- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2005

PITTSBURGH — Molly Yard, the longtime liberal activist who led the National Organization for Women during the fight over the nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, died Sept. 21 at the Fair Oaks Nursing Home in Pittsburgh. She was 93.

Mrs. 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.

She made NOW more visible and worked against Judge Bork, whom she said might provide a fifth vote to override the high court’s 1973 ruling legalizing abortion. The Senate rejected Judge Bork after a bitter political battle in 1987.

“People’s lives are hanging in the balance on this one,” Mrs. Yard said at the time. “Women, and all the minority groups, the elderly and the disabled, millions of Americans, everything they’ve worked for today is in jeopardy if this man gets on the court.”

NOW’s membership grew by 110,000 during Mrs. Yard’s tenure as president. “We’re fighting for women’s individual rights,” she said in an 1989 interview. “I feel we are in a battle.”

Earlier, she worked for various Democratic presidential candidates, including John F. Kennedy in 1960 and George McGovern in 1972. She became active in NOW in Pittsburgh in 1974 and joined its national staff in 1978.

At that time, NOW was campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment, and Mrs. Yard raised more than $1 million for that drive in less than six months while lobbying in Washington.

The daughter of Methodist missionaries, Mrs. Yard was born in Shanghai, and said later that her father’s Chinese friends gave him a brass wash basin to express their sorrow that Mrs. Yard wasn’t a boy.

“I grew up with that whole devaluation of myself because I was female. It’s outrageous, and it stays with you all your life,” she said.

Her son, James Garrett, an assistant U.S. attorney, recalled his mother as a strong and always competitive woman. He described a family vacation in the Rocky Mountains when he was about 8, and watching a train running parallel to the road “at about 80 miles per hour or so.”

“Mother was driving the car at the time. I’ll never forget, I have a vivid memory of her racing the train,” Mr. Garrett said. “That was mother.”

Mrs. Yard was preceded in death by a daughter and her husband, Sylvester Garrett. She is survived by two sons and five grandchildren.


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