A.A. in Argentina
In the early 1950s, Hector G. of Buenos Aires is rescued from alcoholism after reading Alcoholics Anonymous and seeking the aid of a physician. He writes to the Alcoholic Foundation, which sends him A.A. literature in Spanish and asks permission to list him as a contact for referrals. Hector founds Argentina's first known group, and in 1955 will report that its members are relishing their newfound sobriety.
Joining the fold...
The St. Louis Convention of 1955 affirms the Fellowship's maturity as Bill W. passes to the members the responsibility for A.A.'s Three Legacies of Recovery, Unity, and Service. The Convention signals a decade of change-one that sees the consolidation of family groups under the name of Al-Anon, a separate fellowship that, like Alcoholics Anonymous, has spread to almost every corner of the world.
A bulletin for Loners
Hundreds of Loners - individuals who are listed with A.A. but do not belong to a group - are being mailed G.S.O.'s monthly bulletin, "Twelfth Stepper," each issue of which features personal stories of Loners from around the world. The stated purpose is to enable such members "to share A.A. love and gratitude, strength and faith with one another." A previous bulletin - "The Internationalists Round Robin," launched in 1949 - had grown out of the efforts of Captain Jack S., a sailor who found sobriety in A.A. and maintained it by exchanging letters with groups he helped start around the world.
Mr. Eddie of El Salvador
Edward F., who has carried the Fellowship's message to several alcoholics in Boston and San Francisco, moves to San Salvador with his Salvadoran wife. After initially finding it hard to arouse interest in A.A., a friend of his wife introduces Edward to her alcoholic uncle, Don A., and the two men form a group that meets at the home of Atilio, a wealthy alcoholic. As membership grows, meetings are moved to the Garcia Flamenco school building. "Mr. Eddie," as he becomes known, will later help start groups in other Central American countries.
First meetings in Madrid
A Mrs. Garcia of New York informs G.S.O. New York of the wish of Dr. E. Pelaz, a psychiatrist at a Madrid sanitarium, to launch an A.A. group. The G.S.O. sends Pelaz pamphlets and the name of its Madrid contact, American Ray C. Ray and fellow alcoholic Dan C. begin holding English-language meetings in June 1955. By the end of the year membership has increased fourfold and a Spanish-American group is meeting at Pelaz's sanitarium. Before long, the Spaniards form a separate group, which quickly attracts more members and spurs the formation of A.A. groups countrywide.
A historic International Convention
In July 1955, some 5,000 people attend the second International Convention in St. Louis (right). President Dwight D. Eisenhower recognizes the occasion with a congratulatory telegram. Among the important events at this 20th anniversary gathering is Bill's presentation on A.A. history and the importance of understanding it. In addition, the second edition of the Big Book is launched. The Al-Anon Fellowship, now four years old, participates in five workshops.
Second Edition of Big Book published in 1955
The second edition of Alcoholics Anonymous reflects the membership's growing diversity. The chapters on A.A. principles remain the same, and eight of the stories of early members' efforts to achieve sobriety are retained in a section called "Pioneers of A.A." In addition, 24 new stories appear in two separate sections: "They Stopped in Time" and "They Lost Nearly All." The Twelve Traditions are added as well.
Bill W. passes the torch, July 1955
The St. Louis Convention culminates with Bill officially handing leadership of A.A. over to the members. The resolution he reads is passed with a roar of approval: "Be it therefore resolved that the General Service Conference... should become as of this date... the guardian of the Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, the perpetuators of the world services of our Society, the voice of the group conscience of our entire Fellowship, and the sole successors of its co-founders, Doctor Bob and Bill."
The Third Legacy
At the St. Louis Convention, Bill speaks of the Fellowship's Third Legacy, that of Service. In his words ". . . an A.A. service is anything whatever that helps us to reach a fellow sufferer. . .from the Twelfth Step itself to a ten-cent phone call and a cup of coffee, and to A.A.'s General Service Office for national and international action." Fifty thousand Third Legacy booklets (right), known today as The A.A. Service Manual, will be printed and distributed to A.A. groups.
Venezuela joins the fold
A few Americans who gather for A.A. meetings in Caracas place a small ad in a local English-language newspaper. It draws the attention of Christiaan V., who previously attempted to start a Spanish-speaking group. With the help of the Americans, Christiaan carries the message to Luis and Clyde, and the three men become the first link in a chain of groups that will spread across Venezuela.
A.A.'s first overseas General Service Board
The quick growth of Alcoholics Anonymous in Great Britain and Ireland makes apparent the need for a separate General Service Board. After seeking guidance from G.S.O. New York, representatives from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland meet in London on October 28, 1956. They resolve to establish a Board of Trustees based on the U.S. model, to be known as the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous in Great Britain & Ireland, Ltd. The first G.S.B. outside the U.S., housed in London's Fruit Exchange (right), will begin operations in 1957.
North American hospital groups
By the beginning of 1957, the General Service Office in New York is maintaining contact with more than 230 hospital groups in the United States and Canada - the legacy of the pioneering A.A. groups formed two decades earlier at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, and Towns Hospital and Knickbocker Hospital in New York.
