“If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.”
The Archives committee is A.A.’s historians. This committee’s activities include seeking out and preserving items important to our Rhode Island A.A. history; preserving records of significant events and recording the long timer stories.
How to become a member of the Archive Committee: Contacting the Chair usually gets the ball rolling but appearing at the next committee meeting(se above) provides an excellent opportunity to refine your interest.
Group Histories: Among its tasks, the Archive committee is responsible for compiling group histories. To this end, a group history form is available with a click HERE. Please print this form, complete it as best possible and mail to:
Archive Committee P.O. Box 9342 Providence, Rhode Island 02940
A Brief Glimpse of A.A. beginnings in Rhode Island
The story of A.A. in R. I. is a most interesting struggle of a small group of individuals trying to stay sober against great odds.
The Archives Committee, in attempting to piece this picture together has taken materials from G.S.O. files in New York and has summarized them. It is by no means a complete story, but just one of the “pieces of the picture”.
We have found that R. I., as well as much of the rest of the country, was very much impressed by the now famous Jack Alexander article that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in the early spring of 1941. The article caused many newspapers in our area to comment upon Alcoholics Anonymous and even reached the sports writers. One of the articles written by Bill Cunningham of the Boston Post was responsible for a series of letters from R. I. asking for help.
The article was-read by James D., who wrote to the Alcoholic Foundation (now G.S.O.). The article commented on the sobering up of a well known baseball player, Rollie H., of the Cleveland Indians. Cunningham’s article, while destroying Rollie’s anonymity, attracted the attention of sports fans to A.A. James D.’s letter reached New York on March 9,1941. It was not the first from the state as apparently someone from Pawtucket, named E.M.C., asked for help in August of 1940, and the Foundation was aware of a Leo M. in West Barrington, who was then sober for a brief period of time. As James D.’s letter was one of the many received after the Alexander Saturday Evening Post article, it was not immediately answered. James D. wrote again on March 31,1941 begging for a contact. He was given contacts and was told of a group meeting in Boston.
The A.A. World Directory in 1941 listed four groups in Connecticut and two in Massachusetts and noted that on Dec.18, 1941, a group was starting in Providence R. I. There is, however, no mention of any group in Rhode Island during 1942 or 1943. The 1943 Directory lists a lone member in Providence, and that is all. In the meanwhile, the Boston group had grown to 65 members and there were two other groups in Massachusetts and five in Connecticut. The first letter indicating a group in R .I. was received by the Alcoholic Foundation in August of 1944 when a woman named Ann informed New York that a meeting was held at the Howard State Hospital on July 9th of that year. The 1944 Directory noted this, and said it included 12 members and listed the contact as Box 5, Howard, R. I. with Mary E. as secretary. On April 3, 1945, Jack D. from Boston wrote to the Foundation, indicating that the Providence group was having its second meeting at the Biltmore Hotel (in the lobby), and on July 13, 1945, Irving F. wrote asking for “general rules for A.A.” In August of 1945, another group contact was listed at P.O. Box 66, Providence, with John Q. as secretary. In February of 1946, the Directory listed one group at Providence, P.O. Box 66, with John Q. as secretary and recorded a lone member in Newport. By August 1946, the World Directory noted 3 groups and 45 members in R. I. They were: Newport – four members-(Peggy H., secretary) Providence P. O. Box 66 – 21 members-(Irving F. secretary.) Providence P. O. Box 66 – 20 members-(Arthur H. secretary.)
On July 23,1946, a letter was received from Eveyln C. H., indicating that there was a second R. I. Group called the East Side Group. Other information informed the Foundation that Arthur H. was secretary of the “original Providence, R. I. group” on Oct. 16, 1946. In Feb. of 1947, the World Directory listed three groups in R. I. and 51 members. By August of that year the Fellowship had grown to 96 members and four groups. They were:
- Newport – 10 members – (Peggy H., secretary.)
- Providence East Side – 31 members – (Alfred C. , secretary)
- Roundtop (in Providence) – 40 members – (Arthur 11.,secretary)
- Westerly – 15 members-(James L., secretary)
The spring of 1948 showed R.I. with 100 members and five groups. A Jamestown group with four members was added to the earlier total. In 1949, the membership soared to 237 and there were 8 groups. There was no mention of a Newport group at this time.
The additional groups were:
- Central Falls – 22 members
- Loners – 23 members
- Westminster – 62
- Woonsocket – 10
In 1950, at the end of the first decade of AA in R. I., there were 259 members, thirteen groups, and Providence Central Service was established at 49 Weybosset St. The groups recorded at that time were:
- Central Falls – 20 members
- North Kingstown – 10 members
- Pawtucket – 15 members
- Elmwood – 11 members
- Warwick Group – 6 members
- Roundtop (in Providence) – 80 members
- South Providence – 12 members
- Newport – 20 members
- Jamestown – 4 members
- East Side – 9 members
- Westminster – 40 members
- Westerly – 10 members
- Woonsocket – 25 members
From these early records, we can see the growth of A. A. in Rhode Island from a lone man’s desperate cry for help to a well established Fellowship of 259 members and 13 groups.