Marty Mann

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Marty Mann (October 15, 1904 – July 22, 1980) was a founding female member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and author of the chapter "Women Suffer Too" in the second through fourth editions of the Big Book of AA. Marty was the founder of The National Council on Alcoholism and traveled across the U.S. educating medical professionals legislators, businessmen and the public to the importance of treatment and education of the fatal disease of alcoholism. In 1984 the NCOA organized Operation Understanding for which 50 celebrities and professionals gathered to address the social stigma around addiction. Actors, politicians, sports legends, physicians, lawyers, clergy and more stood up in the hotel ballroom and said "I am an alcoholic." The NCOA hoped to reduce the social stigma surrounding alcoholism and encourage individuals and their family to get treatment. Marty hoped to raise social awareness that alcoholism is not a moral weakness but a deadly disease.

Mann was the first woman with continuous long term sobriety in AA. The first woman to seek help from Alcoholics Anonymous was "Lil", who relapsed and later got sober outside A.A.,[1] Another early AA member was Florence R., who is author of the chapter "A Feminine Victory", in the first edition of the book Alcoholics Anonymous. Sylvia K. was another AA member to achieve long-term sobriety.[2] Marty and Sylvia were reportedly the first lesbian members of Alcoholics Anonymous. [3]


Marty Mann came from an upper middle class family in Chicago. She attended private schools, traveled extensively, and was a debutante. The social circle in which she moved was a fast-living one and Mann was known for her capacity to drink without apparent effect (often a sign of alcoholism). She married into a wealthy New Orleans family; when in her late 20s, due to financial reverses, she had to go to work, her social and family connections made it easy for her to launch a career in public relations.

Mann's drinking grew to the point where it endangered not only her business but her life, including at least one suicide attempt. In 1939, her psychiatrist Dr. Harry Tiebout gave her a manuscript of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, and persuaded her to attend her first AA meeting (at the time there were only two AA groups in the entire United States). Despite several relapses, Mann became sober by 1960 and remained so for the rest of her life.

Mann's father, once a top executive at the most prestigious department store in downtown Chicago, died of alcoholism.

Encouraging a change in viewpoint[edit]

In 1945, Mann became inspired with the desire to eliminate the stigma and ignorance regarding alcoholism and to encourage the "disease model" which viewed it as a medical/psychological problem, not a moral failing. She helped start the Yale School of Alcohol Studies (now at Rutgers), and organized the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism (NCEA), now the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence or NCADD.

She believed alcoholism runs in the family, and education of the disease was essential.

Three ideas formed the basis of her message:

  1. Alcoholism is a disease and the alcoholic a sick person.
  2. The alcoholic can be helped and is worth helping.
  3. Alcoholism is a public health problem and therefore a public responsibility.[4]

Marty Mann and R. Brinkley Smithers funded Dr. E. Morton (Bunky) Jellinek’s initial 1946 study on Alcoholism. Dr. Jellinek's study was based on a narrow, selective study of a hand-picked group of members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) who had returned a self-reporting questionnaire.

In the 1950s, Edward R. Murrow included her in his list of the 10 greatest living Americans. Her book New Primer on Alcoholism was published in 1958.


Mann was instrumental in the founding of High Watch Farm, the world's first recovery center founded on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.[5]

In 1980, Mann suffered a stroke at home and died soon after.[6] Many histories of Alcoholics Anonymous make only passing mention of Mann, perhaps because NCEA had no formal relationship to AA. However, Mann's public admission of her own alcoholism, her successful experience with AA, and her encouragement of others — especially women — to get help contributed substantially to AA's growth.


  1. ^ Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers. New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980, pp. 97-8.
  2. ^ Key Players in AA History. Bob K p.204.
  3. ^ Brown, David. A Biography of Mrs. Marty Mann: The First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous. Center City, Hazelden, 2001, pp. 72, 217.
  4. ^ Roizen, Ron. "In Search of the Mysterious Mrs. Marty Mann."
  5. ^ Harley, Gail (2002). Emma Curtis Hopkins: Forgotten Founder of New Thought. Syracuse University: Syracuse University Press. p. 130. ISBN 0-8156-2933-8.
  6. ^ Brown, Sally. "Marty Mann and the Evolution of Alcoholics Anonymous" Archived 2006-12-06 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]

  • Marty Mann's New Primer on Alcoholism, reviewed by John Philip, [1]
  • Marty Mann Papers at Syracuse University [2]
  • Marty Mann's Story Women Suffer Too, Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed.) Online,
  • [3]