Women and Children First: Linda Bubon and Anne Christopherson
Linda Bubon and Anne Christopherson were graduate students at the University of Illinois in 1979 bound by two loves: feminism and literature. In the common predicament of cultured, activist book-lovers surveying their futures, they knew they wanted a professional life that would sustain their passions as well as their wallets.
“We wanted to do work that we thought there was a real point and purpose to,” Christopherson explains. “To make a contribution to the political and cultural life.”
So in 1979 Chicago, they opened Women and Children First bookstore in Chicago. The cozy space carried publications of women writers as well as children’s books that featured diverse, nontraditional plots and female protagonists. But, even then, the bookstore was more than just a bookstore. Customers and workers soon recognized it as a community center for progressive, grassroots causes. Linda Bubon, a professional storyteller outside her duties as co-owner of WCF, runs a weekly children’s story hour.
“Our focus was on the feminist community and underserved populations; like women of color, the lesbian community, and children,” Christopherson says. “We help to strengthen our communities.”
Now, three decades and two moves later, in a 1600 square foot store, Women and Children First is a mainstay of the Chicago community. It’s a necessary stop on the lists of major writers on United States reading tours; Alison Bechdel, Andrea Dworkin, Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood are among WCF’s visiting literary heavyweights. And politicians have more than just taken notice of WCF’s role in the community; when Ohio Democrat Barack Obama decided to run for the United States Senate in 2003, he chose WCF as the site to make his announcement.
Despite the pressures of rising rent, taxes and bookselling chains constantly muscling business away from independents, Women and Children First provides health care for all of their full-time staff and chooses one grassroots community organization each month to benefit from 10% of WCF’s total profits. When you put the community first, it responds in kind.