GROWTH AND MOVEMENT
We are thinking deeply, too, of all those
sick ones still to come to A.A. - thousands, surely, and perchance
millions. As they try to make their return to faith and to life,
we want them to find everything in A.A. that we have found, and
yet more, if that be possible. On our part, therefore, no care,
no vigilance, no effort to preserve A.A.'s constant effectiveness
and spiritual strength will ever be too great to hold us in full
readiness for the day of their homecoming.
Bill Wilson, After Twenty-Five
Years (AA Grapevine, March 1960)
GROWTH AND MOVEMENT
The Saturday Evening Post Article
From Cleveland, by various
means, the movement has spread to Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis,
Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Atlanta, San Francisco, Evansville
and other cities.
Jack Alexander, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, Freed
Slaves of Drink, Now They Free Others. (The Saturday
Evening Post, Volume 213, Number 35, March 1, 1941) p. 92
late 1940, The Saturday Evening Post commissioned one of
its staff writers to do an exposé on Alcoholics Anonymous.
His name was Jack Alexander. Alexander was famous for his articles
exposing fraud and wrongdoing in the Post.
initial objective was to "get all of the dirt" on A.A. and print
it in the Post. But his investigation convinced him of
a different story. And he set about writing an article " in a
national publication, which would put A.A. "on the map."
a letter written from Ruth Hock to Clarence which was undated
and written in pencil on yellow legal paper, the following was
their staff writers is definitely on the job and is now doing
the rounds of some of our New York meetings. He will be out here
to attend at least one Cleveland and one Akron meeting and is
going to look you up for a talk. He is a very thorough person
and we all feel that the result will be one exceptionally good
article which should mean a lot in many ways. His name is Jack
Alexander and I think he will be out here in about two weeks.
went on to discuss the fact that the Post would not do
the article without photographs. She knew that this was a touchy
issue with the Cleveland members and wrote:
like you to put out some gentle feelers on the picture situation
but wouldn't like to see you have people on your neck by trying
to force the situation - so, sort of try out the lay of the land
and let us know. If the crowd will get together, the Post staff
photographer will take the picture. So we are for a bigger and
better A.A. very soon.
Jack Alexander did arrive in Cleveland, he spoke with Clarence
about photographs; and Clarence convinced him that a local photographer
would probably do a better job with the expected photographs.
Clarence reasoned that the Cleveland members would probably feel
more comfortable with a local photographer.
selected the Art Miller Studios. In a letter to Bill Wilson, dated
January 19, 1941, Clarence wrote, "This photographer, Al Miller,
is reputed to be one of the best in his line. In fact, there are
only three places in Cleveland that have equipment to match his."
was however, one little glitch that developed. About five hundred
of the Cleveland members gathered for a group picture. Clarence
wrote Bill, "I saw the negative of that picture & just to
make you feel bad, it would have been a dandy."
the photographer lost the negative and the picture was never printed.
When asked why there was only one photo taken, Clarence wrote:
we all like to play safe (since we're sober) and the question
has been asked me 521 times, "Why didn't he take several pictures
while he was about it?" My answer, because I asked the very same
question, & he stated that "it isn't necessary & he never
does & nothing can happen."
of Miller's loss of the negative, there was a delay in getting
photos for the article. Something whether Bill nor The Saturday
Evening Post cared for. Clarence wrote Bill, that the Post
"wasn't satisfied with the hospital pictures, but for the life
of me, I, or no one else can understand why. So we took 5 more
hospital pictures, all of which look good, and sent them on."
One of these hospital photos appeared in the Post article.
Another, showing Clarence, can be found in appendix K of this
asked Bill about the possibility of getting a preview of the article,
I was preparing
the groups for any eventuality & would like to have some angles
for my own benefit. We have had publicity before & I fully
realize all the angles involved, the magazine, the editor, the
reader & the subject. I understand all of that & I am
in a diplomatic way trying to smooth the path for a lot of objectionable
criticism from some of the more touchy or critical brethren, who
mean well but have some queer ideas about such things. We have
had over 700 contacts here & have prepared a couple more sanitarium
set-ups to take care of any possible overflow of inquiries...
We are prepared for a rush, if one occurs, in any degree. With
all the members we have, it will not be difficult to absorb any
New York office was also gearing up for the article. In a "MEMORANDUM
TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE ALCOHOLIC FOUNDATION," dated February
19th, 1941, Bill Wilson wrote the following:
is to appear on March 1st in the Saturday Evening Post. This piece
will be the feature number of that issue. The name Alcoholics
Anonymous will appear on the outside cover of the magazine. Our
message will be brought straight to the whole nation -- nearly
every one of at least a million alcoholics will hear of us. Three
years ago the Saturday Post published an article called "The Unhappy
Drinker", an interesting piece by a psychologist and an alcoholic.
The Saturday Post offices were flooded with letters and telegrams
-- some 8000 in all. The Post had to hire an additional staff
of girls to give these people even a nominal reply, let alone
a follow up - as we must. Last week Mr. Sommers, one of the editors
of the Post, told me that a far greater response was expected
from the coming article on A.A.
we must base our budget upon at least 10,000 inquiries. This means
that this office will have fully three times as much work to do
as it had the year past. By no stretch of the imagination could
our present office force handle the situation.
March 1st issue of The Saturday Evening Post was a best
seller. Apparently, every A.A. member bought a copy of the article;
and it reached the millions of other Post readers. A.A.
had become "national," and most of the members were proud of the
way that A.A. had been portrayed. Some, however, did not approve
of the article; and they expressed their opinions at the groups.
Several Cleveland members stated they didn't think that their
treasured and precious anonymity would now be protected and preserved.
Some actually dropped out of A.A., but many of these did later
office in New York was pleased with the results, stating in a
proposal to all A.A. groups:
the Saturday Evening Post article of last March produced a flood
of inquiries which, combined with our normal mail, brought the
total number of letters received since then to 5,139. Each has
received a personal reply. 15,000 pamphlets and 1,749 books have
been shipped since March 1st. Besides, an extensive correspondence
has been maintained with the groups. A.A. membership has more
than doubled, standing now above 4000 members. Office activity
continues at a high rate and is thus far in line with our original
estimate of 10,000 inquiries for the fiscal year.
Cleveland membership also grew. In 1941, Cleveland added fourteen
new groups. Six of these were established between April and May
after the Post article appeared.
and, especially in Cleveland, was on the move.