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++++Message 3575. . . . . . . . . . . . RE: Re: "Little Red Riding Hoods" in

early AA meetings?

From: David Jones . . . . . . . . . . . . 7/18/2006 7:03:00 PM
When Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935, many people believed that

women couldn't be alcoholics, much less that they deserved a place at the

A.A. table.

Although we now take for granted that the doors of A.A. are open to any

alcoholic male or

female this was not always the case. In Slaying the Dragon: The History of


Treatment and Recovery in America, William L. White describes the challenges

faced by

women seeking recovery in the early years of A.A. The following excerpts

from White's book

highlight the struggles and contributions of these female pioneers.

The first women in A.A.
The wives of early A.A. members--particularly Anne Smith and Lois

Wilson--participated in and made immense contributions to this developing

Anne's support and counsel to many of the early alcoholics is legendary. The

seeds of

many key ideas that emerged within A.A. began in the pages of her journal

and in her

conversations with early members. Both co-founders noted the role that wives

played in

the founding of A.A., Dr. Bob even suggesting that there would have been no

A.A. without

these women.
Following close on the heels of the wives of early A.A. members were the

first alcoholic

women seeking assistance from A.A.: an unnamed Indian waitress; Sylvia K.,


"glamorous divorcee"; Jane, the wife of a wealthy industrialist;

Lelia M.,

the heiress;

Ruth T. of Toledo; Ethel M. and Kaye M., who came into the program with

their husbands;

and Nona W.

There was also Florence R., whose story appeared in the first edition of the

Big Book, and

who objected to one of the book's proposed titles, "One Hundred

Men." She


returned to drinking and died of alcoholism.

Lil, the very first woman to seek help from A.A., got loaded with Victor,

another early

prospect, pioneering what would come to be christened "thirteenth


(sexual or

romantic involvement with someone whose sobriety is relatively new and


potentially unstable). Lil, like many of the women who contacted A.A. in the

early years,

did not get sober during this period.

Marty M., who entered A.A. in New York in 1939 and went on to become the

first woman

to achieve enduring sobriety within A.A., noted that many of these women

failed to get

sober not because they were so much sicker, but simply because they were

Resistance to female membership

Many early A.A. members did not believe women could be alcoholics. Some were


quite sure how women could fit into this fellowship, while others stated

openly that A.A.

would not work for women. Some in the latter group prophesied that the

inclusion of

women could threaten A.A.'s future. Some women entering A.A. were given rude

treatment. The first alcoholic woman involved in the Cleveland group was

"thrown out of

A.A. by the wives."

The primary fear regarding the involvement of women in A.A. was of the


disruptiveness of the sexual dynamic that might emerge within the groups.

[This fear]

imbedded itself within early A.A. folk sayings such as, "Under every


is a slip."
To manage this potential disruption during A.A.'s early years, women and men

sat on

different sides of meeting rooms, and the first women were often sponsored

not by A.A.

members but by their wives. As more single and divorced women entered A.A.,


between these women and the wives of A.A. men increased. This led to the

creation of

"closed meetings," attended only by alcoholics, in addition to


meetings," which

were open to all.

Stigmas and stereotypes
Special problems facing women in A.A. were acknowledged as early as 1945,

when a

Grapevine article noted the isolation of alcoholic women and their

propensity to be

involved with pills as well as booze.
A Grapevine article the following year--in spite of a disclaimer that it

should not be read

as a blanket indictment of women--was filled with the kinds of stereotyping

that women

were likely to encounter in the A.A. of this period. The article made the

following eleven

1) The percentage of women who stay in A.A. is low.

2) Many women form attachments too intense--bordering on the emotional.

3) So many women want to run things.

4) Too many women don't like women.

5) Women talk too much.

6) Women are a questionable help working with men and vice versa.

7) Sooner or later, a woman-on-the-make sallies into a group, on the prowl

for phone

numbers and dates.

8) A lot of women are attention-demanders.

9) Few women can think in the abstract.

10) Women's feelings get hurt too often.

11) Far too many women A.A.'s cannot get along with the non-alcoholic wives

of A.A.

Women were often refused sponsorship by the male members and were viewed as

suspect due to their frequent concurrent addiction to "goofballs."

