A.A. Historical Data, Page Two

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A.A. Historical Data, Page Two

Meanwhile, in New York, Dr. Bob and Bill had in 1938 organized an overall trusteeship for the budding Fellowship. Friends of John D. Rockefeller Jr. became board members alongside a contingent of A.A.s. This board was named The Alcoholic Foundation. However, all efforts to raise large amounts of money failed, because Mr. Rockefeller had wisely concluded that great sums might spoil the infant society. Nevertheless, the foundation managed to open a tiny office in New York to handle inquiries and to distribute the A.A. book — an enterprise which, by the way, had been mostly financed by the A.A.s themselves.

The book and the new office were quickly put to use. An article about A.A. was carried by Liberty magazine in the fall of 1939, resulting in some 800 urgent calls for help. In 1940, Mr. Rockefeller gave a dinner for many of his prominent New York friends to publicize A.A. This brought yet another flood of pleas. Each inquiry received a personal letter and a small pamphlet. Attention was also drawn to the book Alcoholics Anonymous, which soon moved into brisk circulation. Aided by mail from New York, and by A.A. travelers from already-established centers, many new groups came alive. At the year’s end, the membership stood at 3,000.

Then, in March 1941, the Saturday Evening Post featured an excellent article about A.A., and the response was enormous. By the close of that year, the membership had jumped to 6,000, and the number of groups multiplied in proportion. Spreading across the U.S. and Canada, the Fellowship mushroomed.

By 1950, 100,000 recovered alcoholics could be found worldwide. Spectacular though this was, the period 1940-1950 was nonetheless one of great uncertainty. The crucial question was whether all those mercurial alcoholics could live and work together in groups. Could they hold together and function effectively? This was the unsolved problem. Corresponding with thousands of groups about their problems became a chief occupation of the New York headquarters.

By 1946, however, it had already become possible to draw sound conclusions about the kinds of attitude, practice and function that would best suit A.A.’s purpose. Those principles, which had emerged from strenuous group experience, were codified by Bill in what are today the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. By 1950, the earlier chaos had largely disappeared. A successful formula for A.A. unity and functioning had been achieved and put into practice.

Bob devoted himself to the question of hospital care for alcoholics, and to their indoctrination with A.A. principles. Large numbers of alcoholics flocked to Akron to receive hospital care at St. Thomas, a Catholic hospital. Dr. Bob became a member of its staff. Subsequently, he and the remarkable Sister M. Ignatia, also of the staff, cared for and brought A.A. to some 5,000 sufferers. After Dr. Bob’s death in 1950, Sister Ignatia continued to work at Cleveland’s Charity Hospital, where she was assisted by the local groups and where 10,000 more sufferers first found A.A. This set a fine example of hospitalization wherein A.A. could cooperate with both medicine and religion.

In this same year of 1950, A.A. held its first International Convention at Cleveland. There, Dr. Bob made his last appearance and keyed his final talk to the need of keeping A.A. simple. Together with all present, he saw the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous enthusiastically adopted for the permanent use of the A.A. Fellowship throughout the world. (He died on November 16, 1950.)

Click here to return to the first part in the series, "Introduction to the A.A. Recovery Program".

The above information is from "A.A. Fact File", prepared by General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous. This information is also available on G.S.O.'s A.A. Website: www.aa.org.

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