December 4 – Remembering Jeanne Manford

Posted on December 4, 2016

Jeanne Manford, who was born on this date in 1920, died in 2013 at age 92. Shortly after she died, she was posthumously (“after death”) awarded a Presidential Citizens Medal.

Have you heard of her? Jeanne Manford was a schoolteacher who was born in New York. She was also an activist on behalf of the LGBTQ community.
Why was Manford interested in gay rights?

You see, Manford's son Morty was gay. Actually, he was a gay activist. And he was beaten while trying to raise consciousness about the problems gay people have, and the police led HIM away, rather than arresting those who were kicking and stomping on him.

This was in New York City, in 1972. Manford complained to police that they failed to protect her son, and she wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Post, and she spoke on radio and television shows as well.

A few months later, Manford participated in the New York Pride March, alongside Morty. She carried a sign that read “Parents of Gays Unite in Support of Our Children.” So many young people cheered for her and spoke to her, that she realized that she should start an organization that really does unite parents of gay people. She viewed it as a way of bridging the gap between homosexual and heterosexual people.

At first Manford's new organization, which included her husband, was called Parents of Gays. Now her organization, PFLAG, is meant for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and others in the LGBTQ community. It is the largest organization for “allies” in the United States. 

Manford was Grand Marshal of New York City's Gay Pride March in 1991, and she was the Grand Marshall of the first pride parade in Queens in 1993. In addition to be honored posthumously with a Presidential Citizens Medal, a street was named for Manford. It's way, way too long a name, though: Jeanne, Jules, Morty Manford PFLAG Way.

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