This is a beginning point for an inquiry that may take some time because it occurred quite some time ago in early A.A. days and requires as best source the input of the now deceased children of A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob.
The quest concerns Christian Evangelist Ethel R. Willitts
At this point, we would rather invite comments, suggestions, and investigations than to report material that may not adequately reveal the importance of this woman vis a vis Akron A.A., its A.A. Christian Fellowship, and Dr. Bob.
These are the starting points:
1. Ethel R. Willitts published the following book "Healing in Jesus' Name: Fifteen Sermons and Addresses on Salvation and Healing," 2d ed. (Crawfordsville, IN: Ethel R. Willitts, Evangelist, 1931).
2. I found and studied this book which Dr. Bob, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, owned, studied, and circulated. And Dr. Bob's study of evangelism and Christian healing is confirmed by the nany other Christian healing books I found in his library (Dick B., "Dr. Bob and His Library," 3rd ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc.) www.dickb.com/drbob.shtml
3. Later, my son Ken and I not only traveled extensively in Vermont, we visited the boyhood villages of Dr. Bob in St. Johnsbury, Vermont; Bill Wilson in East Dorset, Vermont; their respective Academies; and Bill W.'s extensive Christian involvement while at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, Vermont.
4. The upshot was the writing of two recent and vitally important biographical studies of the Christian upbringing of Dr. Bob and of Bill Wilson as youngsters in Vermont. See Dick B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous, www.dickb.com/drbobofaa.shtml, and Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W. www.dickb.com/conversion.shtml.
5. In this recent work, it became clear that the Great Awakening of 1875 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont; the personal work of YMCA lay brethren; the Salvation Army, The Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor; and some great evangelists like Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey, Allen Folger, and F.B. Meyer all had an impact on the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible had in the origins, history, founding, original fellowship program, and successes of Akron A.A. and the first A.A. Group Number One in Akron.
6. This in turn led to a renewal of questions raised in studies of Professor William James, Dr. Carl Jung, the conversion/healing of Bill W.'s grandfather nd his alcoholism, the conversion and healing of Bill's friend and sponsorl Ebby Thacher, and the conversion and healing of Bill Wilson himself in late 1934.
7. Back we went to all the Christian healings of alcoholics that the factions mentioned in 5 and 6 above were able to bring about before A.A. began and in the younger days of Bill W. and Dr. Bob. And then to Dr. Bob's obvious interest in the Bible, his affiliation with Akron churches, and his extensive topic reading on diverse healing sources ranging from Mary Baker Eddy to New Thought to the rescue missions and to other sources covered in the books in his library. Further, he talked about God's doing the healing and in one instance sought healing help at a Bible institution.
8. Before listing some of the sources and reports we are currently investigating, we believe the Ethel Willitts story is of particular importance because of the 15 weeks she spent in Akron and also the other books and materials she wrote. And here is where we would like to see someone better financed and living in closer proximity to Ohio and Indiana look into:
a) What can internet search yield up on such topics as Willitts, Ohio Evangelists, her Tabernacle in Akron, her large healing and salvation meetings in Ohio, and perhaps a niche or two on Dr. Bob and/or alcoholism healings.
b) What can Akron newspaper records, particularly those of the Akron Beacon Journal add to the Willitts Akron healing work.
c) What can the Bierce Library at the University of Akron yield
d) What can the Summit County Library in Akron yield
e) What can some publicized appeals in and on all of these bring out of the woods from someone's recollections, books, records, or stories from relatives and friends.
f) What can the large University or other Public Libraries and Seminary Libraries yield.
g) What can words like evangelism, Christian evangelists, Ethel R. Willitts, salvation and healing meetings, Akron religious events, Christian healing and alcoholics, and a host of others yield via catalogs, indices, search engines, and other internet tools.
We have used them all in the past in gathering material for our 42 titles and over 650 articles. In many cases, we seemed to know more about Christian Endeavor than Christian Endeavor until we finally stumbled on the gold mine of Christian Endeavor books, Christian Endeavor in Vermont, Christian Endeavor in the Big Book, and ample Christian Endeavor writings in newspapers, religious libraries, public libraries, and history centers in Vermont.
For now we will defer discussing a rather substantial amount of material we have just unearthed on Ethel, her Akron meetings, her books, and her healings--hoping that more work by us and by others will put a better spin on the idea of searching for facts.