Thinking about Lois Wilson: Not Your Typical Women’s History Month Hero by Joy Jones
About 25 years ago, I began reading young adult biographies. I found and still do find them to be a great way to quickly learn about people in whom I have an interest. Being involved in Twelve Step programs, I searched for a book about Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, or his wife Lois who co-founded Al-Anon, a program for families and spouses of alcoholics. Unable to find a young adult biography, I thought about writing a book featuring both husband and wife. I did some research, wrote a book proposal and began submitting to publishers. I explored both a young adult and an adult biography. After some rejections, life took over and I set the book idea aside. Fast forward 15 years or so and I was in a writer’s group with Joy Jones. When I mentioned the idea of writing the story of the marriage of Bill and Lois Wilson and their shared legacy, she was intrigued and quickly in her words became “the #1 cheerleader for finishing the book”. Joy is an accomplished writer who has published three books for children/young adults and two adult nonfiction books and has another book scheduled for publication. With much persistence, I convinced Joy that the Wilson book would be a better book if we combined talents. Gratefully, she agreed. Our collaboration has resulted in a rich exploration of the Wilson marriage and particularly how to describe Lois Wilson in a way that is understandable to 21st Century readers, particularly women. Joy has taken the lead on sorting out this important question. In today’s post, she shares some initial thoughts on Lois Wilson and her role as we conclude Women’s History month.:
During women’s history month, we celebrate women who achieved despite men who may have stood in their way.
Lois Wilson was a different type of shero. She felt called to stand by her man and in so doing saved the lives of millions.
Her husband, Bill Wilson, was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Lois stuck with him through 16 years of his drinking, then continued to support his lifetime of work helping others find sobriety. That meant taking care of other alcoholic men in their home and being the breadwinner during the extensive period when he was out of work, even once he was sober.
She co-founded Al-Anon, the support group for family members of alcoholics. Together, they launched the 12-Step movement, the formula for relief from addiction that has helped multitudes worldwide.
But Lois wasn’t out to start a movement or make a name for herself. It seems she was motivated to do whatever would support Bill.
“Stand by your man” is not currently a popular watchword among modern women. Yet I am fascinated by the position Lois took and the good that came out of it.
With my colleague Tom Adams, we are writing Bill & Lois Wilson: A Marriage That Saved the World. I am curious to understand the nature of a marriage that was troubled yet transformative for them and for others.
Typically, we celebrate the rugged individual who prevails alone. But it’s probably more accurate to say that any man or woman who succeeds does so because of relationship with others not in spite of.
Lois Wilson stands as an example of the good that can happen when we respect relationship.