for New Words
(founded 2002, formerly the New Words Bookstore, 1974-2002)
Feminist center; bookstore
New Words began as a bookstore that for twenty-eight years was one of the largest and oldest women’s bookstores in the country. Founded by four Cambridge women, Rita Arditti, Gilda Bruckman, Mary Lowry, and Jean MacRae, New Words opened in April 1974 at 419 Washington Street in Somerville and then moved to 186 Hampshire Street in Cambridge in 1976. They chose the store’s name from a passage by noted feminist author Mary Daly: “Women are hearing ourselves and each other for the first time, and out of that creative hearing emerge new words.” The bookstore carried a wide selection of books by and about women, children’s books, music, posters, jewelry, bumper stickers, and buttons. At its heyday, the bookstore was a center of feminist activity in the Cambridge area, reaching out into the wider community. Throughout its history, New Words hosted readings and talks by significant women authors and served as an informal community center, offering workshops, bulletin boards, roommate listings and a place for like-minded women to meet and discuss a variety of issues. After serving the community for decades, the organizers began to search for a new model that would not depend on book sales. With a grant from the Ford Foundation to examine how New Words might serve as a pilot organization offering a model for other feminist organizations faced with financial and structural stresses. After 28 years in business, New Words Bookstore closed its doors on October 6, 2002 and moved its mission into the nonprofit Center for New Words located on the second floor of the YWCA at 7 Temple Street. Its future plans include a new bookstore as part of the community center. It still provides intellectual and cultural support especially for the women’s community and offers a wide variety of programs in a variety of locations. The New Words Bookstore archive, describing its first years, has been deposited at Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute.
References: Center for New Words site “History” http://www.centerfornewwords.org/about_us/; “From the Schlesinger Library” Radcliffe Quarterly, Winter 2003.
Return to Top of Page
Return to Alphabetical Index
Women's Heritage Project
March 27, 2007