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A Biography of Mrs Marty Mann: The First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous

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The little-known life of Marty Mann rivals a Masterpiece Theatre drama. She was born into a life of wealth and privilege, sank to the lowest depths of poverty and despair, then rose to inspire thousands of others, especially women, to help themselves. The first woman to achieve long-term sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous, Marty Mann advocated the understanding that alcoholi The little-known life of Marty Mann rivals a Masterpiece Theatre drama. She was born into a life of wealth and privilege, sank to the lowest depths of poverty and despair, then rose to inspire thousands of others, especially women, to help themselves. The first woman to achieve long-term sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous, Marty Mann advocated the understanding that alcoholism is an issue of public health, not morality. In their fascinating book, Sally and David Brown shed light on this influential figure in recovery history. Born in Chicago in 1905, Marty was favored with beauty, brains, charisma, phenomenal energy, and a powerful will. She could also out drink anyone in her group of social elites. When her father became penniless, she was forced into work, landed a lucrative public relations position, and a decade later was destitute because of her drinking. She was committed to a psychiatric center in 1938--a time when the term alcoholism was virtually unknown, the only known treatment was "drying out," and two men were compiling the book Alcoholics Anonymous. Marty read it on the recommendation of psychiatrist Dr. Harry Tiebout: it was her first step toward sobriety and a long, illustrious career as founder of the National Council on Alcoholism, or NCA. In the early 1950s, journalist Edward R. Murrow selected Marty as one of the 10 greatest living Americans. Marty died of a stroke in 1980, shortly after addressing the AA international convention in New Orleans. This is a story of one woman's indefatigable effort and indomitable spirit, compellingly told by Sally and David Brown.


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The little-known life of Marty Mann rivals a Masterpiece Theatre drama. She was born into a life of wealth and privilege, sank to the lowest depths of poverty and despair, then rose to inspire thousands of others, especially women, to help themselves. The first woman to achieve long-term sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous, Marty Mann advocated the understanding that alcoholi The little-known life of Marty Mann rivals a Masterpiece Theatre drama. She was born into a life of wealth and privilege, sank to the lowest depths of poverty and despair, then rose to inspire thousands of others, especially women, to help themselves. The first woman to achieve long-term sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous, Marty Mann advocated the understanding that alcoholism is an issue of public health, not morality. In their fascinating book, Sally and David Brown shed light on this influential figure in recovery history. Born in Chicago in 1905, Marty was favored with beauty, brains, charisma, phenomenal energy, and a powerful will. She could also out drink anyone in her group of social elites. When her father became penniless, she was forced into work, landed a lucrative public relations position, and a decade later was destitute because of her drinking. She was committed to a psychiatric center in 1938--a time when the term alcoholism was virtually unknown, the only known treatment was "drying out," and two men were compiling the book Alcoholics Anonymous. Marty read it on the recommendation of psychiatrist Dr. Harry Tiebout: it was her first step toward sobriety and a long, illustrious career as founder of the National Council on Alcoholism, or NCA. In the early 1950s, journalist Edward R. Murrow selected Marty as one of the 10 greatest living Americans. Marty died of a stroke in 1980, shortly after addressing the AA international convention in New Orleans. This is a story of one woman's indefatigable effort and indomitable spirit, compellingly told by Sally and David Brown.

30 review for A Biography of Mrs Marty Mann: The First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. 4 out of 5

    Memphis Holland

    A quarter of the way through, this book is inspirational and historic for women's issues in the world. Marty Mann is a superb role model for all women, not simply recovering alcoholic women. A quarter of the way through, this book is inspirational and historic for women's issues in the world. Marty Mann is a superb role model for all women, not simply recovering alcoholic women.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Donald Powell

    What a great American hero! Marty Mann has been grossly underappreciated for her accomplishments of having addiction: perceived and treated as a disease; educating the medical profession, government and the public about the need for treatment; formally treated in a logical methodology; and, advancing the worldwide spread of one of the most effective treatments, the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. She worked tirelessly at reducing the stigma of addiction. She founded what is now the National Cou What a great American hero! Marty Mann has been grossly underappreciated for her accomplishments of having addiction: perceived and treated as a disease; educating the medical profession, government and the public about the need for treatment; formally treated in a logical methodology; and, advancing the worldwide spread of one of the most effective treatments, the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. She worked tirelessly at reducing the stigma of addiction. She founded what is now the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. She did this while having to hide her sexual orientation and with countless obstacles for being a woman and struggling to make ends meet financially. In some ways she plowed ground for all women in many arenas. Her story deserves to be spread wider and more often, if for nothing else to give young women a role model for the success of tenacity and success in the face of cultural obstacles. This book is an exhaustive study of her life which may not hold the attention of all but I found fascinating, enlightening and inspiring. Anyone with addiction in their life, family or self could benefit by reading this biography.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interesting in the history of AA. It is also a good read for anyone who is interested in learning more about this amazing woman who enlightened the minds of many, especially in the medical field. I'd give it a much higher rating, but it is poorly written and occasionally jumps around so much so without explaining such. I got really confused in certain places in the book and had to put it down. If you can get past that, you will learn some very int I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interesting in the history of AA. It is also a good read for anyone who is interested in learning more about this amazing woman who enlightened the minds of many, especially in the medical field. I'd give it a much higher rating, but it is poorly written and occasionally jumps around so much so without explaining such. I got really confused in certain places in the book and had to put it down. If you can get past that, you will learn some very interesting things about this strong, determined woman.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Schulman

