Peg Yorkin, Who Helped Bring the Abortion Pill to the U.S., Dies at 96

In 1973, The New York Times called Ms. Yorkin the “queen of Hollywood society,” noting her work as president of SHARE Inc. (the initials stand for Share Happily and Reap Endlessly), a Beverly Hills charity that benefits children with disabilities. She often described herself as a typical ’50s housewife — a product of her time who, like many women, was emboldened by second-wave feminism.

In the ’70s, she threw herself into the women’s movement, pushing for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment among other efforts. After she left SHARE, she went on to run the Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival and then the L.A. Public Theater, producing work by playwrights like A.R. Gurney and John Guare. But it was only after her divorce from Mr. Yorkin in 1986, when Ms. Yorkin was 60, that she was able to fully focus on the work that would bring her national attention.

“It wasn’t until a 30-year marriage had gone bust and I reaped the benefits of the California community-property laws that I was able to do something concrete about feminism,” she said in an interview for her entry in the 1999 book “Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia.”

Ms. Spillar, who is now executive director of the Feminist Majority, remembered Ms. Yorkin saying that in the days before the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, she helped women find doctors in Mexico who could provide abortions. She said, Ms. Spillar recalled: “I want us to think big and I want us to do more and I want us to hurry up. I’m not going to live forever and I want this done in my lifetime.”

Peggy Diem was born on April 16, 1927, in New York City. (She loathed her given name and went by Margaret in high school and then by Peg.) Her mother, Dora (Lavine) Diem, was a homemaker who had wanted to be an actress. Her father, Frank, was a still photographer who worked for D.W. Griffith and other filmmakers.

Frank, an alcoholic, left the family when Peg was 11; Dora struggled financially and moved in with her mother in Yonkers, N.Y., with whom young Peg shared a bed. It was, she would later recall, a traumatic childhood.

Peg was extremely bright and skipped a few grades at Roosevelt High School before being admitted to Barnard College at 16 on a scholarship. But, pressured by her mother, she left after two years to pursue an acting career she did not want. A brief marriage to Newt Arnold, a film director, ended in divorce when he told her he was having an affair, but it brought her to Los Angeles and away from her mother. She married Mr. Yorkin, whom she had met in an agent’s office, in 1954.

Source link