Reed-ing Between the Lines – by Liz Highleyman

Though not well-known today, female-to-male philanthropist Reed Erickson provided funding for one of the first US gay organizations and some of the earliest services for transgender people.

Originally named Rita, Erickson, who was born in 1917 in El Paso, Texas, grew up in Philadelphia, attending the Philadelphia High School for Girls and taking secretarial courses at Temple University.

In the 1930s, the family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Erickson became the first woman to graduate from Louisiana State University with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1946.

After completing school, Erickson returned to Philadelphia for a few years, living in a butch/femme lesbian relationship, and working as an engineer. There, she came under FBI surveillance, because of her involvement with progressive causes and leftist groups.