    What a fascinating book. Marty Mann, the first woman to write and lecture about her own recovery from Alcoholism in AA. Turns out she was a lesbian, her lover Priscilla Perk was Art Director of Vogue for 25 years, friends with Betty Parsons, and owned early Pollack and others. They had a summer house on Fire Island in the 1940's. Marty also had a juice affair with Jane Bowles (there is a great photo of the two of them holding on to each other. And resisted Carson McCullers, principally because o What a fascinating book. Marty Mann, the first woman to write and lecture about her own recovery from Alcoholism in AA. Turns out she was a lesbian, her lover Priscilla Perk was Art Director of Vogue for 25 years, friends with Betty Parsons, and owned early Pollack and others. They had a summer house on Fire Island in the 1940's. Marty also had a juice affair with Jane Bowles (there is a great photo of the two of them holding on to each other. And resisted Carson McCullers, principally because of her drinking. Apparently early meetings struggled over admitting women and gay people, and this history is recounted. But Marty's own brother couldn't figure out that she and Priscilla were a couple even though he slept over on the couch of their one bedroom walk up on 8th St often. It was another world.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Karma

    While reading this informative and interesting book, I kept thinking, "Wow, what an amazing woman and she was one of us." I can't believe that in my five years of sobriety I only heard brief references about a woman who was in the early beginnings of AA with Bill Wilson. The strides that she made with the development of the NAEC and removing the stigma surrounding alcoholism is monumental. She worked tirelessly to have alcoholism recognized as a disease and finally succeeded. She was an attracti While reading this informative and interesting book, I kept thinking, "Wow, what an amazing woman and she was one of us." I can't believe that in my five years of sobriety I only heard brief references about a woman who was in the early beginnings of AA with Bill Wilson. The strides that she made with the development of the NAEC and removing the stigma surrounding alcoholism is monumental. She worked tirelessly to have alcoholism recognized as a disease and finally succeeded. She was an attractive, sophisticated and educated woman who wasn't afraid to admit that she was an alcoholic during a time when women were not readily accepted in AA. She was a lesbian with a lifetime partner who was the editor of Vogue. She didn't advertise her sexual preference at the time because it would have cast a degenerative shadow on her mission: To help the alcoholic and educate the world on alcoholism. I highly recommend this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hanje Richards

    I would have given this wonderful biography of an under appreciated, little-known figure in the AA movement 4.5 stars if that was an option. I am so glad I read this book. I won't elaborate, but I think I will blog about it. I would have given this wonderful biography of an under appreciated, little-known figure in the AA movement 4.5 stars if that was an option. I am so glad I read this book. I won't elaborate, but I think I will blog about it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karen Semer

    Well researched and exhaustive, so glad to read this biography of Marty Mann after hearing of her in the rooms of AA for many years. She was devoted to the AA program while also the public face of the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism (NCEA), now the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). These ideas formed the basis of Marty Mann's message: -Alcoholism is a disease and the alcoholic a sick person. -The alcoholic can be helped and is worth helping. -Alcoholism is a Well researched and exhaustive, so glad to read this biography of Marty Mann after hearing of her in the rooms of AA for many years. She was devoted to the AA program while also the public face of the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism (NCEA), now the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). These ideas formed the basis of Marty Mann's message: -Alcoholism is a disease and the alcoholic a sick person. -The alcoholic can be helped and is worth helping. -Alcoholism is a public health problem and therefore a public responsibility. I'd love to see Marty Mann's life made into a movie!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    A great debt is owed to Marty for without her addicts of all kinds would be left forever in sanitariums. Also, a little sad that science has made some discoveries but very little new discoveries making it down to street level. But the drugs abused get down to the street immediately. A lot of speeches and work to reduce stigma so people could actually get treatment.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Robinson

    A bio on an important person in American society who worked diligently to reduce the stigma associated with alcoholism. A child of great wealth who fell to homelessness because of her drinking, Marty worked her way back to build an organization that helped educate the public on the importance of working with the alcoholic to get sober.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jo Carol

    This book captured my interest and never let it go. If you are interested in Alcoholism, this woman did more for removing the stigma of the disease than anyone else. It is a treasure trove filled with historical information about the disease of alcoholism, her personal recovery story, and Alcoholics Anonymous. I highly recommend it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    The content is golden. The writing is not my favorite.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ray A.

    After Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Marty M. probably did more than any other alcoholic to make the disease concept of alcoholism socially acceptable, which revolutionized the way alcoholics came to be treated at all levels of society. Founder of the National Council on Alcoholism, she's the third woman to gain a measure of recovery in AA (after Florence R. and Mary C.). She's the author of "Women Suffer Too," in the Personal Stories section of the Big Book, the second story by a woman after Florence R.'s After Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Marty M. probably did more than any other alcoholic to make the disease concept of alcoholism socially acceptable, which revolutionized the way alcoholics came to be treated at all levels of society. Founder of the National Council on Alcoholism, she's the third woman to gain a measure of recovery in AA (after Florence R. and Mary C.). She's the author of "Women Suffer Too," in the Personal Stories section of the Big Book, the second story by a woman after Florence R.'s "A Feminine Victory," which can be read in "Experience, Strength & Hope." There's a lot of AA history in these pages, and, for the perceptive reader, a lot of lessons to be learned about the nature of recovery. The book's main weakness is its promotional tone, and the aura of glamour surrounding Marty's story. Ultimately, Marty M. was just another drunk, no different from Bill and Bob, or from you and me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Interesting woman. She was in AA at a time when both gays, (she is gay) were shunned as well as women. She was good friends with Jean Kirkpatrick who left AA to create Women for Sobriety.

  14. 4 out of 5

    deborah harrison

  15. 5 out of 5

    Leigh Anne Enger

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Mckenzie

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mo

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Bearman

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kali Prigge

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kate blake

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  24. 5 out of 5

    John Jancaitis

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christine B. Easton

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carol

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patty Mullinax

  28. 4 out of 5

    Val

  29. 5 out of 5

    Helen Robinson

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

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