Handwritten recommendations are taped to shelves and stuffed between pages, Dixie Chicks’ newest release plays in the background and neon hot-pink signs hang throughout the store, “lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, queer books this-a-way,” pointing customers to a section that takes up nearly half the space. Opening in 1979, in Lincoln Park on West Armitage Avenue, Women and Children First had maybe a shelf of lesbian literature, says Linda Bubon, co-owner of the store. Business grew every year for the first fourteen years, allowing them to expand and move twice since 1990, until it reached its present location in Andersonville.
“For Ann [Christophersen, the other owner] and I, deciding to be owners was seen as kind of politically incorrect at the time. We really had to prove ourselves.” Battling for years with the major bookstore chains, Women and Children First has been holding its own. Bubon recalls one struggle involving the American Book Association in which Women and Children First received $10,000, which “was used to buy our beautiful awnings,” says Bubon, looking out the front window. “We’ve been fighting the fight against chains decimating independents locally and nationally.” Taking into account the free programs provided such as book clubs, author readings, discussions and story time for thirty-to-forty toddlers a week, Bubon says the store does essentially what a women’s center might do. Which led to the start of their newest not-for-profit project, entitled The Women’s Voices Fund, which was established to help with feminist programming at the store while providing a unique focus on women’s lives, ideas and work. The store also prides itself on its children’s section and business in children’s books.
Bubon notes, all people buy books for their children…even conservatives. An application to be a part of this staff may include an author ID list (and you better know who Gloria Steinem is) and the question “do you consider yourself a feminist?” And on every application, the answer is yes. And you thought feminism was dead. “Oh, they say that every ten years or so,” Bubon laughs. “The women’s movement has never gotten smaller, it has done nothing but grow.” (Leah Westfall)
Women & Children First, 5233 North Clark, (773)769-9299 www.womenandchildrenfirst.com