Henry Gerber (June 29, 1892–December 31, 1972) was the founder of Chicago’s Society for Human Rights in 1924, the first gay rights organization in the United States. Henry Gerber was born in Bavaria as Joseph Henry Dittmar on June 29, 1892, and arrived at Ellis Island in October, 1913. With members of his family, he moved to Chicago because of its large German population. After working briefly at Montgomery Ward, he was interned as an alien during World War I. From 1920 to 1923 he served with the U.S. Army of Occupation of Germany and during this time, he came into contact with the German homosexual emancipation movement. He subscribed to German homophile magazines and was in contact with Magnus Hirschfeld's Scientific-Humanitarian Community in Berlin. In 1924, Gerber returned to Chicago and was hired by the post office. With several friends, Gerber formed an organization which was later incorporated as The Society for Human Rights, a nonprofit corporation in the State of Illinois. The organization published a newsletter, Friendship and Freedom, which was distributed to its small membership. In July, 1925, the society came to an abrupt end. The wife of one of the co-founders reported her husband, a reputed bisexual, to her social worker who contacted the police. Following a police raid, Gerber and several others were arrested and prosecuted for their deviancy. The case against Gerber was dismissed but he lost his entire life savings defending himself. After his ordeal, Gerber moved to New York City where he reenlisted in the U.S. Army and served for 17 years. During the 1930s he managed a personal correspondence club and wrote articles in gay publications under a pseudonym. The correspondence club became a national communications network for gay men. On December 31, 1972, Gerber died at the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home in Washington, D.C., at the age of 80. He lived to see the Stonewall Rebellion and the start of a new era of activist gay and lesbian liberation organizations.
Timeline & Places:
• June 29, 1892: born.
• 1920s: lived at 1710 North Crilly Court, Chicago, IL 60614, USA
• December 31, 1972: died. Buried at Soldiers Home Cemetery, Washington, Distretto di Columbia 20011, Stati Uniti. Memorial at Gerber Hart Library, 6500 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60626, Stati Uniti