Al-Anon is almost as old as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Al-Anon was started by Lois W., wife of AA cofounder Bill W., and Anne B., a close friend of Lois'. In the formative years of AA, the wives and relatives of AA's realized that they too could improve their lives by applying the spiritual principles of AA.
While the AA's were attending their meetings, their loved ones often waited in their cars. Soon they started to come in from the cold and hold their own meetings to discuss their own common problems, while the AA's were at their meeting.
By 1948 a number of these family groups applied to the A.A. General Service Office to be listed in the A.A. Meeting Directory. Because of AA's singleness of purpose, these groups could not be included in the directory.
In 1951, Lois and Anne, created a Clearing House Committee to service 87 inquirers and to coordinate and serve them. Through this effort, 56 groups responded. They chose the name of their groups from the first syllables of "Alcoholics Anonymous" and they adopted the name Al-Anon Family Groups. They adopted the Twelve Steps of AA and later the Twelve Traditions, in the slightly modified form we know today.
Source: 2006-2009 Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual