Jeanne Manford, who founded Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG) in 1972, passed away at her home n Daly City, California. She was 92.
“She is known to thousands of people as the mother of the straight ally movement, but to me — she was my mother,” said daughter Suzanne Swan. “She was someone who would always do the right thing, the good thing. She supported all people, and that meant so much to us growing up.”
In the early 1970s, Manford’s son Morty was attacked at a Gay Activists Alliance demonstration. After the assault, Jeanne wrote a letter to the New York Post, proudly stating “I have a homosexual son and I love him.”
PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby shared her thoughts on Manford:
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.