Close to 1,000 people gathered on a sunny and breezy Aug. 24 afternoon to celebrate Women & Children First's 40th anniversary on Honorary Women & Children First Way, Farragut Avenue at Clark Street.
Miss Linda (Bubon) kicked off the event with her special brand of storytelling. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, there were musical performances by award-winning recording artist Laura Doherty; Shanta and Zahra, a.k.a., ShaZah; Chicago's lesbian feminist chorus, the Artemis Singers; Chicago's all-female Beastie Boys Tribute Band, She's Crafty; and Chicago's all-female and non-binary glam bras marching band, The Clamor & Lace Noise Brigade.
The block party also featured a champagne toast and remarks by co-founders Bubon and Ann Christophersen; current co-owners Sarah Hollenbeck and Lynn Mooney; U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky; state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, and Ald. Harry Osterman. Stand-up comic Shannon Noll served as emcee.
Schakowsky spoke about being a customer since the store opened, and praised Bubon and Christophersen for their many accomplishments, including the numerous author and speaker events they have hosted. Schakowsky recalled announcing her endorsement of President Barack Obama at the storeshe thought it was the best place to do it. She also congratulated Hollenbeck and Mooney for carrying the store forward.
In speaking about the current political climate, Schakowsky said "I am not afraid or worried because women are not going back. [I know] there will be such a rebellion that the [first] Women's March in Washington D.C. will look small [in comparison], and we have always had a headquarters right here at Women & Children First."
"I cannot count the number of ways that this corner has been central to all of the major events of my life, from spending mornings with my kids reciting Miss Linda's rules for story time, to being sworn-in as your state representative right inside that space," said Cassidy. "I could not think of a better home to begin my political career than the headquarters of the resistance. Let's keep being the ones that have a store like this as a central part of our neighborhood."
Christophersen said this entire event has brought "joy to her heart" and that she could not have embarked on this endeavor 40 years ago without having Bubon by her side. Christophersen also praised Hollenbeck and Mooney for what they have done with the store since taking ownership in 2013.
Bubon in turn called Christophersen her "brilliant business partner" and said their single goal was "to create a place where women and children could feel safe and celebrated, and where the works of all the brilliant women writers of the past, and now so many more, would be showcased."
Initially, the owners had to search far and wide to fill the shelves of the original store on Armitage with books by women writer's because they were not being published. Bubon said there was also a dearth of children's books when they started, so she's been pleased to see the growth in both women authors and children's books since that time.
Mooney spoke about the store's"talented and dedicated" staff, further recognizing Karlee Naussbaum for bringing the block party to fruition; Jamie Thomas, who is now the director of operations; and H. Melt, who is a rising star in Chicago's poetry community as well as the store manager.
"We are grateful to the kids who love our children's section and often throw tantrums when their parents tell them it is time to go," said Hollenbeck. "To that little boy, who every time he walks into the store, says, 'Hello bookstore.' We are also grateful to our customers who are family, the ones we are born into and the ones we have built, and our long-time customers who adored Ann and Linda and welcomed Lynn and me with open arms."
"Women & Children First store has been an anchor in our community where everyone feels welcome and it is really the heart and soul of Andersonville," said Osterman. "Ann, Linda, Sarah, Lynn and everyone who has worked at the store, we are so thankful to you for what you have created and your legacy is going to live on for 40 more years."
During the celebration, the store was packed and had a continuous line of buyers at the register. Bake Sale for Justice was also on hand, and their wares were sold out in less than three hours.
The afternoon also featured kid's activities and games, free journals and coasters from RAYGUN store and a raffle drawing for four gift bags full of literary swag and gift certificates from local businesses. The raffle winners were chosen among the people who wrote down a favorite memory of the store.
Among the many Andersonville restaurants that provided free food and drinks were Bar Roma, Big Jones, The Coffee Studio, Candyality, FRIO Gelato, Jerry's, Hamburger Mary's, Hopleaf, Kopi, Lady Gregory's, Meeting House Tavern, Middle Eastern Grocery & Bakery, Octavio, Replay Andersonville and True North.