The first ever Well Spouse® Association Annual National Conference was held in October 1988 at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat and conference center in Pennsylvania.
The impetus for the conference came from the book Mainstay: For the Well Spouse of the Chronically Ill. The author, Maggie Strong, whose husband had MS, and 12 other spousal caregivers assembled to share their stories and plan how to launch the Well Spouse Foundation (as it was then named).
The idea to form the group came from Maggie's book tour, where she met a number of spousal caregivers who spoke to her after the readings. They realized her story was theirs in many ways, and with the deep satisfaction of having made this connection the small band that came together at Pendle Hill went home to spread the news about this new non-profit organization that offered support to a hitherto little-known and practically invisible group in society.
From the beginning, they recognized the value of coming together for face-to-face meetings -- in local area support groups that were set up by volunteers, in respite weekend events, and in the October national conference that quickly became a tradition.
In subsequent years, annual conferences have been held in different locations, and the local volunteer organizers developed varied programs to help well spouses: workshops, social events around food and drink, special tours, a Friday night keynote speech, a Saturday night DJ and dance, and a Sunday morning spiritual session, culminating in the farewell circle.
Recaps of past conferences are available, and for more specific information on our most recent national conference, please read the following: