Thursday, April 11, 2013

Molly Yard Quits the Club - 1977

Molly Yard, an assistant to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (!) and the eighth president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), is widely recognized as the club's founder.

According to her Wikipedia page (, she moved to Pittsburgh in 1953, worked on David L. Lawrence's gubernatorial campaign in 1958, led the Western Pennsylvania presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy in 1960 and George McGovern in 1972, and led an unsuccessful campaign to get NAACP President Byrd Brown the Democratic nomination to Congress.

In 1964 she made an unsuccessful run for the state legislature as a candidate from the 14th Ward. The club formed around her campaign.

Less well-known is that Yard apparently stepped down as president and quit the club in 1977 when she lost a race for ward chair following that year's tumultuous mayoral election. 

In a letter to club members announcing her resignation, Yard addressed an ongoing philosophical debate about the club's mission:
Molly Yard's club resignation letter, 1977.
Note the spilled coffee stains.
(Click on letter for larger version.)
“Some [club members] view it as a completely “independent” club with no real ties or responsibility to the Democratic Party, whereas I view the Club as made up of Democrats who want to influence the development of the Party in the 14th Ward and in Allegheny County, as well as influence the selection of candidates by the Party for public office.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, Yard joined NOW's national staff the year after writing the letter, so she might have taken the occasion to make a dramatic exit. Still, it's good reading and raises an issues that remain relevant for the club today.
Molly Yard's New York Times obituary (2005) is at this link

1 comment:

  1. Here's more background, from current club president Kathie Smith:

    Molly Yard and the Club must have made up...

    In 1987 when she ran for NOW National President, Club leaders (Celeste and Bill Behrend, Janet Kreisman, Marc and Georgia Schneider and others) had a fundraiser at the Schneiders. I was new to the Club then but was a NOW activist and was a delegate to the convention that elected Molly. The fundraiser was a very crowded event - everyone seemed happy to see Molly. By that time I think she was living in DC and Ligonier. She had been a staff member at National NOW for several years before running for President.

    One more thing - her campaign slogan was "Inch by inch is much too hard. We want progress by the Yard"