Covid Info

- Masks are required on high traffic days: Friday-Sunday. 
- Masks are strongly encouraged Monday-Thursday. 
- Read more about our Covid Policy.
- Interested in a private shopping appointment? Find out more HERE. 

Mission & History

Mission Statement

Women & Children First believes in the transformative power of literature. As intersectional trans-inclusive feminists, we believe books are tools for liberation. Since 1979, we have celebrated and amplified underrepresented voices. In order for feminism to remain relevant, it must be forever evolving. In our bookstore:

  • We thoughtfully curate our selection of books. 
  • We offer a welcoming space for learning, dialogue, and reflection.
  • We host author events, and we facilitate community conversations, book groups, and story times.
  • We strive toward a feminist, equitable workplace. 
  • We partner with and support schools and mission-aligned organizations through programming, monetary contributions, and in-kind donations.
  • We are leaders in the localism movement and we champion independent businesses.

We hope to realize our dream of an inclusive feminist future.

 

WCF Mission and History

2022 Update from Sarah & Lynn

In July of 2022, we were engaged in a community conversation sparked by a social media post that challenged us to consider how we are living up to our mission. In response, our staff gathered to talk in person to map out steps to ensure that our bookstore's stated mission and our daily operations are better aligned. Within the year, we hope to share with you a strategic plan with goals for now, near, and far that will address financial transparency and a clearly defined pay structure, a more horizontal decision-making process, and our commitment to further anti-racism and anti-oppression training for both management and staff. The first order of business, though, is that beginning this month, Women & Children First will increase pay to the living wage for Cook County defined by MIT. We move forward with intentionality, grounded in the belief that we are building the feminist future we want to see in the world. Making this a sustainable reality will require community support. We humbly ask that our communities be our safety nets as we prepare to make some big leaps of faith. Thank you for listening & stay tuned to this page for updates!

2023 Progress Update from Sarah & Lynn

The word “discomfort” comes up a lot in anti-oppression work and that has certainly been the case for us as co-owners over the last year. Under the guidance of an executive coach, we’ve been unpacking what “power” and “community” mean to us and our staff, and how these gulfs in understanding and definition affect our culture. 

We are striving to be more direct and transparent, acknowledging that unlike many feminist bookstores, Women & Children First was opened as, and remains a for-profit business with two owners. With this type of structure, decision-making cannot be shared 100% with staff because our booksellers do not share in the risk. What do we do with this power? How do we make leadership decisions that are just and generate the least harm? As we try to imagine and then implement changes within our store culture, every decision feels at once enormous and not quite enough. Change is gradual and continuous. 

As we announced last year, the changes that we promised to make within a year fell into three categories: Financial Transparency, Less Hierarchical Decision-making, and Anti-oppression Training

FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY

  • Wages - In order to be more equitable and transparent, in July 2022  Women & Children First (W&CF) increased pay to the living wage for Cook County defined by MIT. Starting July 2022, all new hires (both part-time and full-time) are paid $19.50/hr. and will increase to $22/hr after one year. Staffers with “titles” (special responsibilities) are paid $23/hr. Raises after this will be based on store profits. Any bonuses will be an equitable distribution of profits at the end of the fiscal year.
  • Increased Financial Transparency - So staff can, alongside management, understand where we are financially, our Director of Operations (DOO) reviews the store’s P&L sheet with staff twice a year and provided with information so that we all can compare the current year with the previous year. The DOO tries to present the numbers in a way that addresses what staff is most interested in knowing by inviting questions from all-staff prior to each meeting. 
  • We have a stated goal of increasing sales by $2K/monthly in order to absorb the increased wages and other expenses. 

LESS HIERARCHICAL DECISION-MAKING 

  • With the help of a facilitator, staff and management met and shared their ideas about which store decisions are made by owners, which by the management team, and which by staff at large. 
  • We have begun making more decisions (such as our Covid and masking policies) together as a group, using a consensus decision-making process. 
  • Staff is invited to add agenda topics for discussion and lead (facilitate) staff meetings.

ANTI-OPPRESSION TRAINING

For the first six months of 2023, co-owners Lynn and Sarah underwent anti-oppression executive training, working with a facilitator twice a month to gain foundational knowledge on how white supremacy functions in the workplace and also identify specific examples of where the W&CF culture and operations and stated mission are misaligned and how to address this misalignment.

History of Women & Children First

Women & Children First opened in a modest storefront in 1979, owned by Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon, who met as graduate students at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Over the years we've been located in several locations on Chicago's northside. In 1990, we moved to our current location in the Andersonville neighborhood. Ann and Linda

We are one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country, stocking more than 20,000 books by and about women, children's books, and the best LGBTQIA+ literature. Anything we don't have in stock we can usually get in a few days, even if it's a title outside our specialty. We also carry cards, magazines, journals, posters, calendars, buttons, flags, and more.

In 2014, our co-founders sold the bookstore to two of their staffers, Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck. The change in ownership kept the store “in the family” and renewed the strength and vitality of our mission. We strive to offer a place where everyone can find  books reflecting their lives and interests in an atmosphere in which they are respected and valued.