This week, Laura and Joelle are joined by Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck, co-owners of Women & Children First, one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country. Women & Children First started as a modest storefront in 1979 and moved to its current location at 5233 N. Clark St. in 1990.
“We really pride ourselves on being an intersectional feminist bookstore… meaning we acknowledge and celebrate all of the ways the different ‘isms’ are connected.”
– Sarah Hollenbeck
Listen to Episode 29 with Lynn and Sarah!
Here are some references from Episode 29 that you may want to check out:
- Women & Children First (WCF) was founded in 1979 by co-founders Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon. Learn more about the history here.
- Lynn started at WCF as a book seller and was later promoted to manager. She had worked at the store for six years before purchasing the business. Before working at the store, Lynn worked in the book publishing industry for about 25 years. She was on the editorial side and worked for some major publishers.
- Sarah, before becoming co-owner at WCF, worked as a bookseller at a number of bookstores, including Barnes and Noble, Borders and other independent stores. Before that, she also worked for a local publisher called Independent Publishers Group.
- Lynn and Sarah bought the store from Ann and Linda in 2014, and since then they have not only renovated the space, but they have also built on the foundation that was already there. They have kept programming and events consistent, now aiming to also attract a younger crowd. They have updated the store’s vision of feminism by focusing on more current events and having a more intersectional perspective. Check out their upcoming events here.
- The feminist bookstore movement in the late 70s and early 1980s was a response to the lack of books by women in most libraries and general bookstores.
- Laura references Episode 26 of the podcast when Jean Cate, owner of Martha Mae: Art Supplies and Beautiful Things (5407 N. Clark), mentions walking into Women and Children First and knowing afterward, that this “neighborhood was made.” Sarah mentions that WCF was recruited to Andersonville back in 1991 to serve as a community hub for people to learn, read, hang out and have a good time.
- WCF runs the Women’s Voices Fund, a grantee of the Crossroads Fund, which was established in November of 2005 to help support feminist programming at the bookstore. The fund allows for WCF to bring both celebrity authors and more marginalized authors who haven’t found their home or audience quite yet.
- Upon walking into WCF, hanging above the front door, you’ll notice 15 portraits of authors like Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou, Alice Munro, and Hillary Clinton and other notable writers, poets, performers, activists and authors who have read at the store. Lynn and Sarah added these portraits as a gift to departing owners Ann and Linda to acknowledge all of the amazing work they had done. Sarah and Lynn would love to add a portrait of Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist. WCF hosted Gay for both a reading in the store and later for a larger event in conversation with Gloria Steinem.
- Lynn and Sarah split the store responsibilities. Sarah takes care of events, programming, marketing/publicity, social media and some of the adult book buying, and Lynn handles a majority of the rest of the book buying for the store.
“Besides being a feminist bookstore, we also try to be a feminist workplace. It’s challenging and hard, but well worth doing.”
– Lynn Mooney
- On Sunday, October 21 from 1-3PM, the bookstore is hosting Chelsea Clinton to sign her new book, Start Now! The book is written for children ages 7-12 and it is an activism guide geared towards that age group. Tickets cost $23 and are available for purchase online here. One ticket admits up to 4 family members and includes a copy of the book!
- WCF will celebrate 40 years in 2019! They are planning to celebrate all year long with certain special events to be determined. The 40th Anniversary logo will launch around the holidays this year.
- If Lynn could switch places with any business in Andersonville she would switch with George’s Ice Cream & Sweets (5306 N. Clark) because she loves chocolate or Taste of Heaven (5401 N. Clark) for their scones. Sarah would switch places with Taste of Lebanon (1509 W. Foster) because she loves the falafel and the lentil soup or Winifred Grace (5642 N Clark).
- Lynn in currently reading a new novel called Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver, and Sarah is reading Rebecca Solnit’s new essay collection, Call Them By Their True Names. She is also reading a novel called The Great Believers by Chicago author Rebecca Makkai and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.