The Mom Who Invented PFLAG

Jeanne Manford, founder of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), died in January. She was 92. In 1972, this modest, bespectacled elementary school teacher, got fed up with how a homophobic world was treating her gay son, Morty. She marched side by side with him in a Greenwich Village parade. She carried a hand-lettered sign that read PARENTS OF GAYS UNITE IN SUPPORT OF OUR CHILDREN. These plainspoken words, coming from the depths of a Jewish mother’s heart, galvanized the nascent gay rights movement. Soon, Manford found herself leading a grass-roots group that eventually became PFLAG, a national organization that today has more than 200,000 members. Morty died of AIDS in 1992. In a eulogy to this remarkable woman, the openly lesbian news commentator Rachel Maddow said that because of Manford, gay pride parades today are full of “totally normal, average, straight parents” publicly proclaiming their love for their kids — a sight that never fails to bring Maddow to tears.