Jeanne Manford, founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), died at her home in Daly City, CA on Jan. 8. She was 92. Manford got involved in the gay rights movement after seeing her gay son Morty being beaten up during a gay rights march in 1972 in NYC as police stood by and did nothing. Morty Manford died of AIDS in 1992.
Inspired by Manford, Adele Starr founded PFLAG/LA in 1976. Starr died on Dec. 13, 2010. (See PFLGA video including an interview with Manford below, as well as acknowledgement from President Obama below). PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby said this about Manford:
Today the world has lost a pioneer: Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and the Mother of the Straight Ally movement. Jeanne was one of the fiercest fighters in the battle for acceptance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It is truly humbling to imagine in 1972—just 40 years ago—a simple schoolteacher started this movement of family and ally support, without benefit of any of the technology that today makes a grassroots movement so easy to organize. No Internet. No cellphones. Just a deep love for her son and a sign reading “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.” This simple and powerful message of love and acceptance from one person resonated so strongly it was heard by millions of people worldwide and led to the founding of PFLAG, an organization with more than 350 chapters across the U.S. and 200,000 members and supporters, and the creation of similar organizations across the globe. Jeanne’s work was called “the story of America…of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, educating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury,” in a speech by President Barack Obama in 2009. All of us—people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight allies alike—owe Jeanne our gratitude. We are all beneficiaries of her courage. Jeanne Manford proved the power of a single person to transform the world. She paved the way for us to speak out for what is right, uniting the unique parent, family, and ally voice with the voice of LGBT people everywhere.
The Huffingon Post has a slideshow of Jeanne Manford and PFLAG through the years. The family requests that any donations be made to the Jeanne Manford Legacy Fund to support the ongoing work of PFLAG National: 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 660, Washington, DC 20036.