| print this
Anonymous history in your area
History of International AA Women's
25 years, we have endeavored to piece together, how the
women's conference was started, where the first conference
was held and thoughts and feelings from the surviving women
who were a part of AA at that time. We dedicate this history
of the NAAWC to you, our sisters in sobriety.
efforts have not been without struggle. As I am sure you
will all agree, 25 years ago - what we were doing and how
we felt are extremely hard to remember. The same has been
true for those early days about the women's conference.
We have tried to piece together as best we could, what it
was like and what happened. In other words, those factors
that contributed to making the women's conference what it
believe the story begins with Bernadette O'K. She was 5'1",
weighed 155 lbs., had piercing black eyes that could see
right through you and was always there when anyone, anywhere
needed help. She was ahead of her time having graduated
from the University of Michigan in Engineering. At the time
one of our sisters met her in 1963, she had at that time,
14 years of sobriety, having sobered up in the late 1940's.
the women's conference was only one of many things that
Bernadette did to promote AA and recovery in the area. Her
typical day consisted of work, then she would stop by Group
#1, at 6125 Troost, to see if there was anyone needing help
or a 12-step call to be made. Then she would have dinner
with one of the many women in the program she was sponsoring,
then off to another meeting. She was always helping someone.
used to say that she was a traveling drunk so when she sobered
up she also traveled quite a bit to various Round Robins
or other AA functions throughout the Midwest. It was not
uncommon for her on three-day holidays to travel as far
as Michigan or Texas. On other 3-day holidays, she organized
functions (All day affairs) that brought families together.
Women were in the kitchen skinning chickens for dinner while
meetings or other recreational activities were going on.
She was a great delagator. Marie B. was one of the main
women behind the scenes who were there to implement the
work that was inspired by Bernadette.
the early 1960's, Bernadette helped to organize the first
women's group at Group #1 on Troost in Kansas City, Missouri.
It met once a week. That meeting continues today.
first women's conference was held at 6125 Troost (Group
#1) on February 14, 1964. This was Bernadette's birthday
and the conference has continued to be the closest week-end
to February 14th in her honor. At first the conference was
mainly local Kansas City women. The second conference was
held at the Holiday Inn in Kansas City, Kansas, followed
by one at the now demolished Executive Inn at 14th and Washington
last conference, prior to her death was held at the Muehlebach
Hotel in downtown Kansas City, Missouri in 1968. About two
weeks after the conference, Bernadette traveled to California
to make an amend to her former husband, whom she had not
seen for over 20 years. Although he was not anxious to see
her, she was able to tell him a little about what she had
been trying to do with her life, so he finally agreed to
see her. After she made her amend, her former husband invited
her to dinner to meet his wife and family, as she was crossing
the lobby to meet him, she suffered a massive stroke and
died a few hours later. It's one of those many stories,
we often hear around AA, which once again reaffirms how
spiritually guided our program truly is.
was a good friend with Marty Mann, the first woman in AA.
They worked together to get the National Council here in
Kansas City. The spread of the women's conference occurred
by word of mouth. It started out as local in nature, then
in 1970, became a regional conference first moving to St.
Louis, then Wichita, Ks., Oklahoma City, Little Rock and
then to Des Moines. Marty Mann also helped to promote it
from her position in New York. After the Des Moines conference,
it started moving around to various parts of the country
finally returning to it's roots in its 25th year.
Bertha C. informed me how she was the only black woman in
AA for a time until Vernetta W. came in to the program.
They were sponsored by one of the first speakers of the
conference, Madge F. Although it was hard for these women,
at first, being the only black women, both of these women
are alive and sober today and both plan to be at this year's
was a legend in her own time. Besides pioneering the conference,
she was one to get things done in the halls of AA. The one
big thing that Bernadette stood for was honesty. She didn't
soft pedal things. She was a firm believer in the basics
of the program. She felt that women should only sponsor
women and vice versa.
what I have heard, I am sorry I didn't know her. She sounds
like such a wonderful, down-to-earth, caring person who
would show though love whenever it was needed. She wasn't
a person to sit on the sidelines. She was one of those rare
people that intuitively could see what they wanted to go
about to accomplish it. Bernadette was that way in helping
AA in Kansas City to grow. Since there were no halfway houses
for women in the fifties and sixties, she started one in
her home, known as the Winona Simmons Home. She helped to
promote the first treatment center in the area at St. Joseph
Hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri.
the women's conference would have gotten started without
Bernadette. But I'm grateful she was the promoter and instigator
for what has become one of the truly beautiful experiences
within our sobriety.
you all for being here at our 25th Anniversary, to contribute
your part to the history of the National AA Women's Conference.
We are all needed to make the conference special for each
and every one of us.
would like to express our thanks and appreciation to those
women who have contributed their thoughts and time in the
Truly Special Sister in Sobriety who wishes to remain Anonymous
C., Vernetta W., Jane J., Fawn H., Sally T.
all others who have contributed their time and effort in
gathering names and making phone calls...