Jeanne Manford, mother of gay rights activist Morty Manford, is best known as co-founder of the first support group for parents of gay children. Known as Parents of Gays (POG), the group was the predecessor to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians). The collection contains Manford's correspondence, administrative files, photographs, posters, speeches, printed material, and sound and video recordings related to her work on behalf of gay rights.
Biographical/historical: Jeanne Manford, mother of gay rights activist Morty Manford, is best known as co-founder of the first support group for parents of gay children. Know as Parents of Gays (POG), it was the predecessor to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
Manford had always supported her son, gay activist Morty Manford, but became active on behalf of gay rights after the police failed to intervene while he was kicked and beaten during a Gay Activists Alliance demonstration in April 1972. She wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Post, which was published in the April 29, 1972 issue, expressing her outrage at the incident. In that letter she also stated, "I have a homosexual son and I love him." The statement sparked much public response and drew attention to violence against gays.
In June of 1972 Manford joined her son in the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade (predecessor to NYC Gay Pride Parade), carrying a placard stating, "Parents of Gays Unite in Support for our Children." She assumed the cheers and encouragement heard from the crowd were for Dr. Benjamin Spock, who walked just behind her and her son. It wasn't until parade participants began to approach her and express gratitude for her presence with hugs and tears, asking Jeanne to speak with their own parents to help them understand, that she realized the cheers were for herself and her open support of gay children.
The Manfords had been discussing organizing a support group for parents of gay children; these events convinced them such a group was needed. About 20 people attended the first meeting on March 11, 1973. At first the group called itself Parents of Gays or POG. The group sought to give parents a place to ask questions, talk about their issues, and begin to better understand their children. Groups developed across New York and in other major American cities as the gay rights movement as a whole developed, and as Jeanne and husband Dr. Jules Manford spoke out for their cause through television, newspaper, and radio interviews.
By the early 1980s, the group formally established itself as a national organization fighting against discrimination against gay people in employment and housing. At about that time the name of the organization was changed to Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). PFLAG is now an international organization of parents, family members and friends working for understanding and support of their gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual loved ones. Their mission includes support, education, and advocacy.
Content: The papers of Jeanne Manford document Manford's involvement with POG (Parents of Gays), the predecessor organization of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), a homosexual support and educational group. The collection contains her correspondence and administrative files, photographs, newsletters, press releases, clippings, transcriptions of speeches, drafts of placard slogans, posters, printed material, and sound and video recordings, and mementos from Gay Pride parades.