Who Anne Smith Was, and How She Helped Found A.A.
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., and the AA Grapevine have chosen to write very little about Anne Ripley Smith, the wife of A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob. Yet we know that A.A. was founded at the Smith home in Akron in June 1935. We know that Bill W. lived with the Smiths through the summer of 1935 when Bill and Bob were formulating the original A.A. program. We know that Dr. Bob’s wife Anne read the Bible to Bill and Bob every single day during the summer of 1935 and placed particular emphasis on the Book of James. We know that Bill W. said that Anne Smith and Henrietta Seiberling “infused much needed spirituality into Bob and me” [Bill W.] in that summer of 1935. And we know that Bill W. frequently called Anne Smith the “Mother of A.A.” and a founder of A.A.’s Akron Number One.
But the heart of what Anne was telling Bill, Bob, and all the early AAs and their families can be found in the personal journal that Anne kept and shared from 1933-1939 about the principles from the Bible, Oxford Group life-changing ideas, the way to conduct Quiet Time, which Christian books should be read, what to read in the Bible, and practical approaches to alcoholics.
I obtained a copy of Anne ‘s personal journal through the good efforts of Dr. Bob’s daughter Sue Smith Windows, the assistance of A.A. General Service archivist Frank Mauser, the help of Bill’s former secretary Nell Wing, and the approval of the Trustees’ archives committee. Then, when allowed to visit Stepping Stones archives twice in 1991, I saw and copied the cover of another copy of the journal—a copy which said it contained Anne’s notes. Also, in the back of the binder were several, well-known, early A.A. literature pieces. One was Soul Surgery. And several were pamphlets containing articles by Reverend Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr.
Finally, I published several editions of my book about Anne’s journal, the last being titled Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939: A.A.’s Principles of Success. And if you want to see what Anne wrote, what is difficult or indiscernible to read, and how Anne’s writings related to A.A. history and the early Christian Fellowship in Akron, then this is the book for you.
A Synopsis of Anne Smith’s Frequent References to Jesus Christ
We know today that the Bible was stressed as reading material in early A.A. We know that Anne echoed this position when she stated in her journal: “Of course the Bible ought to be the main Source Book of all. No day ought to pass without reading it.” John R. came into the program in March 1939. And John specifically verified in writing and in his statement to
A.A. historian Dennis W. Cassidy the frequency of Anne’s use of her journal in meetings at Dr. Bob’s home. He said: “Before one of these meetings, Anne used to pull out a little book and quote from it. We would discuss it. Then we would see what Anne would suggest from it for our discussion.”
We know too from Dr. Bob’s statements that in those early days, there were no Steps, no Traditions, no Big Book to study, no drunkalogs, and no meetings as we see them today—meetings based on sharing “experience, strength, and hope.” Dr. Bob said that the pioneers “were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the Good Book.”
We also know that the use of Bible devotionals like The Runner’s Bible, My Utmost for His Highest, The Upper Room, Victorious Living, and Daily Strength for Daily Needs was a daily affair in Anne Smith’s morning Quiet Time sessions, in individual prayer practices by the pioneers, in some of the frequent daily fellowships, and in the one weekly “regular” meeting.
We know too that early AAs were required to profess a belief in God, and were required to make a decision for Christ, in which they accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We know that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was declared to contain the underlying spiritual philosophy of A.A. And we also know that the study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Book of James, and 1 Corinthians 13 was considered absolutely essential to the early successes.
Anne Discussed Jesus Christ and His Crucifixion on Many Pages of Her Personal Journal
I received copies of 64 pages of Anne’s personal journal from A.A. General Service in New York, some of which were redundant and a few hard to decipher. Of those 64 pages, I identified in my book about Anne’s personal journal more than 50 pages in which she mentions Jesus Christ. She certainly emphasized God’s Son in her journal!
Actual Quotes from Anne’s Personal Journal
For the reader’s benefit, I present below many of Anne’s references to Jesus Christ in her personal journal which I quoted in my title, Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939. (The page numbers in parentheses are the pages numbers where these statements are quoted in my title.)
