Backstory and Context
At a conference for hospital administrators in the early 1940s, Sister Blandine Eisele of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes noticed a session being offered on AA. Curious because she didn’t know what AA was, she walked into the room and came out with a new personal mission. She brought back what she learned about Alcoholics Anonymous to St. Clare Hospital in Monroe, Wisconsin, and fought misunderstandings about the disease with doctors, hospital administrators, and even her own congregation. Through dogged persistence she eventually succeeded in creating an alcohol rehabilitation unit at St. Clare which became known nationwide for its treatment program. She returned to Fond du Lac in 1962 and worked as the medical librarian at St. Agnes Hospital while also serving as a member of the Fond du Lac County Alcoholic Services Board.
Spurred by Reverend Duane Mills of St. Paul’s Cathedral and M.J. Coon, director of the Fond du Lac County Alcoholic Referral Service, a fund drive to create a residential treatment center for recovering alcoholics began in 1969. The Ben Sadoff Foundation made a major contribution to the project with the stipulation that the center be named after Sister Blandine.
Blandine House opened in the spring of 1970 and is operated under the auspices of the Episcopal Church. It’s first administrator-director was Reverend Wilfred Upson, OMI, and Sister Blandine also made herself available for consultations with residents of the center. In 1980, the Blandine House board of directors established the Sister Blandine Foundation in honor of Sister’s 85th birthday. Today, the Blandine House organization also operates Integrity House, where men in recovery can stay for up to a year after leaving Blandine House.
Alcoholics Anonymous chapters in Iowa, Kansas, and Wisconsin bear Sister Blandine’s name in tribute to her pioneer work in the treatment of alcoholism.
Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes Archives.
“Halfway House ‘Dream Come True.’” Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter, December 14, 1970.
Lewis, Catherine Whittier. “Blandine House, Inc., Halfway House for Alcoholics of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.” The Spirit, December 7, 1973.
Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter, July 1970.
Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes Archives