.

Yard served as the political director and a leader of the campaign to pass the Equal Rights Amendment for the National Organization for Women in the late 1970s and 1980s, and was the president of NOW from 1987 until 1992. Yard led the March for Women's Lives to keep abortion and birth control safe and legal in 1989 (click here for a great picture on the Washington Post website). She was also active in Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and the Democratic Party, leading George McGovern's presidential campaign in Pennsylvania in 1972. One of her first jobs out of college was special assistant to Eleanor Roosevelt.

She was a brilliant strategist and a tireless organizer for campaigns for social justice who could always rally the troops. She was a leader in winning equal representation for women within the Democratic Party at all levels. She worked for countless women's candidacies and made sure that NOW and the Feminist Majority kept equal representation for women and the winning of elected office for women high on the agenda of the women's movement.

The above is from Eleanor Smeal's "Feminist Leader Molly Yard Dies" (The Smeal Report).

I just heard the news and don't really know what to say. I'm dictating this over the phone and I was just reminded that other than picking the section from Smeal's report (sent in by Susan), I've just been silent.

Molly Yard didn't take any crap.

That's what Molly Yard stood for: fighting for what you believed in and for what mattered. She was a strong fighter who scared the right people that needed to be scared. Such as the ones who thought they could punish women because Mondale lost to Reagan in 1984. So as the next presidential cycle rolled around, she spoke out against sell outs and spinners.

She was a fighter and she will be missed. Which isn't a "Oh the state of feminism! What will we do! Who will save us all!" There are many strong warriors and Kim Gandy is certainly one. Gandy is, of course, the current president of NOW and, during the gina & krista round-robins last week, you heard a lot of strong praise from everyone participating in the roundtables for Gandy who deserves that praise. Gandy's strength is needed and we're lucky to have it (along with other strong leaders).

But at another time, with another Bush in the White House, when we needed strong leaders, Molly Yard was there. Let's note "In Memoriam: Molly Yard: Honoring an Indomitable NOW President and Civil Rights Pioneer" (NOW):

Shaped by a childhood in China, where women had such second-class status, Yard worked tirelessly during her life to achieve equality for all people. Yard's activism began when she was a student at Swarthmore College and led the fight to abolish the fraternity system, which discriminated against some minority students. She later worked with Dr. Dorothy Height to integrate the YWCA. While at Swarthmore, Yard wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt about an issue that had angered many students. Eleanor Roosevelt invited Yard to meet with her, and Yard became a regular advisor to the First Lady.

"Her life was so extraordinary," said NOW President Kim Gandy, who was elected to NOW office as part of Yard's team in 1987.

Yard was a regional campaign manager for John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential run and the Western Pennsylvania coordinator for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" march in 1963.

"When Molly Yard spoke, everybody stopped and listened," Gandy recalled. "She carried enormous moral authority." Yard was heavily involved in the civil rights movement until 1974, when she joined Pittsburgh NOW and later became NOW's national political director, devoting nearly all her time to the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment until 1982.

"She saw that the movement for women's rights was indeed a civil rights movement," Gandy said.

Yard was strong and a measure of how strong was the strength of the attacks against her. (Wash Post: "MOLLY YARD NEEDS TO SHUT UP!" -- that's from my memory. At some point, we'll note the exact wording. I think we've noted it here when we've noted the Times editorial slam against NOW endorsing Carol Moseley Braun's presidential run. SEE NOTE ADDED TO THIS POST AT BOTTOM.)

Let's move to Democracy Now! which is "always worth watching" as Marcia says.

Headlines for September 22, 2005

- More Than a Million Flee as Rita Bears Down on US
- Oil Prices Resume Rise
- LA Governor Calls for Independent Investigation of Katrina
- Senator Frist: Insider Trader?
- GAO: Pentagon Has No Idea How Much War Costs
- Mexico's Top law Official Killed in Crash
- Harvard Lets Military recruiters back on Campus
- NY Times to Lay-Off Hundreds of Workers

St. Patrick's Four Trial: Civilian Resisters Face Federal Conspiracy Charges

We speak with anti-war activist Peter De Mott, who is on trial as one of the St. Patrick's Four facing federal charges for protesting at a military recruiting center. Lawyer Bill Quigley, legal advisor for the activists, joins the discussion on the trial and also talks about his recent experience in New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. [includes rush transcript]

Governor Bill Richardson on Hurricanes, Immigration, Iraq, Wen Ho Lee and More

We are joined by the Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson. He has served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, ambassador to the United Nations, Secretary of Energy under Bill Clinton and, last year, first Hispanic chairman of a national Democratic Convention. Many see him as one of the main contenders for a presidential run in 2008.

1) Brenda asked if we could note Not In Our Name as one of the organizers for the protests this weekend. We can, we will:

All out for Sept. 24 in Washington DC!

Also: Denver, Seattle, SF, LA, and Birmingham

2) Jess asked that we note Gold Star Families for Peace:

American Military Deaths in Iraq
TotalIn combat
Since 5/1/2003:17701412
Since war began:19071520
Total wounded:14362

3) We'll also note Military Families Speak Out at Gina's request:

March in Washington on September 24th

Click here for specific information about the events in Washington DC that MFSO will be participating in this week.Click here for overall information about the upcoming march in Washington, DC -
Support the Troops,
Bring Them Home NOW!

Elaine is "amazing" as Wally notes regarding her post "What America needs now is some realism" (Like Maria Said Paz):

Can they define fix?

