100-year-old Ruth Ellis exudes a feisty spirit and what the Boston Globe calls a “matter-of-fact pride.” An “icon” in the lesbian and gay community, Ellis has been dubbed the “oldest ‘out’ African-American” known. Since the age of 12, Ellis grew up without a mother, under the eyes of a father who supported her education and discouraged attention from boys. Like many lesbians in America today, Ellis tells the story of high school crushes on female teachers and catching glimpses of a gay lifestyle in novels like Radclyffe Hall’s “The Well of Loneliness.” A strong woman who sustained a 30-year romantic partnership with Ceceline “Babe” Franklin, Ellis’s years have offered her a unique perspective on society. She is surprised at being called an “inspiration” by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, but her simple stance on homophobia is enough to inspire anyone: it baffles her why anyone would hate another human being.
A documentary on her life, called “Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis at 100,” directed by Yvonne Welbon, will air on the cable Sundance Film Channel next Monday.