A Woman's Issue"
By Janis Wilson-Williams
Of the 10 million alcoholics in
America today, at least half are women,
but little is being done for them, says an
official of the National Council on Alcoholism.
"In recent years, this problem has
finally been recognized as a major one
within the feminist-humanist movements,
yet very little is being done," says Jan Du
Plain, director of the NCA's Office on
The problem of women alcoholics
is being brought to the forefront at the
National Women's Conference in the form
of a grassroots effort by lobbyists from
across the United States.
Wearing t-shirts and buttons reading
"Alcoholism is a Women's Issue," the
lobbyists are attempting to point out the
discrepancies in treatment for women
The t-shirts and buttons are sponsored by the NCA and the Women's Alcoholism Treatment Center of Los Angeles,
with major funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,
an offshoot of the Department of Health,
Education and Welfare.
"The NIAAA has a budget of $168
million," says DuPlain, "yet, of that
amount, only four to five per cent goes to
treatment for women. The discrepancy is
Additional discrepancies cited
Of 584 NIAAA-funded treatment
programs, only 17 are geared to women.
Of 600 halfway houses in the United
States, only 30 are for women. Of those
30, only eight include childcare components.
Appropriate vocational rehabilitation
in treatment facilities are almost nonexistent.
Therapy by and for women is inadequate.
How is alcoholism among women
unique? Nancy McDonald, head of a task
force for women alcoholics in deep East
Texas says, "Women alcoholics have many
unique problems. For one, alcoholism
among women is harder to diagnose because women stay in their homes and are
protected by their husbands and their
doctors-who often treat the symptoms
instead of the disease, and consequently
help women become doubly addicted, both
to alcohol and to pills to 'calm' then-
"Secondly, alcoholism among women is especially lethal because children are
so often involved," she says. "I listen to
the statistics: one out of 10 people in the
general population becomes an alcoholic.
But if one parent is an alcoholic, the child's
chances of having the disease increase to
one in four. And if both parents are alcoholics, the chances increase to one out of
two, or 50 per cent. The statistics are
"And a third problem unique to
women is this: if a man becomes an alcoholic, nine times out of 10, his wife will
stay with him. Yet when a woman becomes an alcoholic, there's only one
chance in 10 that her husband will stay
Phyllis Reilly, director of the Division of Alcoholism for the state of New
Jersey, says, "Since women with drinking problems often stay home, they stay
sick longer. They frequently become alcoholic after a personal crisis, such as the
death of a child, divorce, menopause or
anything that causes stress. Yet women
are the invisible alcoholics. Their disease
is not recognized, and therefore it is
Reilly says women seeking treatment respond best when counseled in
groups of other women. "In mixed so-
called co-ed treatment groups, the women fall back into nurturing roles. As a
result, they help the men in the groups
and don't see to it that their own needs
McDonald says women alcoholics are
victims of an additional problem because
a moral stigma is attached, possibly because of their role as mothers. "Then the
stigma feeds the disease, since women
don't want to admit to being unable to
cope with motherhood. A double bind results, with the woman drinking to lessen
the burdens of motherhood and wifehood,
then failing to admit to alcoholism because
of those very roles which caused it, or contributed to it."
McDonald says alcoholism affects a
person's self-esteem, which in a woman is
often tied up with her children. "If she
should submit to treatment in existing programs, her children would be taken from
her, and with them her last vestige of self-
esteem. It's Catch 22."
McDonald says alcoholism is a family
disease and therefore treatment should
involve the entire family.
DuPlain says the main theme of the
lobbying in Houston revolves around one
vital point-"Alcoholism is a curable disease. There's no reason in the world why
a woman in the twentieth century should
die from it."
IN APPRECIATION OF JUST A FEW OF THE WOMEN
WHO HAVE HAD A DEEP PERSONAL IMPACT ON OUR DEVELOPMENT.
IF YOU COULD KNOW THEM AS WEHAVE,
YOUR LIVES WOULD BE GREATLY ENRICHED.
Dorothy Day Dorothy Hood
Ann Wharton ft J. Walker
Tom Scaia Dr. Carol Weiner
JUDY ELDERS DEBRADANBURG
Admin. Aide Admin. Aide
MEET THE DELEGATES
Billy and Norma Temple and Mark
Godbold drove for 17 hours to get to
Houston from their home in Jackson,
Miss., arriving here on Friday morning. All
three are delegates to the conference from
When asked why she was a delegate,
Norma Temple replied, "Because I believe
they (feminists) are asking for rights which
will hinder, not help, women. It will cause
reverse discrimination against men."
She also felt that there are many
inequities in the women's movement citing as an example, "They want marriage
licenses for homosexuals and at the same
time they're tearing down the family."
Her husband, a large windbreaker-
clad man, took up where his soft-spoken
wife left off. "They're making a mockery
out of our justice system. We already
have laws-I don't know who they're trying to fool.
"They're not having any effect on
middle-class women, but they're promising the poor and underprivileged a gravy
train." He hastened to deny that the women's rights movement had anything to do
with civil rights or that the antis were seg
regationist, although they managed to elect
an all-white delegation in a state that is
37 per cent Black.
When asked about the Klan connection, Billy Temple insisted that very few of
the participants at the state level knew
each other beforehand. So they did not
know until the voting was over that they
had elected one Black woman and one .
Klan member's wife.
"We only found out about the state
convention one week before it was scheduled," said Mrs. Temple. "We found out
through our churches. Most of the Blacks
who were there were invited by the pro-
ERA people." The convention held at
Jackson was approximately 10 per cent
Asked about the one Black delegate,
Norma Temple described her as a "conser-"
vative, professing Christian like the rest of
us. We heard there would be trouble for
her afterwards from the pro-ERA people
so we stuck around. We were in fear for
"Sure enough they cornered her. She
has admitted she was threatened by them
(pro-ERA people). Then she resigned.
"We didn't hear from her again."
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DAILY BREAKTHROUGH NOVEMBER 19, 1977 PAGE 27