There are no goals here, certainly no realistic ones.

But I'm guessing "fix" means imposing our "order" on the country. We're fixing it so great now, aren't we? Forget the Iraqis who are dying. Forget that potable water is a dream. Forget the unemployment and our attacks on the oil union. Is that when we know we've "fixed" it -- when we've destroyed the oil workers union?

Or maybe we'll have fixed it when women have no rights at all? That's our "success" so far. The new Constitution will give women less rights than they had.

The arrogance involved in thinking we can "fix" something is, honestly, disgusting.

We've created a huge mess. We've brought terrorism to Iraq. (Which the Bully Boy is quite proud of although I doubt the average Iraqi is.)

How stupid and arrogant does someone have to be to honestly believe that the Bully Boy is bringing anything of value to Iraq?

The idea that we can "fix" it militarily is an ignorant one. Military "democracies" aren't democracies. Democracies come from the people. Not the United States handing a "democracy" to a people but from the people making their own.

The idea that they need us to "fix" things is so arrogant and insists that we know better, that the Iraqis are child-like and need us to motivate them or mold them.

This isn't much of an entry. I'm sorry. I'm just really saddened by Yard's death. Susan e-mailed Eleanor Smeal's piece that's quoted at the top of this post.

NOW's a part of the rallies this weekend. As has been noted many times, peace is a feminist issue. We've noted their events here already this week, but let's note it again:

Stop the War NOW - Women Join Voices and Speak Out!
Women are marching for peace September 24 in Washington, D.C. and around the country. NOW urges the U.S. government to end our military occupation of Iraq and invest proportionate financial resources in Iraq rebuilding, humanitarian relief and personal safety of the Iraqi people. Take Action
Women Losing Equality Rights in Iraq

This is one of those times where you hope insight will come but obviously insight (and wisdom) are in short supply as I pace around the airport. This obviously wasn't a planned entry and sorry to be more than a little stunned by the news. Later, much later, today, we'll do an entry based on various items catching members' attention.

You can check Christine's Ms. Musing later today. There's nothing up yet (and she may feel that The Smeal Report's said it as well as anyone can which is certainly understandable). Right now, at Ms.magazine proper, there's a photo from the 1989 march. Here's the caption for the photo:

Six hundred thousand feminists marched in Washington, DC for abortion rights on April 9, 1989. Joining the March for Women's Lives were a number of celebrities and women's leaders (front row l-r): Robin Tyler, Morgan Fairchild, Glenn Close, Jane Fonda, Bella Abzug, Molly Yard, Marlo Thomas, Whoopi Goldberg, Cybill Shepherd, Kim Gandy; (second row): Patricia Ireland (behind Close), Judy Collins (behind Yard), Eleanor Smeal (behind Thomas). Photo by Reuters Newmedia Inc./Corbis

Molly Yard was a fighter. If you want to carry on her spirit, be a fighter and get active this weekend. Go the extra mile to make our voices heard.

We'll close with the Democracy Now! Headline on Yard's passing:

Former President of NOW Dies
The former President of the National Organization for Women, Molly Yard, has died at the age of 93. She led NOW during the fight over the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. Yard was elected president of NOW in 1987 after working for nearly a decade on its national staff. She stepped down in late 1991, after suffering a stroke earlier that year. NOW's membership grew by more than 100,000 during Yard's tenure as president.

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NOTE: This is added to the post and not part of it originally. I'm now in another time zone (D.C.) and members know me and math so we'll just say "added hours later." Once in D.C., I stopped at a bookstore to grab Susan Faludi's Backlash -- great book -- because I knew she dealt with the attacks on Molly Yard in that and I don't know when I'll have time to to hunt down the quotes myself. From page 277 of Backlash:

The press, which generally ignored NOW conventions, exploded with outrage, anger and derision. "Not NOW -- It's Time for Consensus, not Conflict," ordered the Washington Post's Outlook editor Jodie Allen in an opinion piece. "Somebody has to say it, Molly Yard [NOW president], shut up." As for the rest of the NOW leadership, the editor ordered, "[R]ework your act or bow off the stage." The dozens of other editorial temper tantrums were little different. Some sample headlines: "NOW Puts Her Worst Foot Foward," "NOW's Fantasy," and "NOW's Flirtation With Suicide." Newsweek warned that "the shrill voices of NOW" could destroy the pro-choice movement and quoted an anonymous attendee of the conference, who supposedly said, "I wish we could take out a contract on Molly Yard." (Given that the conference gave unanimous support to the third-party proposal, this dissenter's identity is something of a mystery.)

What had Molly Yard done? Been president of NOW. The media, as Faludi documents, ran with myths -- big surprise. Grass-roots activists had proposed an exploratory committee to determine whether NOW should start its own party. This was the "flirtation with suicide." A committee to explore pros and cons. This is why Jodie Allen, of the Washington Post, felt "Somebody has to say it, Molly Yard, shut up." Of course, somebody should say it, Jodie Allen, "Do you work. Know what the events before you write about them."

The gender quake was on the horizon (already at state and local levels). Instead of addressing it, some "brains" in the Democratic Party wanted to blame Mondale's defeat (1984) on Ferraro being a woman. As is too often the case for the beltway brains with their brains below their belts, the answer was to pull away from "soft issues" (e.g. anything to do with women). The "brains" took over the Kerry campaign and you saw what happened there. But Molly Yard didn't step down as president of NOW in the face of the baseless attacks. She was a fighter. She will be missed.