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The Women’s Exchange: A history of helping local women

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tucked away on the edge of East Memphis, the Women's Exchange was once one of the few ways widows and mothers of sick children could provide for their families.

"It was frowned upon for women to work outside of the home and a marketplace was built for them," explained Nora Boswell.

Years later, it still offers the wares of women in Memphis who need flexibility and want to share their talents with the community.

Some of the items are consigned and many are created in the sew room.

"We provide all of the material, the lace, the buttons, the needles, the thread and sometimes sewing machines."

This is Serena White's second stint working for the Women's Exchange.

The mother of quadruplets said she enjoys the flexibility the jobs offer.

Phyllis Benford decided to volunteer at the Women's Exchange after her retirement.

"I can be home for them after school, during the summer, anytime that they might need me. It's very convenient."

Phyllis Benford used to visit the Women's Exchange before she retired.

One she had the free time, she decided to share her more than 40 years of sewing experience.

"What do they say, a labor of love for the things that you do? It is."

The designs are timeless and customers keep coming back for the handmade dresses, playsuits and boy bubbles.

"We are sticklers in regards to making sure the product is a good product because we want our customers to come back."

There's also an art gallery featuring local artists, jewelry and even wooden toys.

If you look around, there's a little something for everyone.

Chef Bailey has been preparing wonderful meals at the Women's Exchange for over 20 years.

But if the children's clothes, the toys or the artwork don't tempt you something in the tea room certainly will.

"It's an enjoyable atmosphere. A lot of people come and they'll sit for hours eating and enjoying their company."

At the Women's Exchange you can find art work, hand made clothes, toys and much more that was all made by locals.

The home cooked meals are prepared daily by Chef Bailey who's has been running the kitchen for 23 years.

The women working behind the counter are volunteers and they know keeping the Women's Exchange open makes a difference for so many families.

"We've had several that have been homeless that we've been able them build that confidence they needed to get back on their feet."

The Women's Exchange is about women supporting and uplifting other women.

For more information on the Women's Exchange, click here.

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