Rest in Power: Actor and Feminist Jayne Meadows Has Died at 95

Actor Jayne Meadows, who performed in Broadway, television and film productions from the 1940s on, died Sunday of natural causes at her Encino, California home. She was 95.

Meadows was an ardent feminist who portrayed women in many empowered roles. When her husband, the original Tonight Show host, Steve Allen, launched a PBS series in 1977 entitled Meeting of the Minds, Meadows wrote and performed as many famous feminists, including birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger, suffragist Susan B. Anthony and poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, among others.

In 1979, Los Angeles NOW awarded her the first Women’s Equality Day prize for her portrayal of Anthony. She also won the International Platform Association Award for her one-woman show, Powerful Women in History, and received the Susan B. Anthony Award for her many positive portrayals of women.

Dedicated to uplifting feminist causes, Meadows and Allen could frequently be found at events presented by the Feminist Majority Foundation (publisher of Ms.). The couple once even stepped up at the last minute to speak at an FMF event when a guest unexpectedly cancelled.

Said her son, Bill Allen, in a statement:

She was not only an extraordinarily gifted actress who could move audiences from laughter to tears and back again all in one scene, but she was the greatest storyteller I have ever known and I will miss her endlessly fascinating and frequently hilarious anecdotes about her life and the many brilliantly talented people she worked with and befriended along the way. She will be sorely missed and never forgotten.

Meadows is survived by Bill, as well as three stepsons and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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Photo of Jayne Meadows and Steve Allen in 1987 courtesy of Flickr user Alan Light licensed under Creative Commons 2.0