updated 9/21/2005 7:13:00 PM ET 2005-09-21T23:13:00

Molly Yard, the longtime liberal activist who led the National Organization for Women during the fight over the nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, has died. She was 93.

Yard died Wednesday in the Fair Oaks Nursing Home in Pittsburgh, said her son, James Garrett, an assistant U.S. attorney.

Yard was elected president of NOW in 1987 after nearly a decade on its national staff. She stepped down in late 1991 after suffering a stroke at her office earlier that year.

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

“People’s lives are hanging in the balance on this one,” she 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.”

“We’re fighting for women’s individual rights,” Yard said in an 1989 interview. “I feel we are in a battle.”

Earlier, she worked for various Democratic 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 Yard raised more than $1 million for that drive in less than six months while lobbying in Washington.

The daughter of Methodist missionaries, Yard was born in Shanghai, China, and said later that her father’s Chinese friends gave him a brass washbasin to express their sorrow that 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,” Yard said.

She moved to Pittsburgh in 1953 after attending Swarthmore College in suburban Philadelphia.

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