The recently relocated Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore is an inclusive space for all people, regardless of their identity, that strives to cultivate a caring supportive community. This feminist bookstore is a hub of activism and resources for everyone including, free essential items (like snacks, water, and hygiene products), opioid prevention, and providing an avenue for community members to support each other with their Give and Take Wall. Bluestockings is a worker-owned business, which gives them the freedom to create not only the collaborative work environment they want to see in the world but take action to foster a society that is inclusive and equitable. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bluestockings has taken precautions to prevent the spread of the virus while still providing their essential services to their community and continuing their mission.
How did Bluestockings Cooperative get its start?
BC: Bluestockings has been around as a glorious radical idea and bookstore in the Lower East Side since 1999. Historically, we have served as a sanctuary for NYC’s overlapping queer communities, and have evolved from a “women’s” bookstore that was volunteer powered to become a horizontalist feminist community center whose work is rooted in care and mutuality, and now cooperatively worker-owned.
Run entirely by volunteers for several years, we recently reformed as the worker-owned Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore in the midst of the pandemic and moved to our new home at 116 Suffolk St.
What is Bluestockings Cooperative’s mission statement?
BC: Bluestockings seeks to empower all people to challenge oppression and participate in creating a society which is equitable, cooperative, and free by:
* Distributing literature and resources about oppression, intersectionality, community organizing, and activism, and by sharing the stories of marginalized people
* Maintaining a space in New York City for dialogue, education, and reflection where all people are respected; and
* Building connections, knowledge, and skills in our communities
Bluestockings Cooperative seeks to embody and share the principles of intersectional, abolitionist, trans-affirming, gender nonconforming, and sex-worker affirming feminisms and support liberatory social movements.
Bluestockings strives to empower our worker-owners through non-hierarchy, cooperation, and consensus-based decision making, providing an example of the society we are working toward.
How has the pandemic impacted your store?
BC: The pandemic and move to a new location has of course impacted the sales that keep our whole operation running, we would not be operational today if not for our community, like supporters on withfriends.co/bluestockings. For several months, we were shuttered and operating only online. We shifted quickly to a direct-to-home system of orders and Zoom gatherings for the book clubs, support groups, book launches, fundraisers, etc, that we usually host in the space.
How has Bluestockings Cooperative adapted to being an indie bookstore during the pandemic? Are there any changes you plan on keeping once the pandemic has ended?
BC: In the face of governmental systems that value commerce over human lives, it’s been up to us to balance our safety, our community’s safety, and the ability to continue to operate. Our author events and book launches on Zoom have been very successful, and we do hope to continue hosting events at least in part virtually, reaching more people than we could before. During surges in cases, like the Omicron variant surge, we have implemented different measures at different times depending on levels of risk in the city: closing browsing and only offering curbside pickup, requiring (and giving out for free) n95 masks and proof of vaccination to browse, closing the cafe and in-store dining. We hope these are the measures that don’t stick around, but we are prepared if they do.
What is your favorite memory from working at Bluestockings Cooperative?
BC: Taking inspiration from the Mitzvah Wall at a local vegan chocolate shop, Confectionary, I put together the Give & Take Wall by the register at Bluestockings which is my pride and joy. Anyone can pledge something and tack it up on the wall – an abolitionist book for a student, a free coffee for a queer New Yorker, etc, and anyone can take a pledge down and redeem it. Since its beginning, over $4000 have been given and taken from the wall. The messages of advice, joy, solidarity and kindness on these little multicolored pledges to the future are a great source of joy for me. To maintain the peek into our community, I also started archiving them (slowly, I keep meaning to get the ball rolling!) at @bstoxwall on Instagram and Twitter. Whenever I’m feeling down I’ll scroll through this archive of generosity and community love.
What role does Bluestockings Cooperative play in its community?
BC: Our space has existed on the Lower East Side for over 21 years as a model for integrating direct programming grounded in the community. We are a collectively-run activist center, community space and feminist bookstore that offers mutual aid, harm reduction support, non-judgemental resource research and a warming/cooling place that is radically inclusive of all genders, cultures, expansive sexualities and identities. This means truly anyone is welcome to walk through our doors and exist in our space. In the wire shelves by our doors, we carry free items available to all: snacks, protein shakes, water, mittens, gloves, handwarmers, hygiene products, etc. Over the past year, we’ve been able to give out thousands of these items. We’ve also recently registered as an opioid overdose prevention program, which means anyone can come in for free fentanyl test strips and naloxone, and to be trained by our worker-owners on how to use naloxone to reverse an overdose.
What are your goals/plans for Bluestockings Cooperative this year?
BC: We have so many plans on the horizon! Thanks to a grant from the Trans Justice Funding Project, we were able to hire harm reduction consultants from the community that will be working on safety workshop events soon. We’re working on expanding our mutual aid capabilities so we can more consistently offer necessities without relying entirely on donation. Keep an eye on our social media (@bluestockings on Twitter, @bluestockingsnyc on Instagram and Tiktok) or sign up for our e-newlsetter for the latest updates!