The Rainbow History Project (RHP) is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and promoting the history of LGBTQIA people in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Straight allies have been instrumental to that history. They recognized our humanity and used their privilege to advocate for the protection and equal treatment of people of different sexual and gender orientations from discrimination. As a country and a community, we still have a long way to go to achieve full equality for LGBTQIA people, but our history tells us that we have already come a long way. RHP collects our straight allies’ stories, because their stories are ours too and help to documents the continuing journey towards equality. One such straight ally is Paulette Goodman. Ms. Goodman recently generously donated her archives to RHP and sat down with one of RHP’s volunteers for an interview to share her story.
Born in Nazi occupied Paris, Paulette Goodman moved to the United States in 1949 and eventually settled with her family in Silver Spring, Maryland. Her daughter came out as a lesbian in 1981, beginning Ms. Goodman’s journey to educate herself about gays and lesbians and, ultimately, to educate others. Ms. Goodman founded a chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in 1983. In 1988, she became the president of the national PFLAG organization and continued in that position until 1992. As PFLAG’s president, she appeared on numerous television and radio programs. She was also instrumental in the first PFLAG ad campaign to appear on DC public transportation.
According to Ms. Goodman’s oral history, in 1989, she decided to write to Barbara Bush, who was then the First Lady of the United States. She sent the letter on June 28, 1989, the 20th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and appealed to the First Lady to speak kind words to the millions of gay and lesbian and Americans and their families. Mrs. Bush responded to Ms. Goodman’s letter. The First Lady thanked Ms. Goodman for her letter and expressed her firm belief “that we cannot tolerate discrimination against any individuals or groups in our country.” Ms. Goodman believes that the letter represents one of the first occasions on which a person at such a high level of the federal government spoke kindly toward gay and lesbian people.
The letter Ms. Goodman received from Mrs. Bush, as well as the many other artifacts in the Paulette Goodman Collection, are on file at the RHP’s archive in the Historical Society of Washington, and available for the public to view by appointment. Her oral history is also preserved in RHP’s archives. The Paulette Goodman Collection provides a wealth of information about the fight for LGBTQIA rights.
RHP is an all-volunteer organization that collects, preserves, and promotes oral histories, documents, photos, videos, objects, and ephemera, like Ms. Goodman’s letter from First Lady Barbara Bush. If you are interested in helping RHP carry out its mission, or are interested in viewing or contributing to the collection, please visit our web site.