By Mitchell K. © 1991, 1997
| print this

Index of Chapter 8

8.1 - Back to the Basics 8.3 - New York and Mid-West A.A. - Coming of Age
8.2 - Henrietta Seiberling Speaks Her Mind Chapter 9: A Prophet in His Own Town - Clarence's Life After the 60's

Chapter 8.2


Henrietta Seiberling Speaks Her Mind

...and the truth shall set you free...

Henrietta Seiberling was not an alcoholic. In 1933, she was a housewife with three children. But not just an ordinary housewife. She was the daughter-in-law of the founder and one-time president of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. And she had much to do with the founding of A.A.

In January 1933, Harvey Sr. and his son, Russell "Bud" Firestone sponsored an appearance by Dr. Frank N.D. Buchman and his "Oxford Group team" in Akron. And, as part of the day's events, a big dinner was held at the Mayflower Hotel in Akron.

Henrietta and her son, John Seiberling, attended that first dinner and meeting as well as the balance of the meetings from January 14th through the 22nd; and, when Frank Buchman shouted to those assembled, "Get right with God," Henrietta decided to get right with God through membership in the Oxford Group.

When Bill Wilson, an Oxford Group member from New York, had come to Akron in 1935, he had phoned Dr. Walter Tunks, a minister affiliated with the Oxford Group. And Tunks, in turn, gave Bill Henrietta's number. Through that phone call, which was supposedly made with Bill's last nickel, a meeting was set up at Henrietta's home, the Gate house of Stan Hywet Hall, her husband's family estate.

That is where Bill and Dr. Bob Smith first met and Doc. first got his indoctrination into the idea "one alcoholic helping another." And in the ensuing years, Henrietta worked with both to help in A.A.'s founding.

But Henrietta became disenchanted with A.A.'s development as the years rolled on. According to John Seiberling, Jr., Bill and Bob told her, "Henrietta, I don't think we should talk too much about religion or God." But Henrietta responded:

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 you might as well be the Rotary Club or something like that. Because God is your only source of Power.

Throughout her association with A.A., Henrietta was always outspoken in her zeal for service to God. She had cautioned that "Money will spoil this thing." She had complained to Bill that A.A., in later years, was proceeding more on the level of psychology than through spirituality. Bill's response to her had been, "I know, but they think there are so many people that need this and they don't want to send them away" by talking about what God has done in their (the early members') lives. Henrietta felt A.A. people had forgotten their "source of Power," God.

In the early 1950's, Henrietta was living in New York at 863 Park Avenue. She was greatly disturbed which the way A.A. was going. She wrote Clarence,

A lot of people up here are buffaloed into being "W.W.s" (Wilson Worshipers) instead of "A.A.s'." Notice that A.A. is at the beginning & WW is at the end, even of the alphabet.

She also wrote Clarence,

Bill will stand exposed for the show off that he is. He is so empty that as you know Anne [Smith] begged me to do a little "missionary work" on him. She [Anne Smith, Dr. Bob's wife] was sorry to have heard him at the last banquet she came to hear.

In the same letter, Henrietta wrote Clarence, "I knew he [Bill] had petitioned the Foundation to give Dr. Silkworth & himself the royalties [that were] going to Bob [Smith]." Henrietta felt, as did Clarence, that there should be no royalties paid for what was supposed to have been an avocation.

At the time of Dr. Bob's death, Henrietta wrote Clarence about A.A.'s memorial Grapevine issue for Dr. Bob. She wrote:

[I] can't really read it through because the truth is so doctored up to suit Bill's claims. - The telephone conversation involving me is utterly false & all of it so 'slanted' - I wish he would have left me in the anonymity I have kept.

:: ::