Some of the women who made the dance party possible. From left: Diana Hamann, Aim Larrabee, Katherine Gotsick (squatting), Jamie Thome, Ailie Ayres, Jaime Leonardi and Joanna Kramer. Credit: Duncan Agnew
Less than two weeks ago, a group of women business owners in Evanston came formed Evanstonians for Reproductive Rights,
On Sunday, July 31, the group hosted more than 300 people at The Custer Oasis just south of Main Street for an “Old School Vinyl Dance Party for Reproductive Rights,” where attendees enjoyed a raffle for items like a painting of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, drinks from The Wine Goddess, tacos from La Principal and vintage tunes spun by DJ Tim from Squeezebox.
“We all work separately in our own little vacuums, but every once in a while, when we come together, it’s kind of insane what we can all do,” said Jaime Leonardi, the owner of Stumble & Relish, a jewelry and gift shop on Chicago Ave.
Diana Hamann, who owns The Wine Goddess on Main Street, had already planned the party when Rachel Hershinow, the owner of Stella Boutique on Central Street, called together other women in local businesses to talk about what they could do after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Calf.
To Leonardi’s point, the new group’s goal is to raise $100,000 for Planned Parenthood of Illinois using GoFundMe. On the page, there’s a question that asks: “What the hell is going on?” And it answers it this way: “A bunch of women business owners in Evanston got mad that our reproductive rights are being taken away, and more of our rights are being threatened. So now they’re getting busy.”
The Sunday dance party sold 300 tickets for $20 each, raising $3,000 before the event even happened. Plus, all the proceeds from the raffle, which cost $10 per ticket, will go toward the fundraiser, and the Aim and Ailee Hair Boutique, co-owned by Aim Larrabee and Ailie Ayres, also offered hair styling services at the party to raise extra money.
Moving forward, a group of local businesses will donate a portion of profits from Aug. 11 through Aug. 14, and the final push for donations will happen at the Nasty Women of Evanston Fundraiser, hosted by Evanston Made. From 6 pm to 9 pm Aug. 20 at 1100 Florence Ave. people will be able to buy special pieces donated by local artists for $100 each, and Evanston Made has set a goal of $25,000 for that night alone.
“It’s the power of community, and if people work together, everybody rises up,” said Jamie Thome, a local artist and organizer with Nasty Women of Evanston. “This is a testament to that, but this is also a testament to how Evanston cares about everyone, and how Evanstonians literally come together, not only for a party because that’s part of what we’re doing, but also to raise money for great causes that we all believe in.”
The women who creates Evanstonians for Reproductive Rights, like Hershinow and Leonardi, all spoke about how sad and angry they felt after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and Hamann said they really believed the decision by the nation’s highest court set women back nearly 50 years, to the pre-Roe world of 1973, in basic human rights.
Still, they all agreed that they wanted to do something positive after the ruling, and they spoke about the expanded investment in reproductive health care that has to happen now in Illinois to provide services for people seeking abortions from outside the state. With so many surrounding states legislating to limit abortion access, people will need help finding and receiving necessary care, Hamann said.
“When you get a group of women together whose fundamental rights are threatened, you can get stuff done very, very quickly,” Larrabee said. “And I think we can do a lot more than we thought we might be able to do as a group of women business owners, and we’re going to make sure that we do.”
Channing Akinrinade, a speech pathologist at Evanston Township High School, attended the dance party and got her hair done by Ayres. With just a couple of weeks left in the summer before school starts again, Sunday’s event was the perfect way to have some fun while supporting an important cause to her, she said.
“I’m looking for opportunities to party with a purpose, so I love the idea that we’re supporting reproductive rights,” Akinrinade said. “And I’m loving the idea of being with my community and my colleagues to do some good work.”