Jeanne Manford. (Photo Credit: PFLAG)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Dec. 4, Jeanne Manford, the mother who inspired a movement of parents, families and allies to advocate for their LGBTQ loved ones would have been 100 years old. The organization she helped to found honored Manford who showed a strong commitment to the advocacy that resulted in establishing what is the nation’s first organization of its kind, PFLAG National shared.

The organization partnered with the Making Gay History podcast to highlight archival interviews with Jeanne and Morty Manford and an interview with Suzanne Swan. These interviews are featured on both PFLAG National and Making Gay Manford’s story and the story of PFLAG, in addition to re-elevating the speech given by President Barack Obama.

PFLAG National sent a letter to President-Elect Joseph Biden from the parents on the PFLAG National Board of Directors, committing to working with the incoming administration in support of Manford’s legacy, and in service of PFLAG’s nearly 50 years working to create “a country where equality and justice for all really IS for all.”

Jeanne Manford with photo of son Morty, 1993. (Photo Credit: PFLAG)

“The world for LGBTQ+ people was vastly different in the 1970s when a schoolteacher from Queens joined the 1972 Christopher Street Liberation Day march carrying a sign that read, ‘Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children,’” said historian and family friend Eric Marcus, creator and host of the Making Gay History podcast. “When Jeanne co-founded an organization for parents of gay people nine months later — with her son Morty and husband Jules — she risked her job and public scorn, but she did it because she knew that parents had a key role in protecting their children from harassment and unjust laws.”

In the early 1970s, laws in 43 states prohibited homosexuality. It was illegal to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Official penalties, if caught in a romantic or sexual relationship, ranged from jail time to chemical castration. Unofficial penalties included public shaming, loss of employment, loss of housing, discrimination in healthcare and death. Yet, despite the social stigma, Manford and about 20 other parents, LGBTQ individuals and allies gathered at what is now the Church of the Village in New York City and held what would be the first of many meetings to support and advocate for LGBTQ individuals.

“LGBTQ+ rights have come a long way thanks in part to Jeanne Manford’s advocacy and the ally movement she inspired. She urged parents, families, and allies to take action, to remove barriers, and to demonstrate love for their LGBTQ+ children, family members, and friends. In celebrating her 100th birthday, PFLAG National commits to continuing to carry that torch of advocacy until equal rights are extended to all people, inclusive of LGBTQ+ people,” said PFLAG National Executive Director Brian K. Bond.

Manford was born in Flushing, Queens and was a graduate of Queens College. In her career, she was a math teacher from 1964-1990. In recent years, the Manford family has taken its place in history. Shortly after her death in 2013, Manford was honored with the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal by President Barack Obama. A plaque now marks the historic site of the first PFLAG meeting at Church of the Village in Manhattan. In 2014, the street in front of the Manford family home at 171st St. between 33rd and 35th Aves. in Flushing, Queens was renamed “Jeanne, Jules, Morty Manford PFLAG Way.” On May 20, 2017, the Jackson Heights Station of the U.S. Post Office was dedicated to Jeanne and Jules Manford. The Manford family, including granddaughter Avril Swann, continues championing the work of PFLAG.


Join us: This story is made possible with the help of qnotes’ contributors. If you’d like to show your support so qnotes can provide more news, features and opinion pieces like this, give a regular or one-time donation today.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.