The Brooklyn Women’s Exchange began in 1854 as a way for talented women to sell their needlework and handcrafted goods. It began as the Brooklynn Female Employment Society, and evolved into a small sewing school and storefront, which allowed women to care for their families and earn income without having to work in a factory environment. In addition, they also made warm garments for the soldiers during the Civil War, Spanish American War and World War 1.
Over the years, the Women’s Exchange expanded to include over two hundred exchanges nationwide. Today, however, there are only twenty Women’s Exchanges left nationally. The Brooklyn women’s Exchange is the oldest, where seventy-percent of their products are handmade by over three-hundred artisans, many of whom have been selling with the Exchange for years. The other thirty-percent of the shop contains manufactured items to help defray the operating costs.
The shop is made up completely of volunteers who are as pleased to show you where to find a particular item as they are to tell you about the artist who created it. You will find everything from hand-thrown pottery, boiled wool hats and blown glass vases to sweaters, note cards, jewelry and hand-made bird houses. You’ll find pickles and jams, soaps and candles and an abundance of children’s clothes and toys. An entire section is devoted to Brooklyn, from aprons and tea towels to tote bags and t-shirts. They even have a silhouette artist who will create an image from a photo. They are the Grand Dames of craft markets, well before Etsy and the influx of flea markets, continuing in their tradition today.
After many years at a Pierrepont Street location, the Brooklyn Women’s Exchange moved to 137 Montague Street in 2023.
The Brooklyn Women’s Exchange is a Member of the National Federation of Women’s Exchanges. They are a nonprofit, open every day except Monday. If you are a crafter and wish to explore an opportunity selling with them, or if you would like to become a Brooklyn Women’s Exchange Volunteer Member, you will find the information on their website.
The Brooklyn Women’s Exchange is open from Tuesday through Friday from Noon to 6:00pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 11:00am to 6:00pm.
The Brooklyn Women’s Exchange now allows for shopping online and curbside pick-up is still available.