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Mom Died

Jim Burroway

January 8th, 2013

Sad news from PFLAG:

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.”

Jeanne Manford, marching with her son in the 1972 Christopher Street Day Parade.

Some history from PFLAG’s web site:

The idea for PFLAG began in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched with her son, Morty, in New York’s Christopher Street Liberation Day March, the precursor to today’s Pride parade. After many gay and lesbian people ran up to Jeanne during the parade and begged her to talk to their parents, she decided to begin a support group. The first formal meeting took place in 1973 at a local church. Approximately 20 people attended.

Jeanne decided to march that year to support her son, who had been beaten in April while distributing gay rights pamphlets at a New York poliical event. Jeane became further angered over police inaction, and wrote a letter to the New York Post about it, identifying herself as the mother of a gay son.

Jeanne Manford was 92 years old.

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TomTallis
January 8th, 2013 | LINK

Jeanne seems to be spelled three different ways…

RIP. She was a great lady.

F Young
January 8th, 2013 | LINK

What a wonderful legacy she left us. RIP

Ben In Oakland
January 8th, 2013 | LINK

She was great lady, worth 50 of maggie gallagher and 500 of that dried up old shrew Miz Phyllis.

Timothy Kincaid
January 8th, 2013 | LINK

Phylis Schafly is a good comparison. Both women had a gay son, but what a difference in response.

Timothy Kincaid
January 8th, 2013 | LINK

Jeanne was a strong woman. She taught her son well. Here’s an article about Morty from May 5, 1992 NYT Obituaries:

Morty Manford, an assistant New York State attorney general and an early gay-rights advocate, died yesterday at his home in Flushing, Queens.

He was 41 years old and died of complications from AIDS, his family said.

Mr. Manford was a leader in the modern gay-rights movement. While a student in 1968, he helped found Gay People at Columbia University, one of the nation’s first gay campus groups.

In 1969 he was at the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village bar, when a melee broke out between gay customers and raiding police officers. The incident spurred protests and a new militancy. That year Mr. Manford helped found the Gay Activists Alliance and became its president. His mother founded the forerunner of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a national organization.

Melee at Inner Circle

But Mr. Manford was best known for his role in the 1972 indictment and trial of Michael Maye, then president of the city’s Uniformed Firefighters Association. Mr. Maye was accused of beating Mr. Manford at a gay-rights protest.

The incident occurred at the 50th annual Inner Circle dinner and lampoon show, sponsored by present and former reporters and attended by public officials and business executives.

Mr. Manford and a few cohorts invaded the affair, in a Hilton Hotel ballroom, to distribute leaflets and briefly seize the stage. They protested that the news media and government were ignoring gay issues.

They were ejected. Some people followed them into the hallway, and a fight ensued. Several city officials who witnessed the incident testified at the trial that Mr. Maye threw Mr. Manford down an escalator, then kicked and stomped him.

Mr. Maye denied the charges, saying he had been attacked. In the end, the judge acquitted Mr. Maye. But the case drew attention to the protest, to violence against homosexuals and to attempts to adopt a city gay-rights law, which Mr. Maye adamantly opposed. The law finally passed in 1986.

Mr. Manford was born in Queens. He graduated from Columbia in 1975 and from Cardozo Law School in 1981. For the next four years he was a public defender for the Legal Aid Society and since 1986 he worked for the Attorney General.

Surviving are his mother, Jeanne, of Astoria, Queens, and a sister, Suzanne Swan of San Francisco.

What they did not mention was that Morty’s lover was Vito Russo.

Ben In Oakland
January 8th, 2013 | LINK

Timothy– that’s one of the two reasons I picked Miz Phyllis. The other one is not allowed.

Hyhybt
January 8th, 2013 | LINK

A pioneer and, it sounds like, a great woman.

Still, I have to confess a bit of relief seeing the article. The subject line by itself had me jumping to the conclusion that someone at BTB had just lost a parent.

Timothy Kincaid
January 8th, 2013 | LINK

Ben, I’ll just imagine it.
;)

Timothy Kincaid
January 8th, 2013 | LINK

hyhybt, I thought so too.

Mine passed in November 1986, but I thought maybe it was Jim or Rob.

TampaZeke
January 8th, 2013 | LINK

I’m an officer of the Tampa PFLAG Chapter. Jeanne Manford and the history of PFLAG are more amazing than most people will ever know. I encourage everyone to memorialize her by reading more about her and by supporting your local PFLAG chapter.

Much, much metta and many, many merits Mother Manford. You certainly made the world a better place for your son, and for the wider gay community, than you found it.

Andrew
January 9th, 2013 | LINK

THANK YOU for posting this… Folks, especially the elder among us – never stop educating the next generations about the struggle for gay rights. So much has happened so fast, that for the youngest, there can be a sense of inevitability (and invulnerability)… without honoring those who kicked down doors for us, mended fences for us, spoke on our behalf, stitched quilts for us… we run the risk of complacency or even worse, smugness in our victories. More history !

Rob in San Diego
January 9th, 2013 | LINK

RIP Mom!

Stephen
January 11th, 2013 | LINK

When my own mother ‘found out’ about me we embarked on 5 years of hell. She read an interview with Jeanne in the NYT, saw that she lived not far away, and called her. Jeanne invited her round and she and her son began to talk my mother. That was the beginning of her change of heart and it would not have happened without Jeanne.

Gowtham
July 26th, 2014 | LINK

When I came out my grandmother coenacttd PFLAG and got some info from them. I learned about it from her years later! She had a gay nephew whom she loved who was much older than me and visited my home openly out with his partner throughout my childhood. In fact, my son is named for him. I never knew that she struggled with my coming out, she never let me know. Thankfully she had PFLAG to support her while she supported me.

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