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Women & Children First Bookstore ‘Stronger Than Ever’ As It Celebrates 40 Years In Business

Young feminists are helping Women & Children First thrive in the Trump era.

Children participate in an event at Women and Children First bookstore.
Sarah Hollenbeck/Provided
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ANDERSONVILLE — As independent bookstores across the country shutter, business is booming at Andersonville’s beloved Women & Children First.

The bookstore at 5233 N. Clark St. has seen many highs and lows in its soon-to-be 40 years, but owners believe the 2016 election has energized young feminists — who are supporting the store both in person and online.

It’s now one of the last feminist bookstores in North America, said co-owner Sarah Hollenbeck. But lately the shop’s seen an increase in business — especially from young people who want to learn more about feminism.

Women & Children First will celebrate its 40th anniversary all year with events and social media campaigns, Hollenbeck said. Customers are being asked to share their favorite memories of the store on social media, and the shop will sell a limited-edition tote bag.

Credit: Bety Priddy/Provided
Author Nicole Krauss speaks at Women & Children First bookstore. The store is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

But the store’s owners are thinking about the future, too, and looking for ways to be more representational of all people while also bulking up its programs for kids.

“There’s always work to be done in terms of being more inclusive, more politically active and engaged,” Hollenbeck said, “and that’s what the next 40 years are all about.”

Women & Children First was founded in November 1979 by then-UIC students Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon with a goal of selling books that respectfully mirror the “lives and interests” of all people, according to its website. The two were part of the women’s movement and wanted to contribute by opening a feminist bookstore, Hollenbeck said.

The store faced some of its hardest years when Amazon and chains like Barnes & Noble got big, Hollenbeck said. The founders sold the store to Hollenbeck and co-owner Lynn Mooney in 2014.

“Over the years it really has bounced back over and over again and now. … I think we’re stronger than ever,” Hollenbeck said.

Immediately following the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, foot traffic and visits to Women & Children First’s website increased, Hollenbeck said, and that interest has continued. The store has seen a particular uptick in business from younger people and Chicagoans who want to use their money to support the causes they care about.

Poet Morgan Parker speaks at Women & Children First bookstore.

The store even celebrated its best day of sales for a non-event ever in December, Hollenbeck said.

“We’ve just seen more young folks embracing feminism or embracing the store or discovering the store for the first time,” Hollenbeck said. “We think folks are … more and more invested and conscious of where they spend their money and are more likely to support mission-driven businesses, and that’s what we are.

“… Now we’re really finding our audience with folks who want to make sure that they’re investing in the future they want to see.”

Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

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Credit: Sara Hindmarch/Provided
Women & Children First bookstore is celebrating its 40th anniversary during all of 2019.