March On

Former Massachusetts state representative Elaine Noble recalls organizing the Boston Pride parade.

boston pride parade

photograph by Spencer Grant/Getty Images

Boston Pride Parade, 1977.

I remember it well. I organized the first Boston gay parade in 1969. Stonewall had just happened in New York, and all of that was going on. So I called up a few friends and said, ‘We should do something here in Boston.’ We didn’t know we were supposed to get a permit. We got about 75 people and marched from Charles Street, then spun around and went through the Common. By the time we got there, we only had 35 people left. The next year I went down to City Hall to get a permit.

This photo was taken when [singer and gay-rights opponent] Anita Bryant had come to town [in 1977]. Everybody was very angry at her. I was a Massachusetts state representative at the time, running in the U.S. Senate race that brought Anita to town. One of the right-wing candidates who paid for her to visit told me he was tired of having his face on the back page of the Globe, so he was bringing Anita to town to get better press for his candidacy.

I can’t remember the exact date when I was last involved as an organizer, but it was in the ’80s. It was a very sensitive, trying time—AIDS was rampant and nobody wanted to talk about it. I could have never, back then in the ’60s, ’70s, and even early ’80s, imagined the extent of the advances people have made. Look at the wonderful advances we’ve made in terms of healthcare, couples’ benefits, marriage. It’s ­interesting—when change happens, it starts slowly, and you take one step back and two steps forward. And finally the momentum gets started.”

—Elaine Noble, former ­Massachusetts state representative and Boston Pride parade organizer