The special stigma that female alcoholics faced in the 1940s and '50s was

reflected in

some sensationalist [media] treatment. Newspaper articles about women in

A.A. bore

such titles as "Women Drunkards, Pitiful Creatures, Get Helping


Perhaps most

outlandish was a 1954 on A.A. in Confidential Magazine entitled, "No


But Plenty

of Babes."
Jack Alexander's 1950 article on A.A. in the Saturday Evening Post noted:

"More than

one group has been thrown into a maelstrom of gossip and disorder by a

determined lady

whose alcoholism was complicated by an aggressive romantic interest."
This [negative] public image of the female drinker no doubt kept many

alcoholic women

from seeking help and led to such other unusual events as Sunday drivers in


passing Dia Linn (Hazelden's treatment unit for women) in hopes of seeing

"wild woman

Enduring contributions
Female pioneers "toughed it out" and made things easier for the

women who


them. Women's groups within A.A. began springing up during the early 1940s


Cleveland and other A.A. strongholds. There, female A.A. members were free

to talk

about many issues (sexual abuse, intimate relationships, family problems,


abortion, menopause) that they would not have been comfortable addressing in

mixed-gender meetings.
Women were the dominant force behind the A.A. Grapevine and did all of the

early work of

the General Service Office, as they continue to conduct much of that

activity today.

The percentage of women within the total membership of Alcoholics Anonymous


risen steadily since its founding. In 1955, A.A. reported that 15% of its

members were

women; by 1968 that percentage had risen to 22%; and in the 1996 survey,


constituted 33% of members.
From Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in


by William L. White (Chestnut Health Systems, 1998). Used by kind permission

of the

God bless


"archie" wrote:


> Looking for an explanation of the term "Red Riding

> Hoods" as used in the text below. It came from the

> book "Slaying the Dragon" by William L. White on

> page 135, paragraph 1, lines 20 to 28.


> There were also tensions regarding the proper relationship

> between A.A. and the informal club houses that were

> springing up around the organization. An early report

> on an A.A. Clubhouse in San Francisco made note of the strain

> from "over-crowding at meetings" and the problem of


> panhandlers, wolves, and Red Riding Hoods upsetting the

> meetings." All of these situations reflected A.A.'s growing

> pains.

It might be a reference to women whose vulnerability

is a little more calcuated than genuine.

I have a vague recollection of someone who looks at

children's stories through a psychoanalytic lens

remarking on the oddity of the setup in Red Riding Hood.

Who would send a lone, small child into wolf-infested

woods? Either her mother exposed her to danger

deliberately, or RRH is not as innocent as she



Note from Glenn C. (moderator): Cora, this was Eric

Berne, in his book "What Do You Say After You Say Hello?"

It's a brilliant book. He argues that fairy tales and

other childhood literary motifs often offer good

metaphors for describing the psychological games that

adults play, and the "life scripts" (an idea that he

developed) which shape the course of our lives.
E.g., some people use a disability to play "Little Lame

Prince" all their lives, taking a real disability which

they have, but using it as a phony excuse for avoiding

responsibility in all sorts of other areas where it is

not relevant. Alcoholics sometimes play this game

with their alcoholism.

In parts of this book, and also in parts of Berne's "Games

People Play," he describes women who play "vulnerable"

and "helpless," as you describe, while simultaneously

pretending to show sexual availability in a flirtatious

manner, in order to manipulate men into doing the things

they want.

In the context of Bill W.'s remarks, I suspect that a

"Little Red Riding Hood" was a woman who came into AA

meetings talking about all the "big bad wolves" who

had abused her, and batting her eyelashes at one of the

men in the meeting, in an attempt to convince him that

he was "a bold woodsman" who would step in and play hero

and "save her" from all the big bad wolves.
There are sufficient male alcoholics who are dumb

enough to fall for that con game, to enable a Little

Red Riding Hood to get into numerous sick relationships

within AA.

It was Eric Berne, as far as I can tell, who basically

developed the idea of "rescuing" and "enabling" behavior

as a kind of psychological con game which some people

play, and he pointed out that alcoholics in particular

are experts at playing that particular psychological

con game.

So a "Little Red Riding Hood" is a woman who is looking

for a man who will play Rescuer and Enabler, in the way

in which Bill W. seems to have been using the metaphor.
The idea of "codependent behavior" was a development

based on Berne's original ideas about Persecutor-Victim--Rescuer

con games, which came along a decade or so later. I think

Berne's original language is much more precise and much

more useful than the somewhat amorphous concept of

codependency, which attempts to include far too many

different kinds of psychological game playing. But

that's just me.

Tom P. (below) talks about the flip side of the Little

Red Riding Hood game, namely men who try to chat up

women newcomers to AA, and convince them that they are

the big bold heroic woodsmen who will "protect" them

from the wolves and "carry their basket of goodies for


From: "Tom P."

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