Jeanne Sobelson Manford (December 4, 1920 – January 8, 2013) was an American schoolteacher and activist. She co-founded the support group organization, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), for which she was awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal.
In April 1972, Manford and her husband Jules were at home in Flushing, Queens, when they learned from a hospital’s telephone call that her son Morty, a gay activist, had been beaten while distributing flyers inside the fiftieth annual Inner Circle dinner, a political gathering in New York City. Reports stated that Morty was “kicked and stomped” while being led away by police. In response, she wrote a letter of protest to the New York Post that identified herself as the mother of a gay protester and complained of police inaction. She gave interviews to radio and television shows in several cities in the weeks that followed, always accompanied by her husband or son.
I have a homosexual son and I love him.Jeanne Manford
On June 25, she participated with her son in the New York Pride March, carrying a hand-lettered sign that read “Parents of Gays Unite in Support for Our Children”. Manford recalled in a 1996 interview the cheers she received in the parade, and that the “young people were hugging me, kissing me, screaming, asking if I would talk to their parents. Prompted by this enthusiastic reception, Manford and her husband developed an idea for an organization of the parents of gays and lesbians that could be, she later said, “a bridge between the gay community and the heterosexual community.
They were soon holding meetings for such parents, with her husband participating as well. She called him “a very articulate person … a much better speaker than I. The first meeting of the group—then called Parents of Gays—was attended by about 20 people, and was held at the Metropolitan-Duane Methodist Church, now the Church of the Village.
Her son’s attacker went on to testify for gay rights on behalf of teamsters’ union president Barry Feinstein more than a decade later, and formed a cordial relationship with Morty.