India: Loners no more
In January 1957, Charley M., an A.A. member employed by the National Film Board of Canada, contacts Sylvia M. and Supatti M., both New Delhi Loners listed with G.S.O. New York. (Charley had expressed to the office his wish to stay active in A.A. during a 36-month business sojourn in Asia.) The three placed an ad in local newspapers, drawing responses from seven alcoholics- among them Mahindar S. G., who, like Sylvia and Supatti, is already listed. By May, New Delhi meetings are attracting eight to 12 people; by year's end, groups will be active in Calcutta and Bombay. Shown at right is a greeting card sent by a Bombay group to Bill and Lois in December 1961.
Letters from Greece
An American pilot who is an A.A. member reports to G.S.O. New York that he has presented a copy of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions to Rev. Charles Hanna, pastor of the American Church in Athens. Rev. Hanna begins corresponding with G.S.O. New York in early 1957. His efforts bring together three American Loners living in Athens - Frank O. and servicemen Gus and Cal - who hold Greece's first A.A. meeting in the port city of Piraeus.
A landmark book
In Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, published October 1, 1957, Bill recounts A.A. history from a personal standpoint and reviews the proceedings of the St. Louis Convention. A section describing the Three Legacies is included, as are talks by A.A. friends in the fields of religion and medicine.
The arrival of Alateen
Concern for the problems of the children of alcoholics was the topic of a special session at the 1955 St. Louis Convention. This concern increases as letters from teenagers (a few of whom had started groups of their peers) begin to flow into the Al-Anon office. As a result, Al-Anon founds Alateen in 1957 and publishes the booklet Youth and the Alcoholic Parent (right).
First International Conference of Young People in A.A.
In late April 1958, the first conference for A.A.'s younger members (then defined as those under age 40) is held at Hotel Niagara in Niagara Falls, New York. "The A.A. Exchange Bulletin" (the precursor to the newsletter Box 4-5-9) reports that the purpose of the International Conference of Young People in A.A. (ICYPAA) is "to provide delegates with a thorough rundown of the application of our A.A. program to the individual difficulties encountered by young people in dealing not only with alcoholism but also with the other problems peculiar to their generation." ICYPAA is held annually.
Signing on in Singapore
Dick D., who regularly corresponds with G.S.O. New York, writes in March 1958 that the Singapore group, founded in 1957, now has 12 members and two likely prospects.
Dramatizations of alcoholism
When called upon, Alcoholics Anonymous plays an advisory role in the dramatization of alcoholism on television or in movies. In one instance, G.S.O. New York staff members work closely with scriptwriter J. P. Miller in preparation for the October 1958 broadcast of "The Days of Wine and Roses," a "Playhouse 90" production. The play, examining the lives of an alcoholic married couple seeking help from A.A., will reach an international audience when it is produced as a movie in 1962.
State of the Structure
As a service to readers, the January 1958 Grapevine prints a chart outlining A.A.'s services and the Conference structure. Text in the top box notes that "over 7,000 groups, including 500 in hospitals, prisons, and other institutions and 760 overseas, are registered at the General Service Headquarters."
A prison group Down Under
A.A. groups in prisons had spread across the U.S. from 1942 onward and had also begun meeting in Canada, Ireland, and Finland. In 1958, Australia's first known "group behind walls" is formed - the Magpie Prison Group at Fremantle Prison (right) in the port city of Fremantle, Western Australia.
Austria West, Austria East
In 1959, two A.A. members from Reichenall, Germany, decide to carry the message across the Austrian border to Salzburg. With the aid of their first contact, a physician from a local clinic for nervous diseases, they help a few alcoholics form a group. To the east in Vienna, two alcoholic women who are being treated in the clinic of a psychiatrist, Dr. Rotter, hear of A.A. and found a group on their own. With a gentleman from Linz, they begin to hold meetings in private homes. Both groups independently seek the advice of German groups and receive German-language A.A. literature. A current Vienna meeting place is shown at right.
Colombia: Seven years to success
After years of failed attempts, a stable Colombian A.A. group is finally formed in January 1959. The principal players are Arturo E. of Medellin and Alejandro S. of Baranquilla, who had met while being treated for alcoholism in a Baranquilla clinic in 1952. While the men twice tried to launch a group (Alejandro, a prosperous businessman, had become familiar with A.A. principles while undergoing treatment in a Miami hospital), only Arturo is able to stay sober and carry through. His first group, which meets in Medellin, plants the seed for those that will follow in Bogotá and other Colombian cities.
France's first French-speaking groups
While American A.A.s had met in Paris as early as 1949, the first known French-speaking group forms after the newspaper France Soir runs a series of articles on Alcoholics Anonymous by journalist Joseph Kessel in the summer of 1960. A letter to the newspaper from Manuel M. (originally from Spain) results in his receiving A.A. literature and the start of a group of four: Manuel, François B., Jean M., and Lennard (a Swede). In 1961 the group, which takes the name Groupe Quai d'Orsay, will gain the sponsorship of Americans who established an A.A. group in Paris in 1955. More groups are formed, growth accelerates, and in the early 1970s France's General Service Office will open in Rue Trousseau.
