AA History as Opposed to AA Myth

The first in our series of testimonials to the work of AA Historian Glenn C. comes from Art. S., who came into AA in the mid-1980s. A voracious reader of AA literature from his earliest days in the fellowship, he became an AA historian in 2001, when he took up the position of Archivist for his home group in North Texas.  In this role, his background in the tech industry and skill with data analysis were formative. Working in dialogue with Glenn C. as he began Hindsfoot Press and founded the AA History Lovers listserv, Art has made major empirical contributions to the national history of AA as represented on the Internet, helping to quash myths and rumors about the fellowship’s origins and growth. His magisterial “Narrative Timeline of AA History” is a sterling example of the ways in which digital publication has brought powerful tools for analysis and publication to people outside of the academy.– Trysh Travis

My testimonial to Glenn is primarily devoted to digital material he authored and the use of the web for the propagation of AA history as opposed to myth. He is a prolific author and quite skilled in digital archiving.

I was introduced to Glenn through “digital channels” around fifteen years ago. It occurred through the web-based AA history special interest group “AAHistoryBuffs” which later became “AAHistoryLovers.” Nancy Olson, an accomplished historian, and close friend of Glenn, started both special interest groups. Glenn was one of the premier historians who actively participated, along with Ernie Kurtz and William White. Glenn’s solid academic standards, and clarity in writing, provided a wonderful example to emulate.

I corresponded mainly through email with both Nancy and Glenn who inherited responsibility for managing AAHistoryLovers when Nancy became ill and passed away in 2005. Glenn has composed a wonderful history of AAHistoryLovers and a touching memorial to Nancy O. He recently has withdrawn from moderating AAHistoryLovers but over the years has provided a legacy example of academic discipline regarding the material posted and the type of commentary deemed appropriate.

Glenn  also administers a first rate digital repository at Hindsfoot.org. It is a rich collection of historical religious and spiritual writings together with biographical material on many historical names in AA history, such as Richmond Walker, Rev Ralph Pfau and Father Edward Dowling. Many of his published works are noted and explained on the website together with a rich assortment of AA history and memorabilia images and documents.

I enjoyed a wonderful research experience with Glenn collaborating, via email, with him in Indiana and Tom E. in New York. It resulted in an academically disciplined paper addressing AA recovery outcome rates and the myths and errors circulating at the time that AA has only achieved a 5% to 10% success rate. The latest version was released in 2008.

I first personally met Glenn at the 2010 AA International Convention in San Antonio. Subsequently, the opportunity to spend more personal time with him occurred over the course of three “long weekend” AA History Symposium events held at the Mago Retreat Center in Sedona AR in 2015, 2016 and 2017. A friendship flourished that I treasure highly today.

AA History Symposium, Sedona Mago 2016

As a prolific author of books and articles focused on religion, spirituality and AA History writings, Glenn is both diverse in subject matter and quite generous with the distribution of complimentary copies of many of his works in digital form. His latest contemporary works on Father Dowling, the history of black AA members and groups, plus an exposition on how the earliest AA meeting were conducted, provide a rich source of material that can be found nowhere else.

In my judgement Glenn is one of the top AA historians today.

 

 

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Happy (AA Historical) New Year: Roundtable on the Work of Glenn C.

Glenn C., 2016

With a nod to everyone who’s decided to abstain from alcohol in the new year, Points is kicking off 2018 with a tribute to one of Alcoholics Anonymous’s most talented historians, Glenn C., founder of the Hindsfoot Press (1993) and long-time moderator of the AA History Lovers listserv (fd. 2002). I first “met” Glenn through the listserv while working on my book about the history of 12-step recovery in the early 2000s.  In what was at that time a veritable wild west of self-published print and online AA discourse, it was invaluable to have someone like Glenn as a guide: a professor of History with a PhD from Oxford as well as a Divinity degree, with a long history of publishing about AA (and moderating AA history disputes!). His mentoring was unfailingly graceful and insightful.

Nearly twenty years later, I had the honor of presenting with him at the Sedona Mago AA History Symposium in the spring of 2017. Nearly every speaker at Sedona noted their personal debt to Glenn as well as to the intellectual community of the History Lovers listserv and to the invaluable resources made available by Hindsfoot. The moment seemed right to make that sense of gratitude public. Over the next few Thursdays, Points will present commentaries on Glenn’s work and influence from AA Historians Art S., Richard Dubiel, Bill White, and Jackie B. Glenn will then comment on their comments, and after that, who knows what will happen.

Connect with ADHS at AHA 2018 in Washington, D.C.!

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Today, historians begin descending upon wintry Washington, D.C., for the 2018 meeting of the American Historical Association. AHA is the largest annual gathering for such professionals and their affiliated societies. Among those represented again this year is the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, with two panels of original research and one roundtable discussion. The date, times, and location of those sessions are listed below. Points readers (and their interested friends!) are invited to meet historians active in the field and learn about their most recent projects. We hope to see you there!

Session 1: Transgressive Marijuana: Cultivating, Performing, and Regulating the Cannabis Culture in the 20th Century

Friday, January 5, 2018: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Roosevelt Room 2 (Marriott Wardman Park, Exhibition Level)Read More »

Travel as Research: A Historian’s Recent Trip to Huautla de Jiménez, Mexico

Editor’s Note: Today’s post was contributed by David Korostyshevsky, a PhD candidate in the University of Minnesota’s History of Science, Technology, and Medicine program. His research focuses on post-Enlightment discourses of intoxication and addiction in the Atlantic world. Contact him at koros003@umn.edu.

 

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Oaxaca City (all photos courtesy of the author)

As historians, we are used to traveling to attend academic conferences, visit libraries, and study in archives. But sometimes, we ought to travel just to see the places about which we are writing. I learned firsthand about how fruitful the unexpected results of such a trip can be earlier this year, when I traveled to Mexico City, Oaxaca City, and Huautla de Jiménez. Such travel yields sources and context otherwise inaccessible to the historian.

In 1957, Robert Gordon Wasson, a vice-president at JP Morgan, published an article in Life Magazine in which he described his discovery of and experience with hallucinogenic mushrooms in Mexico. He found these mushrooms in Huautla de Jiménez, a small village in the northern mountains of Oaxaca inhabited by indigenous Mazatec people. After several trips in the early 1950s, he was finally invited to participate in a ceremony led by a curandera María Sabina. His Mexican mushroom trip made a profound impression on him. Publishing extraordinary descriptions of it in Life, Wasson became an unwitting, and later, reluctant, stimulus for a nascent psychedelic counterculture in the twentieth century.Read More »