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Feminist Bookstore Closes After Owner’s Suicide

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Revolution, a Santa Monica bookstore that in just six months of operation developed into a significant gathering place and community resource for Westside feminists, artists and political progressives, has closed.

The store, in the Edgemar complex on Main Street, closed earlier this month, several weeks after the suicide of its founder and owner, Gail Stevenson.

Stevenson, 47, a clinical psychologist long active in feminist causes, shot herself in the head April 12 at the West Los Angeles office where she conducted her practice.

Stevenson’s husband, psychologist Carl Faber, said she had no history of clinical depression. He said he believed that his wife’s suicide was in part an outgrowth of her “personal pain and despair that had a lot to do with her efforts to inspire change as a feminist and leader.”

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Faber said his wife was suffering at the time of her death from fatigue, insomnia and stress, all of which were related to the running of the bookstore.

Without Stevenson to lead it, Faber said he believed the bookstore could not survive on a day-to-day basis. The store closed May 5 after one last book signing by Carol Tavris, a feminist who wrote “The Mismeasure of Women.”

Stevenson launched Revolution last October with an appearance by Susan Faludi, signing copies of her book, “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women.”

Topey Schwarzenbach, the Venice building designer who built the store and knew Stevenson for about nine years, helped closed the shop for the last time along with four employees.

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“People have been really reeling since Gail died,” Schwarzenbach said. Adding to the sense of loss, he said, was a sense among numerous friends, activists and customers that Revolution “was just starting to make it. The book signings were becoming an institution and the community center was just taking off. Gail’s death happened before the bookstore put out deep enough roots.”

Faber said he hopes to sell the bookstore in the next month to someone whose “interests are in the spirit of what Gail wanted to do with the store.” There are about five prospective buyers, he said, none of whom he would identify. The store, which is part of Stevenson’s estate, is in probate.

Peg Yorkin, president of Fund for the Feminist Majority and a longtime friend of Stevenson’s, said she considered taking over Revolution as a tribute to Stevenson but has since bowed out. Yorkin said she concluded that “it just is not what I do.”

“I was willing to put money into it, but I couldn’t very well be an absentee owner,” she said. “It’s a shame for the community. It wasn’t just a feminist bookstore; it was a beautiful children’s center and community center.”

For now, only the glow from the aquariums in the front windows illuminate the place. Schwarzenbach goes in daily to feed the fish.

Speaking for the family, Stevenson’s stepdaughter, Jollee Faber, 26, said: “It’s a beautiful place. It would be our dream to keep Gail’s dream alive. Hopefully, someone will be able to take it over.”

In addition to her husband and stepdaughter, Stevenson is survived by a son, Carl, 9; stepsons Eric, 28, and Seth, 19, and her mother and siblings. The family has asked that contributions in Stevenson’s name be made to the Fund for the Feminist Majority.


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