Ruth Ellis Center, 77 Victor St, Highland Park, MI 48203
Ruth Charlotte Ellis (July 23, 1899 – October 5, 2000) was an African-American woman who became widely known as the oldest surviving open lesbian, and LGBT rights activist at the age of 100, her life being celebrated in Yvonne Welbon's documentary film Living With Pride: Ruth C. Ellis @ 100.
Ellis was born in Springfield, Illinois, on July 23, 1899, to Charlie Ellis and Carrie Farro Ellis. She was the youngest of four children in the family and the only daughter. 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. She made a living printing stationery, fliers, and posters out of her house. Ellis and Franklin's house was also known in the African American community as the "gay spot". It was a central location for gay and lesbian parties, and also served as a refuge for African American gays and lesbians. Although Ellis and Franklin eventually separated, they were together for more than 30 years. Franklin died in 1973. 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 on October 5, 2000.
The Ruth Ellis Center honors the life and work of Ruth Ellis, and is one of only four agencies in the United States dedicated to homeless LGBT youth and young adults. Among their services are a drop-in center, street outreach program and licensed foster care home.
In 2013, she was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display which celebrates LGBT history and people.
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