A Beloved Pioneer Passes

Del Martin, a courageous and visionary leader who helped shape the movement to end domestic violence in the United States, died in late August. Martin wrote one of the first books ever published on the issue, helped frame it in the human rights context, and was instrumental in creating the Family Violence Prevention Fund and providing crucial support and guidance in the organization’s early years.

In 1976, long before domestic violence was a household term, Martin wrote a groundbreaking book, Battered Wives. It did an enormous amount to increase awareness and put the issue before the public, as well as to open people’s eyes to the role that misogyny and destructive social norms play in perpetuating abuse.

Martin was the keynote speaker at the first conference the Family Violence Prevention Fund ever held, and a deeply engaged strategic advisor. “Del had an incredible commitment to this issue, tremendous wisdom and a wonderful sense of humor,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler. “She was a mentor, a colleague and, most of all, a friend. I will miss her every day.”

Later in life, Martin became a nationally respected advocate for gay rights. On June 16, she and Phyllis Lyon, her life partner of 55 years, were the first couple to wed in San Francisco after the California Supreme Court approved marriage for same-sex couples. Martin and Lyon were among the plaintiffs in that case.

“Del Martin’s impact on this movement, and this country, will be felt for generations,” Soler added. “She was an inspiration to so many of us. Her legacy includes a movement that is stronger and more effective, and a nation that is infinitely more committed to ending domestic violence, because of her life’s work. I don’t think the world will ever know a more dedicated and effective champion for equality.”

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