African-American woman known for her activism for LGBT rights in the early 20th century
Image: open source
Springfield, Illinois, USA
Printing shop owner
Ruth Ellis was an African-American woman who was widely known in the Detroit community for her long-standing open support and activism for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual rights. She came out as a lesbian around 1915—a potentially dangerous move for anyone at the time, but even more so for a black woman. She and her partner, Ceciline Franklin, moved to Detroit in the 1930s where Ellis opened the first printing business owned by a woman in that city. Their house was as a haven for LGBT African Americans. Ellis was known for her generosity and helping young people, especially with educational costs. Inspired by her, some of her friends opened the Ruth Ellis Center to provide social services for runaway, homeless, and at risk LGBT youth. The Center, however, will not turn away any youth in crisis regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Ellis is honored in the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame for her activism and for her leadership in business.