Researching Marilyn Fowler

by Jonathan Ned Katz
May 31, 2019; Last Edit June 11, 2019

After OutHistory published the New York City police reports naming Marilyn Fowler as one of the arrestees on the first night of the Stonewall Resistance, I began to try to learn more about Fowler.

If anyone has additional information about Fowler, please email me at

Because I did not ask my early informants' permission to use their names, I am not doing so now.

First informant: In 2009, at a public forum, I asked a lesbian who was one of the panelists, and who had been involved in the early days of gay and lesbian liberation, if she knew anything about Fowler.

She answered that she knew Marilyn Fowler and she was "wacko" (exclamation point). When I tried to ask more about Fowler, she said she doubted that Fowler had been at the Stonewall. When I started to explain that there was a police record of Fowler's arrest, the informant walked away from me quickly as if determined to say no more. It was intense. I'm not sure why she was so determined not to tell me more.

A second informant was a male involved in the early days of gay liberation in New York. He emailed me (the following text has been edited for typos, nothing of substance has been changed):

I knew Marilyn Fowler. She was quite a troubled young lesbian who, if I remember correctly, was a "speed freak" and did not get along with the lesbians I knew and preferred hanging with the street kids.

I believe she had been banned from Cookies the mob run women's bar on 14th st.

Having actually witnessed the incident in the early part of the evening when two police officers came to collect their payoff I can tell you that the older, very butch "passing woman" who was handcuffed and placed inside the police car by one of the two police offers present -- when the police officer who had locked her in the police car went back inside -- was NOT Marilyn Fowler. Totally different body type etc.

I saw the unnamed passing woman begin to rock the police car attracting the attention of the people on the street and to her surprise, her arresting officer had left one door unlocked. She slipped out of both her loosely locked handcuffs and the back seat of the police car. The crowd roared and she rose to her butch occasion. She threw her bulky body against the police car and began to rock it. This, in my view, was the Stonewall moment. The spark that ignited a desire for freedom from oppression. The Stonewall rebellion against invisibility and oppression.

It spread immediately like a prairie fire. A loud cheer went up from the crowd. One of the two police officers came out saw the crowd gathered and immediately went back inside and called the local precinct and asked for help. This is what I witnessed. it is not the official police account as reported in Stonewall Riot. But it is what I actually saw..

As to. Ms. Fowler, I have not seen her in many years. But I suggest you might want to contact Michela Griffo active In the lesbian community pre- and post-Stonewall and a former board member of AVP.

A third informant who had been involved in the feminist group Redstockings asked another participant in the group if she recalled Fowler. My informant reported:

An informant who wishes to remain anonymous recalls “that Marilyn Fowler used to come to meetings of the Redstockings in 1969,” held at the West 4th Street Methodist Church. “She was always raging about something that had nothing to do with our meetings, which in those days had a primary focus of educating the public with regard to changing the abortion laws in New York State. We had to escort her out of several meetings and finally, she stopped coming.”

The same informant reports “a vague memory of Marilyn” as being about five feet, four inches in height with “curly brownish/blondish hair and slightly overweight.”

A fourth informant told me about interviewing the late Raymond Castro and others about their experience at Stonewall:

When he was put in the patrol wagon he was put in with a lesbian, among others, and I questioned him very carefully about her but he remembered nothing of her name, but maybe if it was Marilyn Fowler he was arrested with her name will ring a bell. He gave me a very detailed description of her appearance and clothing, so if someone claims to be the Marilyn Fowler and Ray says that he remembers that name, we can check out her appearance both then and now.  Ray's lawyer got him and the lesbian off. I don't think I asked him her height, so you could ask him that. . . .
. . . I asked everyone [interviewed] if they knew other people who were arrested, etc., and no one ever gave the names "Marilyn" or "Fowler," in fact, I never got a single name of any female for any day or night, other than the person who wrote the letter in the Duke U. archives and for her we have only a first name and she was a witness, not a resister, at least when everything started.
Fifth informant: In 2009 I interviewed Raymond Castro and asked him: Do you remember anything about who else was in the paddy wagon with you, and how they looked? He answered:

The lesbian was slim, dark short hair, not really feminine or masculine, I don't remember much else.

A further email to women who had been members of Red Stockings did not result in any further memories of Fowler.

In 2011 OutHistory received the following email:

I completely respect the project being done here as we work to understand more history of queer communities. That said, as a person who works with folks struggling with the long-term ramifications of their arrest records being publicly searchable, I feel some concern about the publishing of people's names and arrest records to a public mailing list. Assuming these arrests did not result in convictions, the folks in question have the right to have these records sealed and not to have their privacy compromised.

I think there may have been a more responsible way to frame this that still could have resulted in people coming forward with information - for example, naming these folks and simply saying you have evidence that they were at the event without explicitly naming them as parties who were arrested. 

We have a responsibility to preserve our community history, but also to protect and respect the privacy and rights of the people in that community. I hope this project can foster a productive dialog about how we can do both.

My sixth informant was Michela Griffo, who emailed me on June 4, 2019, and gave me permission to use her name. (I have made minor edits for clarity. Nothing of substance has been changed.)

About Marilyn...I wish I could give you more details. I only saw her once and she was being escorted out of a Redstockings meeting as I was walking in. It was at Washington Square Methodist Church in 1969. My recollection is quite faint.  As I said, she was a physically small, short woman with darkish blonde curly hair. She was yelling obscenities and did seem to be mentally unstable.
After that incident, I did hear stories from other women about her but it was always the same "Oh, did you hear, Marilyn got thrown out of a NOW meeting or another protest activity." After Stonewall, the word went out that it was Marilyn Fowler who was the lesbian who was arrested. It definitely WAS NOT Storme.