Women & Children First: Empowerment on and off the Page
By Grace Lemon
Located in the heart of Andersonville, Women & Children First is an independent feminist bookstore proudly dedicated to raising the voices of the silenced and creating a safe space for anyone who needs it. When I went in on a quiet Monday afternoon, the soft indie music immediately enveloped me with a feeling of warmth and the employee behind the counter gave me a friendly smile as I began browsing the vast collection. With literature ranging from feminist manifestos to field guides for U.S. citizenship to children’s graphic novels, the store's books are organized by genre with just enough clutter that you cannot help but get lost in all of the titles. Interspersed among the books are a number of accessories and decorative items including socks, pins, journals, and dolls — all of which fit the theme of inclusion and empowerment. Women & Children First is the perfect place to foster education and an understanding of a diverse array of topics from a wide range of female and other marginalized voices.
Although the books are definitely the main focus of the store, one of the first things I saw when I walked in was the “Safer Space Policy” written on a poster near the entrance, which is meant to ensure the respect of all patrons and allow everyone to feel free to be themselves. Behind the counter, my eyes were also drawn to the large sign kindly asking customers to use gender neutral language until they know otherwise, ensuring that no customers are made to feel uncomfortable in their identities. These were only a few of the countless signs set up around the store to simultaneously protect all customers and make them aware of their own privilege — a learning opportunity for those who have never felt uncomfortable in their own skin.
Women & Children First is not just a bookstore– it is an active member of the Andersonville community. When I walked in, three older women sat together on a bench next to the staff recommendations, sipping on their coffees and chatting about the endless reading options in front of them. It was clear that they were frequent visitors, one woman sharing her thoughts about one of the books that she had already completed. This was only one of several seating areas set up throughout the store. Little colorful chairs in the children’s section had reachable access to a huge variety of picture books and, at a large table in the back, a man was reading a book from the special collection on climate change dialogues. On the back wall, there was also a huge community board with postings of plays, fundraisers, lectures, and studies that fit within the store’s mission. Women & Children First strives to give back to the community that they call home as much as possible, which they do by donating to local charities, hosting events, and providing a safe establishment.
While it would've been ideal for me to leave Women & Children First with more books than I could carry, I was forced to begrudgingly exhibit financial self control and choose just one. Looking for something lighthearted to read over spring break, I settled on Choose Your Own Disaster by Dana Schwartz. I initially picked up the book because I’m a huge fan of Schwartz’s parody Twitter account @GuyInYourMFA (we all know someone like this), but was immediately drawn to the memoir’s choose-your-own-adventure detailing of disastrous misadventures of the author in her twenties (I figured I could use some wisdom on the subject). With its comforting atmosphere, knowledgeable staff, educational programming, and incredibly extensive selection of books, Women & Children First serves as an influential resource for the Andersonville neighborhood.