Marty Mann

"Pioneer, Persuader, Inexhaustible Advocate, Marty Mann."

Included in the article is a tribute by my good friend, Susan B. Anthony. 

This is the excerpt:

"Dr. Susan B. Anthony, author, lecturer, theologian, and counselor, is another long-time friend and colleague of Marty's. The great niece and namesake of the famous suffrage leader, she is currently lecturing on women and alcoholism, and has authored seven books and many articles.

"Putting on paper my tributes to Marty helps alleviate the frustration I felt when I could not get up north for her Memorial Services to share with old friends of hers and mine.

What I did do when NCA called me to let me know of her death was to put my emotion into prayer, for her and for us. Prayer was a gift that came some years after sobering up in Marty's office on August 22, 1946.

I last spoke with Marty just a few weeks before her death, on July 3 when I was visiting my sister. When I called her, she said in her rich, resonant voice, "You just caught me. I am going out the door for the New Orleans AA convention!"

She sounded buoyant and happy, her voice as young as the day I first met her 34 years ago. When I told her I had been one of the 500 nominated as public members for the National Commission on Alcoholism and other Alcohol Related Problems, she laughed "It's not 500, my dear, it's 700 or 800 nominees."

In July it seemed so natural that she was taking off for a talk. Just three weeks before her death (even as my own great-aunt Susan B.) she was setting forth for one last stint on the road. As her obituary in THE NEW YORK TIMES said on July 24, Marty had averaged 200 lectures, all out of town, of course.

I was part of one of those flights, in 1977, en route to Des Moines, Iowa, to keynote a conference commemorating the Council she and local friends had started there. I had just spoken at another NCA conference celebrating her birthday in Pennsylvania, flown home to Florida and was now flying to Des 
Moines, getting off to be greeted by the program chairman when I saw Marty ahead of me.

"Were you on that plane?" she asked. "I was in first class," she said apologetically. "I sometimes splurge on that -- I get so tired."

She looked frail and I recalled the millions of miles she had journeyed for alcoholism education, for alcoholics, miles that were marked by broken hips, and illnesses. And et she felt she must apologize for the greater comfort of first class, though she had passed three score years and ten!

When I couldn't get to her Memorial Service I wrote her family:

"My gratitude to Marty since sobering up in her office in 1946 surpasses even my sympathy for you since we and the world know her work for alcoholics is deathless."

I often wonder whether I would be alive and sober today if Marty had not provided a quiet, private office uptown (at the old Academy of Medicine Building, New York City) where a prima donna radio commentator, a woman at that, could seek help for alcoholism. I was not ready at that point for the old clubhouse downtown. Though Marty was not in the office that day of August 22, 1947, her aura dominated the pleasant serene office, and her volunteer AA secretary carried the message to me, as Marty later died by her being as well as by her sharing.

Marty provided not only a place in which I could sober up that day, but equally important and seldom mentioned today when even wives of ex-presidents come out of the closet as alcoholics, Marty provided a witness. She was the first and a continual sign, a witness, that an upper middle class lady can also become a low class drunk, and then climb back up from that bottom to new heights.

I grew up thinking of my suffragist great aunt Susan B. as "The Mother of Us All," the title Gertrude Stein gave to her opera about Aunt Susan. She was a "mother" to us in the sense of her concern for our rights and our work. Marty, I believe is "The mother of the woman alcoholic" not only the first to stay sober in AA, but the first to carry the message to the outside, non-alcoholic world, women and men, the message that alcoholism is a disease and that it is treatable.

As Bill Wilson's (co-founder of AA) biographer, Robert Thomsen says: "Marty was to become one of the pioneers in the field of alcoholism education, but at this point she was primarily one of AA's spectacular recoveries." That was when Marty, an "Attractive intelligent young woman with tremendous charm" attended an early A meeting at Brooklyn. She instantly caught the message and returned to Blythwood Sanitarium in Connecticut to spread the message among other alcoholic patients of Dr. Harry Tiebout, one of the first medical champions of AA.


Marty will go down in history as the founder and director in 1944 of the first public health organization on alcoholism in history, the National Council on Alcoholism. Her work finally lifted the nation's consciousness 
about alcoholism so that the American Medical Association accepted that it is a disease and that it is treatable. She went on to mold public opinion, laying the ground work for the passage of the Hughes Act of 1970, the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, treatment and Rehabilitation Act under which the vast expansion of facilities for treatment has taken place, providing networks of out-and inpatient clinics, detoxification and rehabilitation programs.

