Lynn Yeakel, relentless voice for women’s equality who led a close race for the US Senate, dies at 80

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Lynn Yeakel, 80, a tireless advocate for women’s equality who gained national notoriety when she sought to unseat Senator Arlen Specter for her treatment of Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas’ court confirmation hearings Supreme, passed away.

Ms. Yeakel, who lived in Rosemont, died Thursday, Jan. 13, at a hospital in Fort Myers, Fla., near where she and her husband, Paul, had a vacation home, Ms. Yeakel’s daughter said, Courtney Yeakel. She declined to share a cause of death, but said it happened a month after her mother was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing disease.

Ms. Yeakel, a Democrat, worked with grassroots women’s organizations as the founder of Women’s Way until 1992, when her campaign for the US Senate brought her within percentage points of beating Spectre, a longtime Republican.

Years later, she created Vision 2020, which aimed to advance women toward social, economic, and political equality by that year, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. The initiative, since rebooted as Vision Forward, is based at Drexel University, where Ms Yeakel led its medical school’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership.

“Lynn was a dreamer, but she was also a facilitator and she gave people courage by encouraging them,” said Rosemarie Greco, former chief executive of CoreStates and Fidelity Banks, who co-chaired Vision 2020. people an understanding of what could be accomplished by constantly reinforcing a vision of equality.

Ms Yeakel was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1941 to Porter Hardy Jr., a businessman who later served as a Democrat in the US House of Representatives, and Lynn Moore, a schoolteacher. She graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Va., and earned a master’s degree in management from the American College of Financial Services at King of Prussia.

Ms Yeakel served as chief executive of Women’s Way, the nation’s first and largest women’s fundraising coalition, from 1980 until she ran for the Senate in 1992. It is anger over the inquisition of Specter against Hill, a law professor who accused Thomas of sexual harassment when they worked together on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which prompted Ms Yeakel to run for the incumbent senator’s seat. She won the Democratic primary — and came close to defeating Specter — in what some called “the year of the woman,” in which a surge of women candidates, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Carol Moseley Braun (D., Ill.) entered the room.

“They just didn’t get it,” Ms. Yeakel said in a later interview with The Inquirer of Specter and the other members of the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee that grilled Hill. “They didn’t understand what she was talking about and they didn’t believe her.”

In 1994, Ms. Yeakel ran for governor of Pennsylvania, finishing fourth among seven candidates in a Democratic primary won by Mark Singel, who was defeated in the general election by Tom Ridge. Six years later, he was less than 800 votes short of taking Republican Richard Tilghman’s seat in the state’s 17th Senate District, which includes parts of Delaware and Montgomery counties.

Ms. Yeakel founded Vision 2020 in 2009, quickly growing it into a national organization with delegates from across the country who met at an annual convention to work to empower women. Her goals included seeking 50-50 leadership between women and men in business and government, and increasing women’s civic engagement through voting and public office.

“We have to learn to think and act like the majority that we are,” Ms Yeakel told The Inquirer at the launch of the initiative. “That’s really one of the goals of this dialogue, to address not just the external obstacles, but also the internal obstacles.”

As some of the events planned for her namesake year have been scuttled by the coronavirus pandemic, an interactive exhibit on women’s suffrage and its links to current social movements, titled ‘A Seat at the Table’, has been set up. at the Kimmel Center in Center Ville since February 2020.

In addition to founding Vision 2020 there, Ms. Yeakel’s activities at Drexel included developing the Woman One Award and the D. Walter Cohen Shared Leadership Scholarship Fund and Fellowship for medical students from communities under -represented.

“While his loss will be keenly felt in the communities of Drexel and Greater Philadelphia, and by community partners across the country, his life and work will continue to inspire future generations working for justice and equality,” Drexel Chairman John Fry said in a statement. On Saturday.

For nearly two decades, Drexel programs have raised nearly $3 million in tuition for 36 students, in part through galas honoring a different woman leader each year. In 2022, Ms Yeakel was to be given the honor of celebrating her planned retirement.

“To this day, when people find out my last name and who my mom is, they stop me and say, ‘Your mom is an inspiration,'” Courtney Yeakel said. “She meant so much to so many women.”

In addition to her husband and daughter, Ms. Yeakel is survived by her son Paul Jr. and six grandchildren. Plans for a memorial service are being finalized.

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