Sylvia Thorson-Smith was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She attended Pacific Lutheran University and graduated from the University of Dubuque with a BA in psychology in 1966. She received an MS in sociology and women’s studies from Wichita State University in 1980.
From 1988-2003 (when she retired to Tucson, AZ), Sylvia was a lecturer in sociology, religious studies, and gender/women’s studies at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. Previously, she was the staff consultant to the Presbyterian Church (U. S.A.)’s General Assembly study of pornography (1986-1988) and the sexuality educator for Planned Parenthood of Southern Kansas (1983-1985). She was a lecturer in Women’s Studies at Wichita State University (1977-1985).
Among Sylvia’s publications are Body and Soul: Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-Love, ed. with Marvin Ellison, 2003; Called Out With: Stories of Solidarity in Support of LGBT Persons, ed. with Johanna W. H. van Wijk-Bos, et al, 1997; Reconciling the Broken Silence: The Church in Dialogue on Gay and Lesbian Issues, 1989; and Pornography: Far From the Song of Songs, 1988.
Sylvia was a member of the PCUSA Task Force on Human Sexuality, that produced the groundbreaking 1991 report, Keeping Body and Soul Together: Sexuality, Spirituality, and Social Justice. She served on the Council on Women and the Church in the 1980s, and in 1995, she co-founded the feminist group, Voices of Sophia. VOS became Presbyterian Voices for Justice in 2008, and Sylvia served as co-moderator from 2012-2014.