Ruth Charlotte Ellis was an African American woman who became widely known as the oldest surviving open lesbian, and LGBT rights activist. Ellis came out as a lesbian around 1915 (with help from a psychology textbook). Ellis spent her days working for a printing company in Springfield, Illinois but after moving to Detroit, she opened her own press out of her West Side home. Her 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. 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. In 2009, she was inducted into the Michigan Hall of Fame. In 2013, she was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display which celebrates LGBT history and people.
Ruth Charlotte Ellis
July 23, 1899 – October 5, 2000
“Ruth is a gift to us in that she’s come out to the world, and in doing so she’s been able to share what it’s like to experience triple oppression – being a woman, being black, and being a lesbian.” - Dr. Kofi Adoma
Submitted by our members in 2020.