Nurturing the Intellectual Needs of a Community
In June of 1975, women officially opened Womanstore to the general public. Womanstore would operate as a bookstore and would share the same suite with the Women's Center and WomaNews. In hopes that its profits would eventually "pay for the basic operation of the center," Womanstore sold local female artists' crafts and paintings, as well as jewelry, and alternative literature for children and adults (Gainesville Sun, July 1975).
In Womanstore, women nurtured and educated one another by passing around books such as Anica Vesel's Feminism as Therapy, Jill Johnston's Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution, and Rita Mae Brown's Rubyfruit Jungle to one another and exclaiming, "Every woman ought to read this!"
Despite the withdrawal of Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) funds from The Women's Center and the Florida State Senate's refusal to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution (WomaNews April 1977), feminist bookselling persisted while the rest of the movement flatlined. In 1977, new co-owners changed the name of the bookstore to Amelia's due to their admiration for Amelia Earhart. Amelia's would serve the community for five more years as a community space. During this time, various activist groups, especially newly forming gay and lesbian organizations, continued using the store for organizing protests, rallies, and other political operations.
Amelia's shifted ownership as one lesbian couple bought the store from another in 1979: Gerry Green and Carol Aubin bought Amelia's from Bonnie Coates and Linda Basham. Gerry Green's professorship at Sante Fe Community College paid for much of the store's expenses while Aubin and other women of the community staffed the store and raised funds in order to keep it open.
In 1982, as the national economic crisis worsened, Bonnie Coates, owner of the bookstore building, doubled the rent. Despite Amelia's usefulness in the community and affiliation with over 200 members, Aubin and Green would have to close the store due to their inability to fund the bookstore's rising rental rate as they were already experiencing a serious deficit. In 1982, after nearly a decade of feminist book selling in Gainesville, Aubin and Green put the store's materials on the auction block, sold most of the 1,000 titles, and paid the debt they had accumulated in the past three years, approximately $10,000.
Green attributes much of the bookstore's loss of support to the closing down of WomaNews, saying, "Every new cultural wave needs a published organ, alternative or whatever one wants to call it...or its dead in the water." Without a publication and community support, Amelia's bookstore would founder in 1982.
Feminist bookselling reemerged in Gainesville in 1992 after nearly a decade of its absence. At that time, Susan Keel and Kerry Godwin founded Iris Books. The store once again exchanged ownership in 1996 to Dotty Faibisy and Beverly White, who altered its name to Wild Iris.
In 2004, Cheryl Krauth and Lylly Rodriguez became the new owners of Wild Iris. Shortly after, they founded Friends of Wild Iris - a tax-exempt non-profit organization. This step was taken to establish the bookstore as a permanent institution, a feat few bookstores have accomplished as Wild Iris is the only feminist bookstore remaining in the state of Florida and one of less than 70 surviving throughout the United States.10
Furthermore, Wild Iris is the new "intellectual hub" of the community and a political space for both older and newer generations of feminists. Student groups such as Feminists Actively Creating Equality (FACE) meet at Wild Iris to discuss political issues, while other students work on special projects at the store through the internship program affiliated with the UF Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research.