March 2010

Last month, the Ryerson Free Press published an excerpt of the Toronto Women’s Bookstore’s (TWB) letter to the community asking for financial support.

“In the past,” it reads, “when feminist bookstores were closing down all across North America, the support of the community is what kept TWB alive. You are the reason that we are still here today, and we believe that with your help we can once again work together to save this organization where so many of us as readers, writers, feminists, artists, and activists have found a home.”

Unfortunately, the situation for “the largest non- profit feminist bookstore in Canada” is still looking pretty bleak.

Despite the fact that the response from custom- ers and members of the community was “amazing,” the same publicity that helped raise almost $40, 000 (through donations, volunteering, fundraisers and auctioning services like massage sessions and yoga classes), may have also contributed to the end of the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, as we know it.

The letter, posted on the store’s website, (, asked for donations, as well as encouraging readers to hold fundraisers, promote other fundraisers in any way possible and generally spread the word about the TWB’s situation.

According to Janet Romero, co-manager and book buyer, all the fantastic media coverage, (meant for those that love the Toronto Women’s Bookstore and would sorely miss it if it was gone), also reached the store’s Canadian suppliers.

In anticipation of the store having to close down, and in true capitalist and compassionless fashion, the majority of the these suppliers decided to close their accounts, cancel orders, switch to prepaid terms and/ or set very tiny credit limits.

Negotiations with suppliers have so far been disheartening, creating additional stress on the store, its board members and its many fantastic staff and volunteers.

The battle with this new enemy may be TWB’s last, but staff are remaining hopeful that negotiations will enable the store to stay open longer. The fear is that that the store will have to close altogether by the end of this fiscal year (which ends on the May 31).

Another option that has been considered is sell- ing the business, as a way of ensuring that it could remain as a resource for the community.

Clearly the board is considering every possible option to keep TWB and everything it provides, and stands for, alive. Unfortunately, capitalism is prov- ing to be an onerous and resilient enemy, constantly resurfacing in new, more demanding ways.

The threat of corporate giants is not a new one to Toronto’s streets, (we mourned the loss of Queen St.’s Pages last summer), nor is it new to the Toronto Women’s Bookstore. The store was hoping that the beginning of textbook sales this past September would help bring TWB out of its two-year deficit.

“However,” says Romero, “course book sales were much lower than expected and we found ourselves in a position where we realized we were not going to be able to pay our bills – that is when we decided to send the call out for help to the community.”

After almost forty years, the Toronto Women’s Bookstore is not just a bookstore, it is a veritable trea- sure trove of information, inspiration, support and advocacy for “political actions, women’s health care, anti-violence advocacy, and anti-oppression politics for individuals and community groups.” Invaluable to students and non-students alike, it is a true prize on the streets of Toronto.

If only metaphoric riches could count against the Chapters chequebook.

as published in the Ryerson Free Press, March 2010