Historic, but not famous

Craig Rodwell, activist, bookstore owner

Craig L. Rodwell (1940 – 1993) was a gay rights activist known for founding the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in 1967, the first bookstore in the United States devoted to gay and lesbian authors. He was one of the founders of the Pride Celebration in New York City and at the forefront of the movement in the early 1960’s.

Mr. Rockwell grew up in Chicago, moved to Boston after high school to study ballet and ended up in New York City in 1958. It was in New York that he first volunteered for a gay rights organization, The Mattachine Society of New York. When Rodwell opened the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in 1967, Harvey Milk, a former relationship,  dropped by frequently, and after moving to San Francisco Milk expressed his intention of opening a similar store “as a way of getting involved in community work.”  Rodwell’s bookshop had become a community gathering place in Greenwich Village.

Sip In at Julius’

Rodwell led a group at the Stone Wall Riots, produced newsletters and magazines for the homosexual population and was a loud voice in the gay rights movement who refused to use a pseudonym like many other activist in the movement. He led protests against the military for excluding homosexuals, a protest at the United Nations against Cuban detention and placement into workcamps of gays, and a Sip In at Julius’ to protest the (NY) State Liquor Authority rule against the congregation of gays in establishments that served alcohol.

Rodwell was the recipient of the 1992 Lambda Literary Award for Publisher’s Service. In March 1993, he sold his bookshop to Bill Offenbaker.  Mr. Rodwell died on June 18, 1993 of stomach cancer.

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