Instead of fight for her mother's inheritance—and risk exposing her sexuality—Felicia Gizycka dropped a lawsuit to protect a developing AA.
Editor's Note: This is the third in a three-part series from Amanda Smith about the drinking life of Countess Felicia Gizycka, daughter of famed newspaper editor Cissy Patterson, and the other women involved in the early Alcoholics Anonymous movement.
In 1943, Countess Felicia Gizycka severed relations with her mother, the notorious Washington, D.C., newspaper publisher and Chicago Tribune heiress, Cissy Patterson, in what would prove to be the last of the many vicious "drunken rows" they had engaged in over the previous 20 years. Several months later, through her psychiatrist, Dr. Florence Powerdermaker, Felicia was introduced to "Bill W." and his small, but growing fellowship, Alcoholics Anonymous, in New York City. For the first time in her life Felicia experienced a sense of community and belonging. In her sponsor, Marty Mann, Felicia had found a stalwart lifelong friend. By the end of the Second World War, Felicia had committed herself to a life in recovery.
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After their mother-daughter "divorce," there had been almost no communication between Felicia Gizycka and Cissy Patterson, a Chicago Tribune heiress and the publisher of Washington Times-Herald, the most widely read newspaper in the nation's capital. As a result, the telegram Cissy received from her estranged daughter in the spring of 1947 sparked more surprise -- and suspicion -- than it kindled any hope of reconciliation. In light of Mrs. Marty Mann's upcoming lecture engagements in Washington, Felicia wondered, could her close friend and A.A. sponsor stay at Cissy's mansion on Dupont Circle? "Marty Mann was for a time the head of the Women's Division of Alcoholics Anonymous and the only person I ever knew who had great influence on Felicia," Cissy explained shortly afterward in a letter to her reactionary cousin, Colonel Robert Rutherford McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune. "Well, that would be all right, too," she continued, betraying her anxiety as to the exact nature and extent of the proposed guest's sway over her daughter, "if Marty were not a notorious lesbian, and that is rather hard to swallow."