Tinker, Bonnie Papers

Span Dates: 1980-2010
Bulk Dates: 1990-2010
Volume: 20 cubic feet


The Bonnie Tinker papers date mostly from the late 1990s and 2000s and consist largely of materials related to her work with the organization Love Makes a Family, the radio program of the same name, and to her numerous activities on behalf of lesbian and gay families. Included are organizational records, newsletters, correspondence, fund raising and grant application materials, and numerous subject files. Other significant portions of the collection relate to Tinker's advocacy for queer families and youth, including the organizations YouthNet, the Sexual Minorities Parents Advisory Group (SMPAG), and her "Opening Hearts and Minds" workshops. There is also much material relating to various lesbian/gay related political campaigns in Oregon, including propositions 9 and 13 in the 1990s, and the fight for same-sex marriage in the late 1990s and 2000s. A large number of photographs of events in which Bonnie Tinker and Love Makes a Family participated are included at the end of the collection.

Hist/Bio Note

Bonnie Jeanne Tinker was a political activist who championed the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people and headed the Portland, Oregon organization Love Makes a Family devoted to same-sex families. She was born in 1948 in Boone, Iowa, the daughter of a Methodist minister and official of the American Friends Service Committee who was active in the civil rights and anti-war movements. Her mother, Lorena Jeanne Tinker, held a PhD in psychology. The Tinkers became well-known through their successful U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines School Board, which affirmed the right of students to wear black arm bands in protest against the Vietnam war. Bonnie Tinker became an activist at an early age, winning an NAACP essay contest with her entry "What the Emancipation Proclamation means to me." She studied at Grinnell College and CEDOC in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where she was influenced by liberation theology. She moved to Portland, Oregon, where she lived in the Red Emma Collective house and came out as a lesbian. In the early 1970s she worked with a group of Quakers to open Prescott House, a women's shelter and halfway house. Eventually Bonnie and her partner, Sharon Keeler, adoped a 15 month old baby girl, Connie. They moved to the WHO Farm near Estacada, Oregon, becoming part of the "women's land" movement that was flourishing in southern Oregon in the 1970s. In the late 1970s, Bonnie served as the founding director of the Bradley-Angle House, a shelter for battered women. Around that time she met Sara Graham, who would become her life-long partner and wife. They were married in 2004 when same-sex marriage became briefly legal in Oregon. Together they raised Connie, along with Sara's son Josh, and in 1983 Bonnie gave birth to their son Alex. In the early 1980s Bonnie worked with the American Friends Service Committee, served as the Portland staff person for the McKenzie River Gathering, was the Development Director for Volunteers of America (1985-1987). After studying photography and journalism at Portland Community College she worked as a free-lance photographer from 1987 to 1992. In 1993, after completing a documentary on same-sex marriage called "Love makes a family," she founded an organization by that name, headquartered in Portland. The group provided support for lesbian and gay families and became involved in political action, including the many campaigns against anti-gay measures promoted by the Oregon Citizens Alliance. She also hosted a radio talk show called "Love makes a family" on the Vancouver, Washington Christian radio station KKEY. She attended the International Women's Conference in Beijing, China, in 1995. Among the many education and outreach efforts that Bonnie Tinker led was "Opening Hearts and Minds," a workshop devoted to non-violent speech, which was given throughout Oregon and elsewhere in the U.S. She continued her active involvement in civil rights and sexual minority movements and was arrested several times in protest actions. She also danced with the Rosetown Ramblers and was an enthusiastic bicyclist. Bonnie Tinker died suddenly on July 2, 2009. She had been attending the Friends General Conference in Blacksburg, Virginia, and was hit by a truck while riding her bicycle.

Finding Aid

An online finding aid is available.


This collection is held at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library 1200 SW Park Avenue Portland, OR 97205


Friends/Quakers | Feminism | Oregon | Marriage Equality | Portland | Tinker, Bonnie