Our History

Founded in 1962, Stepping Stone is now the oldest alcohol and drug recovery program for women in Northern California. Jane O’Toole, our co-founder, recognized the great need for a women-only recovery residence in San Francisco.

Jane was a graduate of Friendly House in Los Angeles, the first women-only recovery home in the United States. When she moved to San Francisco, Jane wanted to open a similar house in the area. With the support of Alice Blake, also co-founder, the San Francisco Women’s Rehabilitation Foundation, known also as Stepping Stone, was created. With the help of recovering alcoholics and civic-minded groups, the Victorian on 10th Avenue was obtained. Stepping Stone opened its doors in 1963, where the first Alcoholics Anonymous women’s meeting in San Francisco was held.

Stepping Stone was named after the historic home of Bill and Lois Wilson, who lived in a house by that name in Katonah, New York, from 1941 until their deaths. Bill Wilson was a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). During his 30 years, he helped foster the growth of AA in his home. The house is currently operated as a museum. Our name also relates to the fact that we serve as a stepping stone in a woman’s travel from addiction to recovery.

At the time Stepping Stone was founded, there was a practice of releasing alcoholic women from jail and providing them nothing more than 15 cents for transportation.

Without any form of assistance, many of the women went straight back to drinking and quickly ended up right back in jail. Jane O’Toole and Alice Blake brought this fact to the attention of then-mayor George Christopher and with his help officially founded Stepping Stone.

Stepping Stone House