Jeanne Manford: The Jewish Woman Who Advocated For Her Gay Son

This June Keshet is so very excited to be partnering with the Jewish Women’s Archive to celebrate Pride. Each week we will bring you a profile of a different individual who has helped break down barriers and fight for her community as an LGBTQ (or ally) Jewish woman. To discover even more amazing, groundbreaking, Jewish women visit JWA.

In her founding of PFLAG, Jeanne Manford did what most moms do best: defend their children against adversity.

Manford’s son, Morty, came out to his parents when he was 15 years old; his older brother had committed suicide a short while before.  Morty attended Columbia University, started a group for gay men there in 1968, participated in the Stonewall Riots, and was brutally beaten for distributing pro-gay flyers at a New York gala in 1972.

Manford wrote a letter to the New York Post protesting his treatment by the police, and in that same year, Manford walked alongside Morty at that year’s Christopher Street Liberation Day March holding a sign urging other parents to support their gay children. Her sign read: “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.”

As the story goes, she heard loud cheers when she was walking, and she assumed people were cheering for Dr. Benjamin Spock, the baby whisperer of the day, who was walking behind her.  But in fact, the cheers were for Manford, and the sign she carried in support of her child.

In 1973, Manford formed Parents of Gays, the predecessor organization to PFLAG, which now boasts over 200,000 members nationwide.

Manford passed away in 2013 and was posthumously awarded the Citizens Medal by President Obama. Her legacy remains—thanks to the actions of one schoolteacher from New York, parents have a place to learn together, grow together, and support their children.

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  • Get Support: The Keshet Parent & Family Connection: When a child comes out, it can be a major life change for the whole family. It might raise new questions, fears, challenges, and opportunities. The Keshet Parent and Family Connection is a diverse network of parents and family members of LGBTQ Jews across the country who are available to offer support to other parents dealing with any stage of their child’s coming out process.

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