Betty DeGeneres

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Betty DeGeneres
Betty DeGeneres LA Pride 2011.jpg
DeGeneres supporting PFLAG at the Los Angeles LGBT pride parade in 2011
Elizabeth Jane Pfeffer

(1930-05-20) May 20, 1930 (age 88)
Elliott DeGeneres
(m. 1952; div. 1974)

Roy Gruessendorf
ChildrenVance DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres

Elizabeth Jane "Betty" DeGeneres (née Pfeffer; born May 20, 1930) is an American LGBT rights activist and former speech therapist.[1] She is the mother of Ellen and Vance DeGeneres and the first straight spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign's National Coming Out Project[2] and an active member of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). She gained notability following her daughter Ellen's highly publicized coming out in 1997.[3]

Life and career[edit]

DeGeneres (right) in 1997

The youngest of three daughters, DeGeneres was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1930, during the height of the Great Depression.[4] Her father was German and her mother was Irish.[3]

Her sisters (Helen and Audrey) were not involved in day-to-day family life while DeGeneres was in her late teens, but the sisters did become close in adulthood.[4] She attended Louisiana State University (LSU) for two years, studying speech. While in college she performed in a number of plays with Joanne Woodward, who would go on to be an Academy Award-winning actress.[3] She married Elliott DeGeneres in 1952. The couple divorced in 1974. DeGeneres returned to LSU after the age of 50 to complete her master's degree in speech pathology.[4] She is now married to Roy Gruessendorf.

DeGeneres is the author of two books: Love, Ellen: A Mother Daughter Journey and Just a Mom.[5] In Love, Ellen: A Mother Daughter Journey, Betty describes her reaction to her daughter coming out as a lesbian, and her path from passive acceptance to becoming a passionate advocate for LGBT rights.[6][7] She also describes the media scrutiny she received after Ellen came out. Her second book, Just a Mom, continues these themes. She also wrote a column for the (now defunct) website PlanetOut called "Ask Betty."[8]

DeGeneres appeared as an extra in the episode "The Puppy Episode" of the television sitcom Ellen, in which her daughter Ellen's character comes out. DeGeneres appears in many episodes of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, sitting in the audience.[4]

DeGeneres is a breast cancer survivor and discusses this during public appearances.[9]


  1. ^ "Mother of Comedian Ellen DeGeneres Is Dream Mom for Gays/Support for daughter leads to activism". SFGate. Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  2. ^ "Yep, I'm an activist: Betty DeGeneres, Ellen's mom, agrees to serve as spokeswoman for HRC's coming-out project", The Advocate, October 28, 1997
  3. ^ a b c "Betty DeGeneres". THE LAVENDER EFFECT®. 2015-01-24. Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  4. ^ a b c d "'America's Mom' Betty DeGeneres Discusses Ellen, Parenting, and Lady Gaga". Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  5. ^ "Betty DeGeneres". Goodreads. Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  6. ^ Degeneres, Betty (2000-04-26). Love, Ellen: A Mother/Daughter Journey. Harper Collins. ISBN 9780688176884.
  7. ^ "Ellen DeGeneres' Mom Remembers How She Came Out as Gay". 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2017-08-10.
  8. ^ "PlanetOut Gay and Lesbian Internet Site and Betty DeGeneres, Author And Spokesmom, Launch New Online Advice Channel 'Ask Betty' to Celebrate Gay Pride Weekend 1999". Retrieved 2012-02-21.[dead link]
  9. ^ "DeGeneres on a mission: Breast cancer awareness -". Retrieved 2017-05-10.

External links[edit]