Sonia ‘Sonny’ Schorr Sloan (1928-2019)

A ‘firecracker’ leaves a lasting mark on state’s nonprofits

In regard to the advancement of liberal causes and the emboldening of political power, there have been few who likely left as much of a lasting impact as Sonia “Sonny” Schorr Sloan.

Sloan, a lifelong Democratic activist, nonprofit leader and close friend of former Vice President Joe Biden,
died Oct. 19 at age 91.

Sonia Sloan | Photo by Joe del Tufo

Activism ran in Sloan’s family as her grandmother marched with suffragettes more than a century ago and her immigrant father served as a Democratic state representative. She took that history to heart, becoming the first woman to receive a degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, earning a master’s degree in microbiology.

Sloan didn’t stop breaking down barriers after graduation, becoming the first woman on DuPont’s research staff in the 1950s. In the ’60s, she left her career in science to pursue liberal causes, including anti-war protests of Vietnam, helping found the Delaware chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and leading Planned Parenthood Delaware – she served as its president from 1980 to 1984 and was still serving as chair of its board of directors at the time of her passing.

Planned Parenthood Delaware CEO Ruth Lytle-Barnaby called Sloan “one of our strongest and most courageous leaders.”

“I, along with hundreds of others, found her to be a giving mentor. She led the effort to bring us to the Wilmington clinic we proudly still use today. I know I speak on behalf of the hundreds who had the privilege of working with her when I say she will be sorely missed,” Lytle-Barnaby said in a statement.

Over the years, Sloan reportedly raised more than $140 million for nonprofits across the state, and mentored generations of advocates and leaders, including Biden.

In a statement released after her passing, Biden and his wife, Jill, said they were “heartbroken.”

“Sonny fought hard her whole life for her community, for the causes and people she believed in – and she gave so many of us the courage and confidence to never quit fighting for what we believe in, too,” the Bidens wrote.

“Sonny was called a firecracker, a hummingbird, the kind of person you never say no to. It was one of the greatest gifts of my life to have had her by my side – since the very beginning when I was just a kid running for the Senate at 29, and throughout the decades that followed,” Joe Biden added. “She’d call up and always, always, give it to me straight. Sonny taught us what it means to be a Democrat, to be a Delawarean, to be an American, and to be devoted to something bigger than yourself.”

Delaware Democratic Party Chairman Erik Raser-Schramm said in a statement that he “lost a dear friend, my party lost one of its most important architects, and all of Delaware lost a transformational icon the likes of which we may never see again” in Sloan.

In March, Raser-Schramm honored Sloan’s lifelong efforts to the Democratic Party, including supporting and campaigning for a growing number of women in state elected office, with the Alexis I. du Pont Bayard Award.

“Sonia Sloan was a force of nature. She touched the lives of everyone she met, all while improving the lives of many Delawareans who never had that privilege. Her work as an organizer, advocate, and philanthropist spanned a lifetime of selflessness, but its impact will be felt for generations,” he said. “She cared about progress, to be sure, but she also cared about people, and always took the time to forge real connections with everyone who crossed her path.”


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