Alcoholics Anonymous – Origins of AA, Henrietta Seiberling speaking in 1971
Henrietta Seiberling is the lady who introduced Bill Wilson to Dr. Bob Smith. May, 1972 In the spring of 1971, the newspapers reported the passing of Bill Wilson of New York City, who was one of the two co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. The other co-founder, Dr Robert Smith of Akron, Ohio, had passed on some years earlier. Shortly after Bill’s death, the Akron Alcoholics groups asked my mother Henrietta Seiberling, to speak at the annual “Founders Day” meeting in Akron, which is attended by members of Alcoholics Anonymous from all over the world.
She lives in New York and did not feel up to traveling, so they asked me to speak in her place. I agreed to speak but felt that it would mean most to them to hear some of her own words, so I called her on the telephone and asked her to tell me about the origins of Alcoholics Anonymous so that I could make sure my remarks were accurate. I made a tape recording of the conversation and played part of it at the 1971 Founders Day meeting, which was held in the gymnasium at the University of Akron with a couple of thousand people present.
The first meeting of Bob and Bill, described in the attached transcript, took place in the summer of 1935 in Henrietta’s house in Akron, which was the Gatehouse of Stan Hywet Hall, then my family’s estate, now the property of Stan Hywet Hall Foundation. Henrietta was not an alcoholic. She was a Vasser college graduate and a housewife with three teenage children. She, like Bob and Bill, would be deeply disturbed by any inference that she or they possessed any extraordinary virtues or talents.
On the contrary, they would all emphasize the power of ordinary people to change their lives and the lives of others through the kind of spiritual discipline so successfully exemplified in Alcoholics Anonymous. I am happy to make this transcript available to persons who are sincerely interested in learning more about Alcoholics Anonymous and its message. It is a way of sharing some of the insight’s which made and still make Alcoholics Anonymous a vital force in people’s lives. I ask only that the transcript be held in the spirit in which it is offered and not used for publicity or in an effort to magnify any individual.
John F. Seiberling