Marty Mann, executive director of the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism, proved a valuable mentor for many early women of AA.
Editor's Note: This is the second 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.
"I've got a dame here with a name I can't pronounce," Bill W. told someone whose number he dialed on Felicia G.'s behalf at the end of the first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting she ever attended, in Hell's Kitchen in 1943. When he hung up, he told her he had arranged for her to meet someone named Marty. "Aha, he's passing the buck," Felicia, who had come largely to humor her psychiatrist, suspected inwardly. "Now comes the questionnaire."
- Semantics, Addiction Concepts, and Abnormal Drinks
- Depression Depressants: Why Are We Drinking So Much?
- The Downward Spiral: Drugs in the Occupy Movements
"I felt like a gangster's moll about to be interviewed by the Salvation Army," Countess Felicia Gizycka later remembered of her arrival at the address Bill W. had given her. To her surprise, however, she found herself welcomed into what turned out to be a tasteful Midtown Manhattan apartment filled with books and artwork, by a woman named Priscilla who told her that the Marty whom Bill W. had put her in touch with was on her way. Although Felicia's father had been a Polish count, and her mother was a Chicago Tribune heiress and the publisher of Washington Times-Herald, the most widely read newspaper in the nation's capital, her life had been derailed by alcohol. Over the previous decade she had demolished almost all of her personal relationships. By 1943, she was twice divorced. She had lost custody of her daughter. Several months earlier, she had (to use her own phrase) "divorced" her mercurial mother, and renounced the substantial tax-free allowance she had accepted from her family throughout her adulthood. Now, in reduced circumstances, smelling of "booze and ancient sweat," with her matted hair and threadbare clothing, her leg crudely bandaged after a recent fall, Felicia was surprised to find that like Priscilla, Marty, once she arrived, was welcoming, genteel, and well-groomed: