In 1993 there were 124 feminist bookstores in the United States. Now only 12 remain.
They provided access to feminist books, but more importantly, they offered physical safe spaces and gathering points for like-minded people. Political action groups, support groups, and book clubs flourished in these stores in ways that would be impossible in the modern-day Borders or Barnes and Noble.
Now one of the last remaining independent feminist bookstores in the U.S., and the only one in Texas, is in trouble. Bookwoman was started by a group of feminists in 1975 and originally named the Common Woman Bookstore Collective, after a line from a poem by Judy Grahan: "A common woman is as common as a common loaf of bread/and will rise." Susan Post, the current owner of the store, has stuck with it through good times and bad. Post went to college in Nagodoches, Texas in 1964, and still considers U.S. Rep Mickey Leland a hero for his work to integrate the town. After college she came to Austin, and was part of the group that founded the store. Shortly after its founding, she was running the store single-handedly on a salary of $50 a week. When money got tighter, she moved the store into her home. When things eased up, she moved it back into a storefront and has kept it open since then.
A sudden jump in rent prices combined with extensive construction on the major road to the bookstore (which greatly reduced casual buyers and made it harder to reach the store) has put Bookwoman in hot water. They need to raise $50,000 by mid-December if the store is going to be able to survive and find a new location. There has already been an outpouring of support from the Austin community, and as of December 4th $30,000 has been raised. But there is still a ways to go.
Katha Pollit has weighed in
about the store.
If you want a little more of Bookwoman's history, there's a great article
in the Austin-American Statesman.
If you want to help:
You can donate here
(and get status updates on the campaign).
You can buy books here