Save Women and Children First
The feminist bookstore fights tooth and nail to survive.
Linda Bubon is no stranger to battling the economy. The co-owner of Women and Children First sounded the alarm two years ago, when it became clear the bookstore might not make it through the end of the year. Co-owner Ann Christophersen took another full-time job and pared down her duties at the store, but it still wasn’t enough. So in April 2007, WCF made a plea to its customers: Save us.
“The story got legs really fast,” Bubon says. “In-store sales that May were up nearly 70 percent.”
Membership at the store—for $25 a year, you get a 10 percent storewide discount—grew from about 300 to 1,000. Donations poured in, and the store finished up over the previous year’s profits for the first time in five years. It wasn’t a stay of execution so much as a vote of confidence from the citizenry. Women and Children First is one of the last feminist bookstores in the country and is revered for its selection and programming, which often features prominent women and gay authors. In 2004, Bubon and Christophersen created the nonprofit Women’s Voices Fund to support the programming.
But just as WCF seemed to have turned everything around, last fall’s downturn hit the store hard. Sales in October were 23 percent below the previous year’s, and the holiday season clocked in 13 percent under. With online megaretailers like Amazon exempt from charging sales tax and able to procure sweetheart discounts on bulk orders, Bubon says she’s not so sure Women and Children First can even compete in the business anymore.
“The distribution through channels like bookstores, certainly independent bookstores, may be something that goes away,” she says. “Still, I’d like to think of a way to keep WCF as a cultural institution.”
To that end, the store’s hosting a 30th anniversary party on October 3 to help bolster the WVF. We told Bubon that the idea of WCF—one of the few indies left in town—not functioning as a bookstore struck us as depressing. But she had the sanguine air of a combat vet.
“That’s just me following my President,” she laughs. “I’m being pragmatic. Hopeful, but pragmatic.”
Help keep this bookstore a bookstore by shopping there. 5233 N Clark St (773-769-9299, womenandchildrenfirst.com).