Guatemala gets going
Guatemala's first known A.A. group begins meeting in January 1960, through the efforts of Miguel Angel R. and Paulino G. The seed had been planted four years before by Reinaldo G., a friend of Miguel's who had joined A.A. in San Francisco before returning home to Guatemala. An Intergroup office will open three years later.
The third International Convention
Long Beach, California, plays host to A.A.'s 25th Anniversary celebration in July 1960. Some 8,900 attendees are joined by many of the Fellowship's pioneers - among them Bill and Lois, Sister Ignatia, Marty M., Dr. Jack Norris, Warden Clinton Duffy, and Dr. Harry Tiebout, a psychiatrist who championed A.A. and brought Marty M. into the program.
Costa Rica's struggling start
Although the Costa Rican government's Committee on Alcoholism (COA), established in 1954, had some success in treating alcoholics, the only connection to A.A. was a perfunctory reading of the Twelve Steps at meetings. After a shaky beginning in 1958, A.A. Grupo Tradicionalista No.1 - started by a small group of COA patients - becomes stable in 1959. By the summer of 1963, eight groups will be meeting countrywide and a General Service Office will open in San José.
Bill writes to Carl Jung
In a 1961 letter to Swiss-German psychoanalyst Dr. Carl Jung, Bill expresses his gratitude for Jung's long-ago message to Rowland G., who was treated by Jung and who would later lead friend Ebby T. to the Oxford Group. Bill wrote, "You frankly told [Rowland] of the hopelessness of further medical or psychiatric treatment," [and also of the possibility of] "a spiritual awakening or religious experience - in short, a genuine conversion." Bill described these statements as "beyond doubt the first foundation stone upon which [A.A.] has been built." Jung responds with a gracious letter (right) confirming that the most appropriate antidote to alcoholism is spirituality, which is emphasized in the Twelve Steps.
Big Book sales top half a million
By 1961, more than 500,000 copies of Alcoholics Anonymous have been sold, plus editions translated into Spanish, French, and German.
Twelve Concepts for World Service published
In 1962, the General Service Conference accepts Bill's long-awaited manuscript for Twelve Concepts for World Service. In the introduction, Bill writes that his aim is "...to record the 'why' of our service structure in such a fashion that the highly valuable experience of the past, and the lessons we have drawn from that experience, can never be forgotten or lost."
Island hopping in the Caribbean
A.A. groups in the Caribbean, including those in the Bahamas and Trinidad, receive support in 1962 when the dedicated Gordon MacD. visits the Antilles and meets with secretaries of the groups in the region. The aim of what is called "the Caribbean Crusade," launched by Gordon and other members in 1959, is to develop and reinforce A.A. in the Caribbean and to facilitate cooperation between Caribbean and Latin American groups. Among the islands joining the fold in 1962 are Barbados and Grenada, both in the Lesser Antilles.
Dr. Norris elected Chairman
Dr. John L. Norris, the medical director of Eastman Kodak and a nonalcoholic trustee of A.A. since 1948, becomes chairman of the General Service Board. "Dr. Jack," described by Bill as "a most selfless and devoted worker," will be instrumental in the development of Regional Forums. His involvement with A.A. will continue after he steps down from the Board of Trustees in 1975.
UK island groups
Guernsey gets on board in 1961 when Pru, a Loner, arranges for meetings to be held in the study of the headmaster of St. Joseph's Roman Catholic School in St. Peter Port. When the group moves to a room above a café, membership grows from six to a dozen. But not until the group finds a permanent home at Princess Elizabeth Hospital in 1981 will it undergo significant growth. A group starts meeting in the nearby island of Jersey in 1962, and small inter-island conventions are held for four or five years - in Guernsey in autumn, in Jersey in spring. The first A.A. group on the Isle of Mann, to the north in the Irish Sea, will be formed in 1966.
Two starts in the Dominican Republic
Two A.A. groups begin to meet regularly in Santo Domingo in the spring of 1963. One, the Spanish-speaking Grupo Santa Mercedes, grows from two to 18 members by the end of the year. G.S.O. New York lists as the contact person Abe F., who is also one of two men in the second group, for English speakers; this group, however, will last for only two years.
Anniversaries in Northern Europe
Belgium, by 1963 home to 18 A.A. groups in eight cities and towns, issues invitations (right) to its tenth anniversary celebration. Also marking its tenth anniversary is A.A. in Germany, with 26 groups in 14 cities and towns.
Start-ups in Sri Lanka
A Loner in the former Ceylon had been listed with G.S.O. New York since 1959, but not until 1964 is the first known A.A. group in the country formed. Its site is the capital city of Colombo, where a second group takes shape a year later. Soon A.A. spreads to other Sri Lankan locales. In 1976, a group in the Colombo suburb of Kotahena will mark its third anniversary with the publication of this booklet (right).