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About WCC-Connecting > History

The Spark

In the 1960's when activism bubbled up around the country, a collective of anti-war, socialist, pro-union, feminist groups and radical individuals pooled resources to start The Little Red Book Store. Women often gathered at this information hub on 25th Street, just south of University Avenue near Drake University.  

The store struggled for several years, and eventually disbanded in the early 70’s, when a group decided to use some of the money for a women's group, the early nucleus of the Women's Cultural Collective. But there was still some evolution/revolution to happen. Like the late 80's out east, some members of the feminist movement blinked and backed out when lesbian members wanted to be acknowledged. The group splintered into two: one was WCC. 

WCC Is Born

In 1979, from the remains of a unique bookstore, the Women's Culture Collective (WCC) was born. Their mission stressed a safe place for lesbians while also welcoming all women. They produced concerts for Holly Near, Cris Williamson and Meg Christiansen. These names were not as well known as lesbian performers like Melissa Etheridge and the Indigo Girls, but in the 1960's and 70's these women were pioneering a genre of music known as women's music. As time passed, the focus of WCC shifted from bringing in national touring musicians to providing social and educational opportunities for women. 

A monthly event called a coffeehouse was organized, a pre-cursor to places like Java Joe's and Ritual Cafe. They highlighted local and regional talents such as the late Tess Catalano, and included musicians and comics. WCC coffeehouses let women meet in a safe place, be themselves, enjoy coffee, conversation and the company of women. 


As new women joined, coffeehouse topics diversified and included: poetry reading and performance night, "Women & Art" evenings, spirituality sharing, and lesbian movie night to name a few.  Some recent concerts have included Laura Berkson, singer/comic Jamie Anderson, bluegrass/folk/rock duo Wishing Chair and Big Bad Gina.

The monthly "coffeehouse" is still the core event, but WCC now offers a variety of events by and for women in the Des Moines metro. The Wednesday dinner gatherings are an easy way for newcomers and WCC "old"-timers to interact and socialize. WCC often sponsors a dance and a concert each year, and sports-minded members organize and offer activities such as women’s basketball schedules and bike-rides.  In 2003, WCC launched its website, entering into the digital community

Open planning meetings happen a few times each year, and attendees help decide WCC's direction and activities for upcoming months.  Being a collective, there is not a board of directors or president. The group uses a feminist-oriented method of consensus, but sometimes the question arises: how many women are needed for a consensus?  Usually if a woman or group of women want to put some time and effort into an activity, the WCC planners will agree.

WCC is now more than 40 years old, and is the longest lasting lesbian organizations in Des Moines. Please join us and become part of making this a dynamic women-centered organization.

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