Honoring Lynn Yeakel (1941-2022)

Lynn Yeakel was a visionary who was dedicated and determined to achieve equality for women.  She worked tirelessly to amplify the voices of the majority in this country, women, who were excluded from decision-making in all areas – from the workplace, non-profit sector, government, to health and reproductive freedom.

Lynn was one of six women who founded WOMEN’S WAY in 1976 as the first women’s funding federation in the country.  Lynn described the founding of WOMEN’S WAY as a response to the dire financial situation of Philadelphia’s feminist service organizations (she was the Chair of the Board of one of these organizations, Choice). She was elected as the second Chair of the Board of WOMEN’S WAY in 1978.

In 1980, Lynn became the CEO of WOMEN’S WAY and served in that capacity until 1992.  Significant accomplishments during the twelve years that she was at the helm of WOMEN’S WAY included:

  • WOMEN’S WAY applied for membership in United Way and was denied. As a result, United Way created the Donor Option program which allowed United Way donors to designate a payroll deduction to a nonprofit of their choice, even if the nonprofit was not a member of United Way.  The year after the creation of Donor Option, WOMEN’S WAY raised $206,000 from that campaign
  • The Discretionary Fund was formed to provide grants to grassroots non-member organizations
  • Admitted to the Combined Federal Campaign, City of Philadelphia, and School District workplace campaigns
  • The one-millionth dollar was granted in 1985
  • November of 1987 WOMEN’S WAY hosted a national conference celebrating the bicentennial of the constitution. The conference entitled Unfinished Agenda: Women’s Future Under the Constitution brought together over 600 women and men from across the country.  Speakers included Gloria Steinem, Bill Gray, Paul Simon, Gerta Lerner, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and many others
  • The Pew Charitable Trust gave WOMEN’S WAY a five-year grant for distribution to domestic violence and sexual assault programs
  • Granted $905,000 to member agencies and grantees in 1990.
  • Women in Concert was held at the Academy of Music
  • WOMEN’S WAY USA was formed in 1991

Lynn left WOMEN’S WAY in 1992 to run for the United States Senate in response to the treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

Lynn later served for six years as the Mid-Atlantic Region Director for the United States Department of Health and Human Services from 1994 to 2000.  She returned to WOMEN’S WAY to Chair its 25th Anniversary Celebration at the Kimmel Center in 2002. For over nearly two decades she has been the head of the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership at Drexel University where she has raised funds to provide four-year medical school tuition scholarships for minority women.

WOMEN’S WAY awarded Lynn Hardy Yeakel the Lucretia Mott Award in 1993.

Lynn received multiple awards, was a frequent speaker at many events, an author, a mother, and a grandmother.  She will be missed by the many people whose lives she touched over the decades she worked for equality for women.  But she will live on in the fight that she inspired so many to undertake to achieve gender equity.

WOMEN’S WAY celebrates her life as we continue her work striving to achieve gender and racial equity.

If you would like to share a tribute, thought or comment in honor of Lynn, please email info@womensway.org with the subject line “Honoring Lynn. We will share these throughout social media and during our Annual Celebration in May 2022!