Ruth Charlotte Ellis celebrated her one hundredth birth in 1899 and was thought to be the oldest lesbian at that time! Her life is celebrated in Yvonne Welbon’s documentary film, “Living With Pride: Ruth C. Ellis@ 100.”
Finding Lesbian Herstory
Young lesbians today, have an opportunity to find out the herstory of their Rainbow Sisters. I encourage them because of the risks these older women took to live their lives with integrity and pride. For many of these older lesbians, their ‘coming out’ was the reality of being abused by the media, churches and even their own families. Many of these older lesbians remained ‘behind the scenes’ for various reasons but used their money and time to nourish the LGBTI community. Many meetings and dances were held in secret. Back then, two gay men and two lesbians would often form two ‘straight’ couples and go dancing. While the males would not dance with each other, the women often could.
The Life of Ruth Charlotte Ellis.
Born in Springfield, Illinois on July 23, 1899 to Charlie Ellis and Carrie Farro Ellis, she was the youngest of our children. She had three brothers. Her parents were born in the last years of slavery in the state of Tennessee. In her teens, Rose suffered the loss of her mother.
Coming Out and Being Educated
It must have been an extremely brave act to “come out” as a lesbian when she was approximately 16 years of age. When she graduated from Springfield High School in 1919, she was in an elite but small seven percentage of African Americans who had graduated from high school.
Moving to Detroit, Michigan
Ruth fell in love with Ceciline “Babe” Franklin and the couple moved together to Detroit, Michigan. Ruth and Babe were a force to be reckoned with in straight society. In 1937, Ruth became the first American woman to own a printing business in that city. She made a living printing stationery, fliers and posts out of her house.
The “Gay Spot.”
Ruth and Babe’s home became the meeting place of gays and lesbians. It was known as the “Gay Spot.” It was idea for gay and lesbian parties. It was a refuge place for African American gays and lesbians who either got kicked out of their homes/communities or escaped from them and need a room and board for a while. After 30 years or so, Ruth and Babe separated. Babe died in 1973. Ruth lived on and died in her sleep at her home on October 5, 2000.
The Ruth Ellis Centre
The above building donors the life and work of Ruth Ellis. It is one of only four agencies in the United Stated decided to homeless LGBT youth and young adults. Amongst their services are a drop-in centre, street outreach program and licensed foster care home.
HONORED IN LEGACY WALK.