Name: Ruth Ellis
Distinction: Was an African-American woman who became widely known as the oldest surviving open lesbian, and LGBT rights activist at the age of 100
Brief History: Her parents were born in the last years of slavery in Tennessee. Ellis’ mother died when she was a teen. She came out as a lesbian around 1915, and graduated from Springfield High School in 1919, at a time when fewer than seven percent of African Americans graduated from secondary school. In the 1920s, she met the only woman she ever lived with, Ceciline “Babe” Franklin. They moved together to Detroit, Michigan in 1937 where Ellis became the first American woman to own a printing business in that city. Throughout her life, Ellis was an advocate of the rights of gays and lesbians, and of African Americans. She died in her sleep at her home.
Importance: For those who think this struggle is new or someone the LGBT community materialized out of thin air twenty years ago, please check this woman out.