One of the founding board members of the Feminist Majority Foundation in 1987, longtime feminist activist Dorothy Jonas died on June 22 (1921 – 2013).
In the late 1970s Jonas played a pivotal role as a leader in California for the nationwide campaign for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). She chaired numerous celebrity filled events to raise critical funding for the National Organization for Women’s (NOW’s) campaign in unratified states.
An expert on the impact of court-imposed joint custody agreements and on women and divorce, she was a vigorous advocate of family law reform. In 1985, Eleanor Smeal (NOW’s then-president) appointed Jonas to chair the new NOW Task Force on the Rights of Women in Marriage. Together with her daughter Bonnie Sloane, Jonas campaigned successfully to improve legal protection for marital property rights. After a seven-year effort, a landmark bill was signed by California Gov. Pete Wilson in 1991, making California the first state to guarantee full protection of the law for the economic rights of spouses.
“Dorothy was unbelievably determined. She won against overwhelming odds extensive rights for married women. Through many years and many campaigns for women’s rights and full equality, I could always turn to Dorothy to take on a key job. I could always count on her know-how and tenacity to get the job done,” said Eleanor Smeal, president and co-founder of FMF, and former president of NOW.
Jonas was active in the California Democratic Party and an early member of the powerful Los Angeles based Women’s Political Committee, whose aim is to elect more feminist Democratic women to public office.
Says Peg Yorkin, co-founder of the FMF and chair of the board, “If one were to meet Dorothy at a political or social event, she seemed to be a cultured, well-educated and yes, gentle, woman. For those of us who knew her, she was a caring but tough advocate for women’s issues. Dorothy was always interested and engaged in women’s rights. And she put her considerable intellect and income into the service of both.”
Jonas also fought for years to improve treatment for rape survivors and develop needed policy reforms to eliminate discriminatory practices. She was the longtime president of the board of the Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica and founder of The Rape Foundation.
Jonas received numerous awards, from the League of Women Voters to the California Women’s Law Center. She was a former chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women and a co-founder and chair of the Coalition for Family Equity in Los Angeles.