Jeanne Manford, the pioneering founder of PFLAG, the American organisation that brought together parents of gay and lesbian children for the first time, has passed away.
Manford’s death at the age of 92 in California was announced by Jody Huckaby, the National Executive Director of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
Manford, a teacher in Flushing, Queens, started the organisation in 1972 following the beating of her son Morty, a gay activist, while he was distributing flyers.
Outraged, she wrote letters to newspapers and gave interviews to television and radio stations, proudly identifying herself as a loving mother of a gay man.
After taking part in the New York Pride March that same year and holding a sign that read “Parents of Gays Unite in Support for Our Children,” she was inspired to start an organisation of parents of gays and lesbians.
Supported by her husband, Manford hoped that the group would become “a bridge between the gay community and the heterosexual community”.
Today, PFLAG has more than 350 chapters across the US with 200,000 members and supporters and has led to the creation of similar organisations around the world.
“Jeanne was one of the fiercest fighters in the battle for acceptance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people,” commented Huckaby.
“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 organise.
“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,” said Huckaby.
In 2009, President Barack Obama described Manford’s work as “the story of America…of ordinary citizens organising, agitating, educating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury…”