Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Estelle Griswold

Sexual rights pioneer Estelle Trebert was born in Hartford Connecticut. In her early years she attended Hartt College of Music to study singing. At age 27, she married Richard Griswold who worked in advertising and insurance. The couple moved to Washington DC, where Estelle studied medicine at George Washington University. After World War II, she worked with the United Nations on relief efforts, as well as other in relief organizations across the globe. During her travels, she was highly disturbed by the lack of information about, and accessibility to, proper contraceptives among the poor.

When she returned to Connecticut, where nineteenth century laws prohibited birth control, Griswold became a leader in the battle for the right to contraceptives and reproductive counseling as the executive Director of Planned Parenthood in that state. making it the organization that it is today. In Connecticut, women relied on their husbands to buy their birth control for them, as they were not legally permitted to do so for themselves. Griswold fought against this and arranged for women to have transportation to nearby states where they could obtain proper obstetrical health care. In 1961, she opened a clinic in Connecticut where her team dispensed contraceptives - illegally. According to the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame records, her arrest, prosecution and vindication by the Supreme Court, “fundamentally altered constitutional law and the definition of privacy.” Griswold v. Connecticut, was one of the first cases to successfully affirm women’s rights and sexual privacy. It paved the way for many other legal battles (such as the establishment of abortion rights in Roe v. Wade) by allowing married couples to have the right to contraceptives, thus setting a precedent for a woman’s right to privacy. This, in turn, became a legal argument for legislative and court decisions that voided anti-sodomy laws and legalized gay marriage.

Further research on Estelle Griswold can be done at the New Haven Colony Historical Society, New Haven, CT.
Victoria Gherardi, October 24, 2016