Women & Children First is rewriting history. The independent feminist bookstore in Andersonville is undergoing major renovations, including a change in management, a revamped interior and updated programs.
Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon founded the bookstore in 1979 to create an inclusive environment for gender empowerment. In 1989, the bookstore moved from Lincoln Park to Andersonville, a Chicago neighborhood with a high LGBT population.
In July 2014, the founders announced two new owners: Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck. Both women were current employees.
Before the founders announced they were looking to change ownership in October of 2013, Hollenbeck had only worked at the bookstore for one month. She proposed a partnership with Mooney and now the pair works together in literary harmony; Mooney manages the book ordering, staff management and displays while Hollenbeck is in charge of publicity, social media and event planning.
“When this opportunity sort of fell in my lap, I felt like this was something I should really pursue and maybe this was a way to make a dream job a real job,” said Hollenbeck. “I didn’t want [the bookstore] to change hands in a way that would change the mission or the values of the store.”
Women & Children First is one of only 12 feminist bookstores in the United States. It stocks more than 30,000 books that are divided into sections such as children’s literature, queer nonfiction and women’s studies. While the majority of books are authored by women or are about women, Hollenbeck explains that the bookstore offers a wide selection of diverse topics.
“Lynn and I are really committed to the idea of intersectionality. That’s the idea that we can’t just talk about sexism without talking about racism, classism and ableism,” said the 31-year-old Northwestern University alum. “So when we try to have as many books as possible that deal with all those ‘isms’ and all those books about oppression … it’s not just about women authors only.”
Hollenbeck and Mooney wanted to stick with the owners’ original mission but also expand and renovate the 3,500-square-foot space. They turned to Indiegogo to raise money to create a new floor layout, separate event room, cozy children’s space and inclusive programs such as TedX talks, group discussions for transgendered individuals, literary summer camps and writing salons.
To raise awareness about the campaign, the bookstore hosted an “Indiegogo Perk Party” two days before the target date. The celebration had live music, novel readings and a silent auction of signed books. Depending on the amount donated on Indiegogo, contributors were granted rewards such as a meet-and-greet with notable local authors, a T-shirt or a one-night writing workshop.
By Nov. 13, 2014, the bookstore exceeded its goal and raised more than $36,000 in 30 days with contributions from more than 300 people.
The store temporarily closed between Jan. 25 and Feb. 1 for renovations. When it reopened, customers were greeted by a revamped and more spacious layout.
But the project isn’t fully completed. What’s the next chapter for Women & Children First? Find out more about the renovations by viewing the video below: