Jeanne Manford : Founder of PFLAG
A Queens native, Jeanne Manford was born on December 4th, 1920, to a Salesman and housewife. Shortly after her father died, she married her husband, Jules Manford and had three children with him. She graduated Queens College in 1964 and began her career of almost 30 years as teacher in New York City. In April 1972, she learnt that her gay son Morty was violently assaulted when handing out flyers in support of gay rights. Jeanne was a loving and supportive mother, so she was naturally outraged that her son was attacked and that the police who were present did not intervene. She was so upset, in fact, that she wrote a letter to the New York Post, in which she wrote, “I have a homosexual son and I love him,” which was a very radical statement at the time.
One of the pivotal moments in Manford’s activism was when she marched with Morty in the Liberation Day Parade. She held a sign that stated “Parents of Gays! Unite in Support for Our Children”. The response to her sign was overwhelming and many young people came over to her crying and begging her to speak to their parents. This was one of the first times LGBT people saw a parent publicly support them. It was this parade that catalyzed her to establish a support group for parents of LGBT children, as Jeanne and her husband Jules saw that there was desperate need for an organization centered on family and friends of members of the gay community. This support system grew into PFLAG which, as of 2013, has 350 chapters nationwide and has helped countless families by educating, supporting, and advocating. PFLAG brought the ‘family values’ into the gay rights movement, and in a sense challenged that notion a traditional family.
Jeanne and Jules Manford were the parents of the gay rights movement and accepted all LGBT people as their own, even when their parents rejected them. They fought for and championed human rights. Their house was always opened to everyone who needed it and is fondly remembered as a warm and inviting place by many who were shunned by their own home. Jeanne Manfrord died in 2013 but her legacy lives on. She was posthumously given the Citizen Award by Obama for her activism and fight for gay rights. But more than all these honors, her life is remembered by the countless lives she helped and brightened.
~Blog Written by Elisheva Schuster