The Yippies had no formal membership or hierarchy. Abbie and Anita Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Nancy Kurshan, and Paul Krassner founded the Yippies (according to his own account, Krassner coined the name) at a meeting in the Hoffmans' New York apartment on December 31, 1967. "If the press had created 'hippie,' could not we five hatch the 'yippie'?" Abbie Hoffman wrote.
Other activists associated with the Yippies include Stew Albert, Ed Rosenthal, Allen Ginsberg, Judy Gumbo,Ed Sanders, Robin Morgan, Phil Ochs, Robert M. Ockene, William Kunstler, Jonah Raskin, Steve Conliff, Jerome Washington,John Sinclair, Dana Beal, Betty (Zaria) Andrew, Matthew Landy Steen, Joanee Freedom, Danny Boyle, Ben Masel, Tom Forcade, Paul Watson, David Peel, Wavy Gravy, Aron Kay, Tuli Kupferberg, Jill Johnston, Daisy Deadhead, Leatrice Urbanowicz, Bob Fass, Mayer Vishner, John Murdock, Alice Torbush, Judy Lampe, Walli Leff, Patrick K. Kroupa, Steve DeAngelo, Dean Tuckerman, Dennis Peron, Jim Fouratt, Steve Wessing, John Penley, and Brenton Lengel.
A Yippie flag was frequently seen at anti-war demonstrations. The flag had a black background with a five-pointed red star in the center, and a green cannabis leaf superimposed over it. When asked about the Yippie flag, an anonymous Yippie identified only as "Jung" told The New York Times that "The black is for anarchy. The red star is for our five point program. And the leaf is for marijuana, which is for getting ecologically stoned without polluting the environment." This flag is also mentioned in Hoffman's Steal This Book.
Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin became the most famous Yippies—and bestselling authors—in part due to publicity surrounding the five-month Chicago Seven Conspiracy trial of 1969. They both used the phrase "ideology is a brain disease" to separate the Yippies from mainstream political parties that played the game by the rules. Hoffman and Rubin were arguably the most colorful of the seven defendants accused of criminal conspiracy and inciting to riot at the August 1968 Democratic National Convention. Hoffman and Rubin used the trial as a platform for Yippie antics—at one point, they showed up in court attired in judicial robes.
The term Yippie was invented by Krassner and Hoffman on New Year's Eve 1967. Paul Krassner wrote in a January 2007 article in the Los Angeles Times:
We needed a name to signify the radicalization of hippies, and I came up with Yippie as a label for a phenomenon that already existed, an organic coalition of psychedelic hippies and political activists. In the process of cross-fertilization at antiwar demonstrations, we had come to share an awareness that there was a linear connection between putting kids in prison for smoking pot in this country and burning them to death with napalm on the other side of the planet.
Anita Hoffman liked the word, but felt that The New York Times and other "strait-laced types" needed a more formal name to take the movement seriously. That same night she came up with Youth International Party, because it symbolized the movement and made for a good play on words.
Along with the name Youth International Party, the organization was also simply called Yippie!, as in a shout for joy (with an exclamation mark to express exhilaration). "What does Yippie! mean?" Abbie Hoffman wrote. "Energy – fun – fierceness – exclamation point!"
First press conference
The Yippies held their first press conference in New York at the Americana Hotel March 17, 1968, five months before the August 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Judy Collins sang at the press conference. The Chicago Sun-Times reported it with an article titled: "Yipes! The Yippies Are Coming!"