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Women & Children First in Chicago

For the third installment of our ongoing series of interviews, Inside Indie Bookstores, Jeremiah Chamberlin travelled to Chicago to speak with Linda Bubon, who, along with Ann Christophersen, owns Women & Children First.

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    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

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    Founded more than thirty years ago in Chicago, Women & Children First is only 3,500 square feet in area, most of which is one large open room. Still, the store carries more than twenty thousand books, as well as journals, cards, and gifts.

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    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

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    Twinkle lights hang in the front windows facing Clark Street; there are jewelry displays around the front counter; and tacked to the community bulletin board are flyers for both theater performances and burlesque shows.

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    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

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    "In the back of the store, a painted sign showing an open book with a child peering over the top hangs from the ceiling, indicating the children’s section," Chamberlin writes. "Not far away, a similar sign, this one of a rainbow with an arrow below it, points toward the GLBTQ section. Despite these signs—not to mention the name of the store itself—Women & Children First carries more than books for women and, well, children."

     

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    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

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    The literature section stretches down one wall; there are stacks of photography collections; books on writing fill an entire bookcase; and disciplines as diverse as cooking and psychology have healthy offerings.

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    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

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    "Nothing captures the laid-back feel and philosophy of the bookstore better than the wooden kitchen table that sits in the back, near the children’s section," Chamberlin writes. "Around it are four unmatched wooden chairs. Bubon brought us here for the interview, and it seems a perfect example of the spirit of openness that pervades this place."

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    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

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    "The goal of my life has been to get the word out, to understand women’s lives," says co-owner Linda Bubon. "We have to continue to evolve and change if we’re to have a full share, and if our daughters are to have a full share of the world."

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    Credit: Kat Fitzgerald

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    Co-owner Ann Christophersen says what she loves most about bookselling is being "surrounded by books and the people involved in writing, publishing, selling, reading, and talking about them."

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    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

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    "I still think women lag behind in winning the major awards, and they lag behind in getting critical attention," says Bubon. "So there’s still a need for Women & Children First and stores like it that push the emphasis toward women writers."

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    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

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    "Though women artists working in most mediums have certainly moved forward, they still struggle for opportunity and recognition," Christophersen says. "Women in general have also, obviously, made many advances since the seventies, but we still have a long way to go. Women’s right to control our own bodies is constantly being challenged; we are still paid less for doing the same job as men; we still have few good options for childcare; married women who work—which is the majority of us—still do more than our fair share of taking care of home and children....I could go on, but these are some of the reasons we still need organizations—and bookstores—that focus on women."

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