The Packer Collegiate Institute: A Story of Education in Brooklyn

Lois Burnham Wilson

Lois Burnham Wilson Class of 1912

Lois Burnham Wilson, a cofounder of Al-Anon, was born in Brooklyn in 1891. She graduated from The Packer Collegiate Institute in 1912.

Following her graduation from Packer, Wilson worked for the YWCA and as a teacher. In 1913, she met William Wilson and the couple married in 1918 before William was sent overseas to Europe to serve during World War I.

Upon William’s return from Europe, the Wilsons experienced a number of stresses in their marriage, including several miscarriages, failed attempts at adoption, and William’s growing problem with alcoholism.

William eventually quit drinking entirely, and in 1935 he cofounded the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Program—even holding meetings in the Wilsons’ own home on Clinton Street in Brooklyn.

In the aftermath of William’s recovery, Lois focused her energies on helping the families of alcoholics. This eventually led to the formation of Al-Anon, an organization made up family and friends of alcoholics.

Al-Anon expanded throughout the 1940s, and in 1957 the first branch of Alateen was founded to support young people dealing with alcoholic family members. In 1979, Wilson published her autobiography, Lois Remembers.

Lois Wilson died in 1988 at ninety-seven years old. She donated her family home and archives to what is now Stepping Stones, a historic landmark located in Bedford, New York. Stepping Stones is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Wilsons and telling the history of AA and Al-Anon.