Craig L. Rodwell



Craig L. Rodwell-was born in 1940 in Chicago, Illinois. When he was less than a year old, his mother Marion enrolled him in the Chicago Junior School, affiliated with the Christian Science Church. Describing those years, Rodwell characterized them as significant in giving him a lifelong affinity for the teachings of Christian Science, specifically that "truth is the highest good;" and for providing him with early opportunities to experiment with same-sex relationships, which enabled him to think of himself as gay from a young age without the guilt and confusion that many other young people experienced. One of his lovers was an older man from whom Rodwell first learned about the Mattachine Society. He resolved to join it when he reached the required age of 21.

Rodwell moved to New York in 1958, where he volunteered at the Mattachine Society, although he became disappointed at the group's lack of activism. In 1961, he had a brief relationship with Harvey Milk, the future gay rights activist and San Francisco city supervisor. Milk's termination of their affair led Rodwell to attempt suicide, which resulted in his being hospitalized for several weeks.

In early 1964 he created Mattachine Young Adults, which increased membership and eventually brought some of Rodwell's more militant friends into its leadership. He was also an early member of East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) and the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO), and from 1964 to 1969 was a participant in the Annual Reminder demonstrations in Philadelphia, in which neatly-dressed lesbians and gay men picketed in front of Independence Hall on the Fourth of July. The idea of creating a bookstore devoted to serious writing by gay authors came to Rodwell in the mid-1960s. In late 1967, he opened the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, which quickly became an informal community center in Greenwich Village, as well as the headquarters for an organization Rodwell started, the Homophile Youth Movement in Neighborhoods (HYMN). During the Stonewall riots of June 1969, Rodwell produced and distributed leaflets under HYMN's aegis, calling for an end to the Mafia and police presence in gay bars.

In the aftermath of Stonewall, and with the emergence of the gay liberation movement in the 1970s, Rodwell's activism increased further. He was a founder of the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee, which staged annual demonstrations, later known as the Gay Pride Marches, on the anniversary of the riots, and was among the creators of Gay People in Christian Science (GPICS) in 1978. After testing hiv negative in 1992, he died in June of 1993 of cancer.