Jeanne Manford, who was 92 years old, launched PFLAG in 1973, months after accompanying her gay son in New York City’s Christopher Street Liberation Day March, a precursor to today’s Pride parades, according to PFLAG.
Manford, then a schoolteacher living in New York, carried a sign that read “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.”
During and after the march, many young gay and lesbian participants approached Manford and asked her to speak to their own parents. Those requests helped plant the seed for PFLAG, originally called Parents FLAG, and the first formal meeting was held in 1973.
As word of the parents’ support group spread, similar groups began meeting nationwide, and a movement was born. Today, PFLAG has more than 350 chapters and 200,000 supporters nationwide, according to the organization’s website.
Julia Thoron, Chair of San Francisco’s PFLAG chapter, described Manford as a quiet woman who was spurred to action after her son was beaten in a homophobic attack.
“She had the strength of her convictions, and it was that her son deserved the protection of society and didn’t deserve to be beaten up,” Thoron said.
In a 2009 speech, President Barack Obama called Manford’s work “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.”
A private memorial and burial will be held for Manford, and PFLAG officials said a later celebration of the founder’s life is also in the works.
Manford’s family requests that any donations be made to the Jeanne Manford Legacy Fund to support the ongoing work of PFLAG National. Donations may be sent to 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 660, Washington, D.C. 20036 or made online at https://community.pflag.org/manfordlegacyfund.
Laura Dixon, Bay City News