The First LGBT Rights Organization in the United States
The Society for Human Rights, established in Chicago in 1924, is granted an official State of Illinois Charter on December 24, 1924, making it the oldest documented homosexual organization in the nation. Founder Henry Gerber – who was inspired by Germany's Doctor Magnus Hirschfeld and his work with the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee – also produced the first American publication for homosexuals, Friendship and Freedom. In 1925, a few months after being officially chartered by the State of Illinois, members of the group – including Gerber – were arrested on “obscenity” charges, the result of a tip provided by one of the members’ wives. Though the charges were eventually dropped, the legal fees bankrupted Gerber and the scandal cost him his job with the U.S. Postal Service. As a result, the group was forced to disband before it could fully embark on its mission to promote tolerance and understanding of homosexuality. Despite its brief existence and its small size, the Society for Human Rights is recognized as the first homosexual rights organization in the United States – a precursor to the modern gay liberation movement that would not come about until three decades later. Gerber – whose name graces LGBT Chicago’s Gerber-Hart Library and Archives – is widely regarded as a visionary who anticipated strategies others would one day use with great success.
Nations Affiliated United States
Era/Epoch Interwar Period (1918-1939)
Commemorations & Honors
Henry Gerber House Named a Chicago Historic Landmark (2001)
Henry Gerber House Named a National Historic Landmark (2015)