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Jeanne Manford
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Advocate
    (December 4, 1920-January 9, 2013)
    Born in Queens, New York
    Birth name was Jean Sobelson
    Public school teacher
    Appeared with her son Morty at the New York Pride March carrying a hand-made sign 'Parents of Gays Unite in Support of Our Children' (June 25, 1972)
    With her husband, founded the support group PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) (March, 1973)
    She initially thought the cheers greeting her and Morty in the Pride March were for Dr. Benjamin Spock, who was marching behind them.
    She and her husband originally called the organization POG (Parents of Gays), which, if it had been kept, might have caused some confusion when pogs were briefly popular in the 90s.
    She said her husband was 'a much better speaker than I.'
    When her son Morty came out of the closet, her immediate support so surprised him that it took 'a while' for him to accept her acceptance.
    She began her activism when Morty was beaten during a gay rights protest and the police refused to intervene.
    She said, 'I didn’t think anything of it, but I guess it was the first time a mother ever stood up publicly and said, ‘Yes, I have a homosexual child.'
    Her daughter said, 'She was 5-foot-2, 120 pounds. She was blonde, frail and thin. But she had a backbone of steel.'
    Her house became a refuge for people thrown out by their parents for being gay.
    Barack Obama said of her founding PFLAG, 'That's the story of America: of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating and advocating for change; of hope stronger than hate; of love more powerful than any insult or injury.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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