8th of March –International Women's Day; this day brings many memories – not always happy or easy.
So first the difficult ones.
Warszawa, Poland 1971 – Am employed at the Finance Ministry, Downtown. I commute from Grochow by tram or buss and walk along Nowy Swiat. My studies at the University of Warsaw are incomplete. 8th of March – there is an uprising/violent protest at and about the University – about 0.3 miles from my workplace. The human mass is uncontrollable, cement items (benches, barricades) are destroyed; there are feelings of shock and danger. Although I'm young, I know nothing about the reasons behind those violent actions. From the 4th story office windows we “carefully and cautiously” observe the organized groups of ORMO marching; where?? - we think toward the University. It is difficult to speak, talk – whom to trust, who is a traitor, whom I can trust.
And now the beautiful ones
The International Women's Day – it evokes in my mind the accomplishments of many women, who thru their life, example, determination, love, dedication, and sometimes sheer brute force and religious convictions, themselves initialized, supported, pushed and uplifted the Program of 12 Steps.
Henrietta Seiberling – organized a meeting of two “drunks” - one from New York, the other from Akron. The washed out and barely sober Wall Street dealer and the continuously passing-out doctor from Akron. Henrietta called Bill's phone call a “Manna From Heaven”. She recognized the unbelievable opportunity to help her friend, Dr. Bob. And that what did actually happen.... not immediately, but quite quickly, quite soon.
Anne S., wife of Dr. Bob in Akron – she endured 17-year engagement. Maintained a family, raised 2 children; all in spite of living with a continuously-getting-drunk surgeon-husband. Invited Bill W. (in agreement with Dr. Bob, of course), to move in, and through Bill's 3-month stay, Anne made sure that the morning routine was consistent and followed on the daily basis: reading the Bible – usually Book of James, meditation, waiting for Guidance (from God/Higher Power), prayer, breakfast – in that order. Being a member of the Oxford Group, Anne understood the importance of the spiritual discipline. It was Anne who said in 1935 that “the alcoholic does not suffer alone, the whole family suffers.. so the whole family needs recovery”. From the beginnings of what will eventually become the AA movement, Dr. Bob and Anne took home the first alcoholic, including whole families with children in tow. Anne became the person to go-to when moral support was need for the “newly” sober alcoholics.. Often when some information about a particular person in local AA (Akron, Cleveland, vicinity) was needed, questions were directed to Anne, and her opinions were respected. All because Anne knew all of them and had almost intuitive recognition of the person's character. Many referred to Anne as a Mother of AA.
Lois W., wife of Bill W. Lois endured years of empty and broken promises of sobriety, “never-again” notes, short-lived periods of sobriety. After the Wall Street crash, was a sole wage earner, supporting Bill, even when in the early sobriety Bill kept on bringing home street drunks, Lois understood the depth of the alcoholic illness and the emotional toll she was paying as a result of Bill's early sobriety - the shoe-throwing incident. Lois recognized the benefits of Bill in his early sobriety working with “drunks, when she has reminded Bill that even if none of the street alcoholics became sober, Bill stayed sober. And of course Lois organized existing groups of families and friend; registered them, and gave them a name – Al-Anon. It was Lois who rewrote the AA Traditions to reflect Al-Anon needs and philosophy. And done so much more – to carry the message of HOPE to families and friends of the alcoholics. Sister Ignatia – a catholic nun who with Dr. Bob worked on development of a successful institutional, medical, and humane treatment for alcohol dependency.
Sister Ignatia has shown relentless, sometimes bordering on stubbornness, approach to a strength of a personal prayer and to the benefits of Chapel-prayer time for the “new” alcoholics. She provided a no-excuses-accepted stand when faced with the “clever and cunning” barely-sober alcoholic patients. This approach became legendary at the St. Thomas Hospital. This “small in statue” woman, was able to pass on the spiritual part of the Program to even the most “difficult” patients. Sister Ignatia's reproachful comment “Pray for your self, God love to hear from Strangers” and the tremendous work in organizing and heading Cleveland's alcoholic treatment center has clearly confirmed the presence of a “Great Spirit in a Small Body”.
These are only 4 of the many women who assisted in carrying the message and were instrumental in development of the 12 Step Program. Obviously there are many others who helped then and others now, in our times, accomplishing great things; like first Women in AA - Akron, Cleveland, New York. Or our fantastic Archivists – Gale L. in Akron and the fabulous team at the GSO in New York.