A feminist bookstore uplifting female & marginalized voices
Insights from Sarah Hollenbeck, Women & Children First (Andersonville)
In the 1990’s there were over 100 feminist bookstores in the US… today only 13 remain. Women & Children First (W&CF) is one of them, and it’s easy to sense the history and community that support it. Their mission says it all: “to promote the writing of women and other marginalized voices.”
W&CF’s founders, Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon, started the business in 1979, a time when it was nearly impossible to find female authors in print. Ann and Linda were active in second wave feminism, and they wanted their contribution to the omen’s movement to be a bookstore devoted to promoting the writing of women and other marginalized voices. They also made a point of including a robust children’s section so that mothers would feel welcome.
Today, Sarah Hollenbeck and Lynn Mooney are W&CF’s owners. Sarah worked at the Tribune and then attended Northwestern University where she studied Creative Nonfiction. After graduating and working at Independent Publishers Group and as a freelancer, Sarah always kept a part time job at a bookstore: “I didn’t think of bookstores as a real job. It’s something that I loved so much that I wanted it to be my real job. The dream was to someday be hired at an independent bookstore.”
She was already a customer at W&CF, and after completing her masters she was thrilled to become an employee. About a month into her new job, Linda and Ann took her aside and revealed that they were planning to retire soon. A national search for new owners ensued. Sarah and Lynn, a manager at the time, had shared concerns: “We were worried that it wasn’t going to maintain its feminist mission when it changed ownership … we really knew [W&CF] from the inside out.”
After a thorough search process, Linda and Ann chose Sarah and Lynn’s business proposal and passed ownership onto them.
It’s clear that Women & hildren First has remained a central part of the neighborhood community. Customers are greeted like old friends (some most likely are!) and have the opportunity to discuss authors with the knowledgable owners and founders, who can always be found around the store.
When was the last time clicking “check out” on Amazon gave you that experience?
You can browse the rows of feminist lit, LGBTQ fiction & nonfiction, critical race theory, children’s books, and so much more for yourself.