Our HISTORY AND MISSION
The Brooklyn Women’s Exchange was founded in 1854, during a particularly volatile time in American economic history. Many women in Brooklyn found themselves in need of income but with no means of support. Following the lead of church ministers who were training indigent women in the craft of needlework, a group of concerned local women began the Brooklyn Female Employment Society providing a discreet enterprise, or “exchange,” through which women could sell their needlework and handcrafts. As the organization evolved into the Brooklyn Women’s Exchange, a small sewing school and storefront enabled women to care for their families and earn income without having to work in a factory or other dangerous environment.
In addition to selling their wares, the women of the Exchange made “warm garments” for soldiers in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War I. During the Civil War, the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, the Abolitionist preacher of Plymouth Church, bought “coarse garments” from the Exchange to be distributed to the poor.
Today, the Brooklyn Women’s Exchange stands at the forefront of the American crafts movement, representing hundreds of craftspeople from Brooklyn and across the country.
The Brooklyn Women's Exchange is a member of the National Federation of Women's Exchanges.
An integral part of the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, the shop brings a modern link to a bygone retail experience by offering one-of-a-kind items and personalized service.