PFLAG Founder Dies at Age 92

The world has lost a pathbreaker. Jeanne Manford, founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), passed away today, barely a month after celebrating her 92nd birthday.

Manford, a schoolteacher, founded PFLAG in support of her gay son Morty Manford and other families with gay children. In 1972, after New York City police did nothing to prevent Morty from being assaulted during a gay rights march, she wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Post, expressing her anger and asserting, “My son is a homosexual, and I love him.” Manford also participated that year in the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade (predecessor to NYC Gay Pride Parade), carrying a sign urging, “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of our Children.” The next year, at the urging of members of the gay and lesbian community, she founded the organization that would become PFLAG. PFLAG now has more than 350 chapters and over 200,000 members in the United States alone.

Manford and her husband, Jules Manford,  had three children: Charles (who passed away in 1966), her son Morty (who passed away in 1992), and her daughter Suzanne Swan (who survives her). She is also survived by her son-in-law Richard Swan, her granddaughter, Avril Swan and her husband Stuart Streepy, and her great-granddaughters, Clara, Grace and Jules. Suzanne Swan said in a statement, “I will miss my mother tremendously. She is known to thousands of people as the mother of the straight ally movement, but to me—she was my mother. She was someone who would always do the right thing, the good thing. She supported all people, and that meant so much to us growing up.”

My condolences to her family, to PFLAG, and to everyone whose lives she touched, directly or indirectly. A mother’s love can change the world.

PFLAG informs us:

A private interment service will be held and details of a later celebration of Jeanne Manford’s life and legacy will be announced. The family requests that any donations be made to the Jeanne Manford Legacy Fund to support the ongoing work of PFLAG National: 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 660, Washington, DC 20036.