Bonnie Jeanne Tinker

Date(s) of birth and/or death approximate

Date of Birth

May 1st, 1948

Date of Death

July 1st, 2009

Memorial Meeting

Multnomah Friends Meeting


Bonnie Tinker, a member of Multnomah Monthly Meeting for 33 years and a life-long, passionate rights activist, died July 2009, the victim of a bicycle crash. She was born in May 1948, in Boone, Iowa, the second of seven children of Leonard Edward Jr. and Lorena Jeanne McGregor Tinker. The Tinker family was long active in the civil rights and peace movements. At an early age, Bonnie participated in picket lines and demonstrations against social injustice. She attended Grinnell College but protested the school’s academic policy of requiring comprehensive exams for graduation by refusing to take them, thus never receiving her degree. Her article on her experience was published in the academic journal, Educational Theory.

Bonnie moved to Portland in 1971 with a group of Grinnell women, who formed the Red Emma feminist collective. They came to know the violence suffered by lesbians, their exclusion from family and society and their unjust treatment by the state and the courts.

Bonnie, who had joined the Des Moines (Iowa) Valley Friends Meeting in 1962, transferred her membership to Multnomah Monthly Meeting in November 1976. Her spoken ministry was rich with Biblical references. She was an important mentor to many and a strong voice for social justice among us.

Bonnie and her friends, with help from Quakers, opened Prescott House, a halfway house and health clinic for women. From 1975 to 1979, Bonnie was the founding director of Bradley-Angle House, one of the first shelters for battered women in the country. In December 2009 it was renamed the “Bonnie Tinker House.” She was the first chairperson of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She was also active in the American Friends Service Committee, worked with the MacKenzie River Gathering (a foundation which awards grants to non-profit organizations) and was the development director of Volunteers of America.

In 1992, she put together a documentary, Love Makes a Family, about lesbian and gay marriage and child rearing in the Religious Society of Friends. She formed a non-profit organization of the same name, which devoted itself to education about, and advocacy for, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons and their families. For this work, she was released under the care of both North Pacific Yearly Meeting and Multnomah Monthly Meeting.

Active in the anti-war movement, Bonnie was arrested several times in recent years, most notably when she and other members of the “Seriously Pissed-Off Grannies” held demonstrations at military recruiting offices. She also developed the LARA method (Listen, Affirm, Respond, Add) to combat hostility through constructive dialogue. The “Opening Hearts and Minds” workshops became a calling for Bonnie.

Bonnie and Sara Graham met while working together at Bradley-Angle house, became a couple and joined their families in 1977. In 2004, during a brief period when Multnomah County issued marriage licenses for gays and lesbians, Bonnie and Sara were legally married in a Quaker ceremony. Bonnie was a spiritual visionary and vital force among Friends and the larger community. She led a life of utter commitment to causes that arose from Quaker principles. She was an exemplar of the power of faith in action. In her full life she was also an avid dancer, yoga practitioner, bicyclist and photographer.

She is survived by Sara Graham, her wife of 32 years, her children, Josh Graham, Connie Tinker and Alex Tinker and by granddaughters Cierra Graham, Maya Graham and Adah Crandall. Also by her brothers, Leonard Edward Tinker III and John Tinker; and sisters, Mary Beth Tinker and Hope Tinker as well as numerous nieces and nephews.