IPR is featuring research and some of the many LGBTQ+ pioneers who have impacted the world today in celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

Henry Gerber was born in Bavaria, Germany, as Joseph Henry Dittmar in 1892. He changed his name when he arrived in the United States in 1913 and settled in Chicago due to its large German population. 

Gerber served in the U.S. Army of Occupation from 1920 to 1923 in Germany. While there, he was exposed to the German homosexual emancipation movement and became inspired. He returned to Chicago in 1924 and established The Society for Human Rights, the first chartered organization in the U.S. that advocated for gay rights.

The organization published a newsletter called “Friendship and Freedom,” which was the earliest documented gay periodical. However, the society abruptly ended in 1925 when Gerber and others were arrested and prosecuted following a police raid. Gerber was eventually cleared of charges but lost his life savings and job.

After the arrest, Gerber moved to New York City and reenlisted in the U.S. Army and served for 17 more years. During the 1930s, he managed a correspondence club for gay men and wrote articles under a pseudonym in gay publications.

Gerber died in 1972. The Henry Gerber House, where he first started The Society for Human Rights, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001 and is still preserved today.


Henry Gerber – The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame

Henry Gerber – PBS

LGBTQ Activism: The Henry Gerber House, Chicago, IL – National Park Service

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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