A years before she died, Marty's 75th birthday was celebrated in advance by our great friend and colleague, Felicia M. who put on a memorable party. It was also her birthday, plus my 33r anniversary sober. Among the three we totaled 104 years of sobriety!

I spent much of my time with Marty that night trying to persuade her to dictate her own autobiography now that she was less on the road. She dodged and demurred. I realized that she had reached that stage I have observed over the years of interviewing some leading men and women. Self as subject bored her. She had become increasingly "unsettled" in her later years. She didn't want to spend the time that was left writing about herself, so that task remains for someone else to do, someone who knew her, or even some younger woman.

Marty is a model for the young women of today, not only the model of an "unselfed" sober woman. She is what I hoped to be when I was young, a liberated woman. She became a crusader, reformer, educator, organizer, agitator, lobbyist, a truly great speaker, a lucid writer, a great 12th stepper. She addressed U.S. Congressional committees and joint sessions of state legislatures. She received honorary degrees. She was liberated not only from the disease of alcoholism but liberated from restrictions upon her as a woman back in the 1940s when I was broadcasting on New York radio against those restrictions. Marty transcended the double stigma of being a woman and an alcoholic.

In so doing she incurred snubs, distastes and dislike, and controversy. Even her best friends, her A.A. buddies, were critical of her. When I worked for NCA back in Boston in 1949, doing the first radio program that ever broadcast interviews with live alcoholics, I sensed that hostility of local AA's toward Marty's program of educating the public on the disease of alcoholism. NCA was only five years old then, my sobriety was only three years old. Even these friends thought NCA was competitive with AA, that when Marty crusaded for public education and prevention she somehow was detracting from AA. She didn't need enemies among her own, but in those early days she had them. Happily she outlived those misunderstandings.
When the history of alcoholism is written, this century will carry three names ahead of the others, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, co-founders of A.A. and Marty Mann, pioneer woman AA member and pioneer alcoholism educator.

Marty lived to see her concern for women alcoholics begin to show results in 1976 when Jan du Plain launched NCA's office on women. In rapid succession occurred the first national Congress of Task Forces on women and alcoholism, then came a gathering of the alcohol establishment hosted by NCA and the U.S. Senate subcommittee eon Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, a reception in the Senate Caucus room honoring my 30th anniversary sober. Growing out of this the next month, September 1978, the first ever Congressional hearing on Women and alcoholism was held.

At lunch a few weeks later, Marty rejoiced at all this headway and said, "Do you realize, Susan, that a the age of sixty you have begun an entirely new career?"

I asked what she meant. She said the lecture tour that was launched by massive coverage of the Senate activities. It would in the next four years carry me 35,000 miles in 75 cities, 46 states and to Africa and Alaska speaking on women and alcoholism.

Some of those talks were before the great main line women's organizations, ranging from the National Federation of Business and Professional Women to the junior League. Marty herself had dreamed when first forming NCA that these women's groups would grasp the importance of educating on the disease concept of alcoholism, especially for girls and women. But in the 1940s they were uninterested. Perhaps had they begun their efforts then, they might have helped avert the epidemic of alcoholism among girls and women in the 1980s, what I call the "age of anesthesia" that blankets us.

With their women's focus they might have seen as we do today that alcoholism among women is different and distinct, and requires differences in prevention and treatment. Women have problems that men do not have such as stigma, discrimination, child care problems that bar women from residential treatment, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

In November 1979, I added another career, private practice in alcoholism counseling here in South Florida. Marty wrote me in her own hand her encouragement and recommendation for my certification. It is a letter I shall literally have framed. She wrote:

"Susan dear --

"Your activities exhaust me, just reading about them! and yet they too --like Jan's -- are a replica of my own pattern, so I understand and applaud you --"Alcoholism needs people like us: 'dedicated idiots' Selden Bacon once call Yev (Gardner) and me and we lifted it as our banner and proclaimed it good, which wasn't what he had meant!

"Anyway - again you are in the pattern by turning to counseling, which is what I do, plus a once weekly lecture at Silver Hill and Yev also, at Freeport Hospital. So we've all come full circle, back to AA's one-one-one. It's good and I love it. So will you. "I pray I will continue to be a "dedicated idiot" and as she said "a replica" of her pattern, carrying the message as she did, until the day I die."

ALCOHOLISM©, Nov-Dec. Issue


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