O Lord, manage me, for I cannot manage myself. (20)
Paul speaks of a wish toward good, but power to carry it out is lacking. A stronger power than his was needed. God provided that power through Christ. . . Christ gives the power, we appropriate it. (22)
God provided the power through Christ, so that we could find a new kind of relationship with God. . . . Takes the whole power of Christ to help us do the smallest thing. (24)
Judge not, that ye be not judged. . . . Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye. . . . Who checks another checks himself. If I have an urge to check because of personal feelings, I am not seeing in light of Christ’s love. . . . I had better look for the mote in my eye. (30-31)
Check your thoughts by the four standards of Christ. (32)
Follow Christ’s absolute commandment. (33)
Fear and worry are atheism. . . To be willing to be a fool for Christ’s sake is something different from being foolish. . . . I must let Christ run my life—always self before. (35-36)
Dangers of sharing: 1. Is it uncomfortable? 2. Is it dangerous to me, or my reputation, or to Christ? . . . Sharing in relationship to the Gospel: 1. Matthew 3:6 Sins Confessed. 2. Mark 1:5 Sins Confessed. Matthew 4:1-11 Christ shares his temptations. (38)
The next step is the Cross. Get them to the place where they appropriate it. . . . Have you a Christ that can rid you of your sins and send you on your way rejoicing. . . . The Holy Spirit is ready to dictate a perfect plan. (43)
A small sense of sin means a small sense of Christ. The closer you get to Christ, the more sensitive you become to sin. . . . It is because we have ignored sin in our presentation of the Gospel that the message of the Gospel has lost its sting and blasting power. Our first need is an emetic, not a narcotic. The emetic is facing the barrier, that is, our specific sins which are keeping us from Christ and from this complete and utter giving of ourselves to Christ. . . . The issue is to run away or surrender. Surrender to Christ or criticizer the group. (44)
A maximum experience of Jesus Christ leads to a radical change in personal life. . . . The moment I hear and obey His voice and come to the place of complete surrender on every area of my life, is the moment of rebirth, reunion with Christ, and a start on great revival campaign. . . . Surrender involves the explosive experience of a Holy Ghost conversion. (45)
Christ can only remove them [sins] and replace with a new quality of life. Read Romans 12. (47)
Am I so living with God that Christ is being breathed around? . . . A personal relationship with Jesus Christ depends on doing difficult things. (51)
As we grow closer to Christ we keep seeing more sin, but we know the cure. (52)
Christ told his disciples He had many things to tell them—“But you cannot hear it now.” (59)
Trust God fully for results. Walk by faith, not by sight. The Cross looks like a failure. Your guidance may look like failure. (60)
He must be kept constantly in the center of life as He is, seen in Christ. . . . This feeling of revulsion must be given up. Self is in the center of it, not Christ. . . . The Devil fighting to keep you for his own. . . . Get down on one’s knees and give up completely to Christ and His will for you, remembering that anything that pulls you down is your enemy. (62)
Prophets helped find God. His Son in the fullness of time when all else went awry. . . . Even the Christian church of today misunderstands Christ here. . . . A maximum experience of Jesus Christ leads to a radical change in personal life. . . . Crucifixion is open to the world so that anyone can see it was a public atonement. . . . It is a sick world—the remedy rests on Christ himself, the healer of the world. The decision to give my life to Christ involves discipline to keep a quiet time as my first waking act. (66)
‘’Not having mine own righteousness,’ is Paul’s phrase. The only effort we need to put forth is that of daily surrender and daily contact with Christ. We find release not by our own efforts but by what Christ does for us. . . . ‘Christianity is an obtainment not attainment. . . . The goal is ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is Perfect. When Paul gave up trying to be good and surrendered his life fully to the Lord, then came peace, power, and joy. God’s gift in Christ is gladness and humility. (67)
And I quote many more of Anne’s references to Jesus Christ in her personal journal on pages 69, 70, 72, 76, 77, 85, 86. 87, 91, 105, 110, and in the Appendix of my title, Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939.