Marjorie Alice Jones was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1933 and attended high school in Port Chester, New York before entering Pembroke College. While a student, she wrote a regular column for the Pembroke Record called "Off the Record."
Jones concentrated in Biology at Pembroke, and later received graduate degrees in nursing from Rhode Island College (RIC) and the University of Rhode Island. In the late 1960s and 1970s, she worked as a nursing instructor at RIC and Roger Williams College. In 1977, she began working for the Veteran's Administration, specializing in infection control. She was active in the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Women's Political Caucus, and Rhode Island Project AIDS. Jones gave many presentations to campus and community groups about HIV-AIDS in the 1980s. She was married to RIC professor Carl Edward Sternberg (1928-2015), with whom she had two sons, Christopher and Kurt.