Nearly every year, Frances Goldin attends New York City Pride holding a sign that reads “I adore my lesbian daughters. Keep them safe.”
This newspaper image showing a woman holding a sign that reads “I adore my lesbian daughters. Keep them safe” has been floating all around the internet for quite some time now — maybe you’ve seen it?
And there are a bunch of other photographs — of the same woman and the same sign — from pride celebrations over the years.
Various photos of the same woman, usually dressed in purple, and her sign have been reblogged on Tumblr thousands of times and regularly make the rounds on Twitter.
Many people sharing the photo have set the date of the image on the left as 1994, but most don’t include the woman’s name or any backstory to explain who she is.
Here she is in 2015, just two days after the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage. Same sign, but now about 1,000 times more inspiring.
And here she is at the 2016 parade — same hat, same sign, same smile.
It’s no surprise people love sharing this photo — it’s inspiring! But what’s the story behind the sign she holds seemingly each and every year?
Her sign reads "I adore my lesbian daughters, keep them safe" she hasn't put it down once pic.twitter.com/ImIE93DDG7
— Nina Godlewski (@NinaGodlewski) June 26, 2016
A quick Google search brings up a 1997 Washington Post article covering the New York City Pride Parade that mentions her by name:
“I adore my lesbian daughters, keep them safe,” said a sign held by 73-year-old Frances Goldin, who said society allows discrimination against gays and lesbians. She said her two daughters were marching in the parades in Portland, Ore., and San Francisco. Goldin said people had approached her with their phone numbers, asking: “Can I adopt you as my mother?”She said she’ll call them. “Difference enriches us all,” she said.
It turns out that this woman, Frances Goldin, has been attending NYC Pride for over 30 years with that sign. Her daughters, Reeni and Sally Goldin (pictured below) currently reside in New Paltz, New York, and San Francisco, California.
Both Sally, 70, and Reeni, 68, grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City with their parents and came out as lesbians soon after New York City’s first Pride Parade in 1970. The event is held annually on the last Saturday in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots.
Neither of Goldin’s daughters can remember exactlywhen their mother first started attending Pride — though Goldin, now 92, insisted to BuzzFeed News that she’s been attending “since the beginning.”
“Since the beginning of the parade, I’ve been going and waving my sign,” Goldin said. “It sort of hit a nerve with people, particularly those whose parents rejected them. The response to the sign is always so great — it urges me to keep going.”
Reeni told BuzzFeed her mother simply “believes in equality and fairness and what’s right.”
“She really puts her money where her mouth is. She works for it. That’s her life. That’s just who she is.”
The sign itself was painted by a city planner, a dear friend of Goldin’s, because she believed you justcouldn’t be at the parade without a sign. The message, “I adore my lesbian daughters,” instantly caught the attention of other parade attendees.
The original sign didn’t include, “Keep them safe.” That was added in 1993 when Goldin attended the historical LGBT march on Washington, DC. She insisted that a protest sign must have “a demand,” so the second sentence was added. The back of the sign reads, “A proud parent of lesbians.”
According to her daughters, young people at the parade often run up to Goldin after seeing her sign and ask her to call or write letters to their unsupportive parents — and often Goldin did just that.
“Everybody would come running up to her and cry, kiss her, and say, ‘Would you call my mother?’ or ‘Would you be my mother?’” Sally explained. “She’s met people who she is still very close to at the parades. She’s a model for how parents should be behaving towards their kids.”
“She’d take down names and addresses and write letters to these kids’ mothers!” said Reeni. “She’s very extroverted. She loves the spotlight and she wears it well.”
When asked about all the young LGBT parade-goers who have begged her to speak to their own mothers, Goldin replied, “I think I changed a few people’s minds and I’m glad about that. Everyone should support their gay and lesbian children, they’re missing a lot in life if they don’t.”
Even when Goldin’s biological daughters couldn’t attend the parade, their mother would still go, sign in hand, often “adopting” other queer women as her daughters.
“My friends, young women who she knew, they would go along with her,” Reeni explained. “They would be her daughters. People would ask, ‘Are these your daughters?’ She would say yes! They clearly weren’t, but she would make them hers.”
“Whoever came with me, they were my daughters,” explained Goldin.
Not only does Goldin attend the parade just about every year (she did skip at least one year due to a heart attack), she sits in the exact same spot too — the northeast corner of 18th and 5th avenue.
Recently she’s been taking her wheelchair along, so she can rest when she grows tired of the heat and the crowd.
“I sit down and I relax if I’m tired. I get kissed more than you can imagine. People in the parade rush over and kiss me — it’s very rewarding,” Goldin said.
But Goldin’s amazing story goes well beyond Pride parades. She’s a New York literary agent, having founded the Frances Goldin Literary Agency in 1977, and acts a passionate activist for many causes — even in her advancing years.
As a literary agent, her clients have included Barbara Kingsolver, Adrienne Rich, and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
At 87 years old she participated in a 2011 Occupy Wall Street protest — decked out from head to toe in her favorite color — carrying a sign that read “I am 87 and mad as hell!”
“She doesn’t dabble,” Reeni said of her mother’s extreme passion. “She was never one to dabble in something. She’s been arrested 10 or 11 times. She was going for an even dozen, but didn’t make it. She just hangs on. She get’s something that’s important to her and she knows it’s the right thing to do.”
Goldin is also the center of an upcoming documentary It Took 50, which documents her fight to save a portion of the Lower East Side in New York City from development in the 1960s.
As for the “I adore my lesbian daughters” parade sign? She continues to keep the original in good shape and hopes to carry it, once again, next year.
“It’s very important to me and I’m very grateful that I’m able to carry it each year. I am now 92 years old and I hope to keep going for as long as I am able.”