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Historic Handwritten Letter from Henrietta Seiberling to Clarence Snyder in 1951

Original price $15,000 - Original price $15,000
Original price
$15,000 - $15,000
Current price $15,000


Historic Handwritten Letter from Henrietta Sieberling to Clarence Snyder regarding 1st General Service Conference w/envelope

Mailed March 8, 1951

The Letter
This is a very fascinating letter with historical significance. It was written to Clarence Snyder in early March 1951 just prior to the first General Service Conference in April of that year. The text of the letter reveals a serious level of opposition to the General Service Conference proposal by the members of Ohio, Missouri and the midwest Alcoholics Anonymous groups. Henrietta discusses this issue with Clarence S. and references those members and groups which are against sending delegates.

This letter is handwritten and in very good condition. The original envelope postmarked is included. See pictures.

Proposal for the General Service Conference and Opposition
The Third Legacy proposal was not universally well received initially. Midwest groups were particularly in opposition, many of which had direct roots in the Oxford Groups. The thought was AA should be a movement and not an organization with structure. Some of those opposed feared more power would be centered in New York, and hadn't  fully comprehended that the Conference would exist to serve the groups, and not the other way around. This letter highlights the differences of opinion which existed at the time. Bill tried to assuage such concerns in the November 1950 pamphlet by including Dr. Bob's name on the cover page as an equal in the proposal. Dr. Bob had come to agree with the need for the Conference, and passed away the month the proposal pamphlet was released.

Henrietta Sieberling and Alcoholics Anonymous
Seiberling was not an alcoholic; she was, however, involved with the Oxford Movement, an evangelical fellowship of intellectuals who believed in the responsibility of Christians to solve social problems. Seiberling helped organize the group’s “alcoholic squad” in Akron.

Dr. Bob Smith and his wife came into the Akron Oxford Group. A physician, Smith was an alcoholic. Aware of his drinking problem, Seiberling invited the Smiths over for a small meeting of the Oxford Group. Members shared their deepest secrets and then Smith admitted for the first time that he was a “secret drinker and I can’t stop.” The group then prayed together.

The Oxford Movement was also a kind of network. Members often contacted others in other cities. It was through this network that Seiberling met Bill Wilson, a stockbroker from New York in Akron on business. Wilson was also a recovered alcoholic. Wilson told Seiberling that he had had a religious experience and found the strength to stop drinking.

Seiberling quickly arranged a meeting between Wilson and Smith. The two worked together to support each other as they dealt with alcoholism. Working with Seiberling, they also came up with many of the tenets that still mark Alcoholics Anonymous — never to drink again, to lead a spiritual life and to share their experiences with others. Initially working through Akron’s Oxford Group, Alcoholics Anonymous soon struck out on its own, meeting at the old King School. Bill Wilson acted as the group’s promoter; “Dr. Bob” was the “homeyness” that the alcoholics needed at the beginning, Seiberling recalled.

Seiberling added the religious dimension that both Dr. Bob and Wilson resisted initially. The two thought that this might turn the alcoholics away. To which, Seiberling replied,“Well, we’re not out to please the alcoholics. They have been pleasing themselves all these years. We are out to please God. And if you don’t talk about what God does and your faith, and your guidance, then might as well be the Rotary Club or something like that. Because God is your only source of Power.”

While Seiberling nurtured the AA movement, she saw her marriage degenerate. Eventually, she and her husband separated and she moved to New York in 1952. She died there in 1979.