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The Keys to the
Kingdom -- Sylvia Kauffmann, Chicago, IL.
(p. 304 in 2nd and 3rd editions.)
Heading: This worldly lady helped to develop A.A. in Chicago
passed her keys to many.
by Nancy O., Moderator, A.A.
According to member list index cards kept by the Chicago group, Sylvia's
of sobriety was September 13, 1939. Because of slips by Marty Mann
Suffer Too,) Sylvia may have been the first woman to achieve long
Sylvia was raised in a good environment with loving and conscientious
and given every advantage: the best schools, summer camps, resort
and travel. She had her first drink at sixteen and loved what it did
She was the product of the post-war prohibition era of the roaring '20s.
married at twenty, had two children, and was divorced at twenty-three.
gave her a good excuse to drink. By twenty-five she had developed
She began making the rounds of the doctors in the hope that one of them
find a cure for her accumulating ailments, most of whom prescribed
and advised rest and moderation.
Between the ages of twenty-five and thirty she tried everything. She
to Chicago thinking a new environment would help. She tried all
things to control her drinking: the beer diet, the wine diet, timing,
measuring, and spacing of drinks. Nothing worked.
The next three years saw her in sanitariums, once in a ten-day coma from
which she very nearly died. She wanted to die, but had lost the
For about one year prior to this time there was one doctor who did not
up on her. He tried everything he could think of, including having
her go to
mass every morning at six a.m., and performing the most menial labor for
charity patients. This doctor apparently had the intuitive knowledge
spirituality and helping others might be the answer.
In the 1939 this doctor heard of the book Alcoholics Anonymous and wrote
New York for a copy. After reading it he tucked it under his arm and
on Sylvia. That visit marked the turning point of her life.
He must have studied the book carefully because he took its advice. He
her the cold, hard facts about her condition, and that she would either
of acute alcoholism, develop a wet brain, or have to be put away
Then he told her of the handful of people in Akron and New York who seemed
have worked out a technique for arresting their alcoholism. He asked
read the book and to talk with a man who experiencing success by using
plan. This was Earl Treat (He Sold Himself Short), the
Mr. T. to whom
she refers on page 309.
Earl suggested she visit Akron. According to Bill Wilson, she got
off to a
slow start there, and may also have been a pill addict. She took a
little white pills which she claimed were saccharin, and no
understand why she was so rubber-legged. A nurse was flown in,
from Chicago, to take care of her.
Sylvia stayed two weeks with the Snyders (Clarence Snyder, The Home
Brewmeister) in Cleveland. She met Dr. Bob, who brought other A.A.
meet her. Dorothy Snyder said that the men were only too
willing to talk to
her after they saw her. Sylvia was a glamorous divorcee,
looking, and rich. But these attractions probably did not help her
wives of the alcoholics, who were known on occasion to run women out.
After meeting Dr. Bob she wanted to move to Akron, but this caused great
consternation, since her presence threatened to disrupt the whole group.
Someone told her it would mean a great deal more if she could go back and
help in Chicago.
She went back to Chicago where she eventually got sober. She worked
with Earl Treat, and her personal secretary, Grace Cultice, became the
secretary at the Intergroup office in Chicago, the first in the country.
Sylvia updated her story in the January 1969 issue of the A.A.
She tells how busy her first ten years in A.A. were, but how all this
tremendous activity, by bringing her into almost constant contact with
members, provided her with everything she most desperately needed to save
life. As she looked back she realized this was the most excitingly
period of her life.
When she wrote this update, Sylvia had been living in Sarasota, Florida,
her husband, Dr. Ed Sunderlund, and was soon to celebrate their eighteenth
wedding anniversary. He is an alky, too, and our lives have
by our mutual faith and perseverance in the A.A. way of life. Through
have found a quality of happiness and serenity that, we believe, could not
have been realized in any other way. Small wonder our gratitude knows no