Margaret (“Marty”) M.’s story was shared in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. She was known as one of AA’s pioneers and one of the first women to join the program in 1939. Marty had experienced a lot for her 75 years of life and she paved the way as a building block for society through her experiences. But, many of her life experiences were considered quite deviant by society. Marty and her husband one drunken night were together and decided to elope. This event is already seen as quite against the norms, so the two of them later held a church service which is much more socially acceptable. Only about a year later, Marty divorced her husband for she couldn’t put up with his drinking habits. Divorce is considered deviant for it is breaking a bond by law. At the time of her divorce, Marty’s father was also going through bankruptcy. Her wealthy family was not so more which was leading them to a lower social class. Marty then decided to go to work. Now, in the 1920’s women going to work became more frequent, especially among single women, but it was still a change in society and was still not the most common thing to do. Already, Marty was considered deviant by the many choices she had made, but more was to come.
For the next ten years, Marty did what she wanted to do. She went to live abroad, and took advantage that she was free to do what she wanted. She remained single and she worked. She even ran a successful business. But her freedom at the time was not so common. During the early 20th century, women were mostly seen married and a housewife. But Marty didn’t let the disapproval from society get to her and she “rushed from pleasure to pleasure”. Until it all became too much. Her alcoholism caught up to her and she was having serious problems. Supposedly she had two suicide attempts, which today taking your own life is still quite against the norms. From there she went back to America to seek help. After getting her own help, she educated others about alcoholism and helped shape the modern alcoholism movement. During her time it wasn’t common for women to speak out about such things, another reason why she is considered deviant. Through it all Marty never revealed she was lesbian because it was during a heavy anti-gay time period. Marty Mann lived an eventful life where she was never afraid to step out of the boundaries set on her by society.
Although she was constantly breaking the boundaries of society, it is clear that Marty was in denial about her conditions early on. Marty actively tried to disavow the deviant label set upon her. By moving to live abroad and running a business, she threw herself into the freedom she had and tried to show she could be successful. She did whatever she wanted to and lived in the moment of excitement, but she didn’t see the problems they were causing on herself until it was too late for her. Marty was drinking more and more until it became a problem and she was a danger to herself. Marty was in real trouble and attempted suicide twice. Things got worse for her until she was broke and desperate and came back to America seeking help.
At this point Marty began the process of deviance avowal. She acknowledged that what she was doing was harmful to herself and considered deviant. She knew she needed to get help for what she was going through, so when she came back she got help. Admitting she had a problem gave her the opportunity to turn her life around by seeking help. When Marty went to her first AA meeting she found herself and she found a place where she didn’t feel alone. Going to the meetings “…gave her more than sobriety. They gave her a glimpse at something she had never known — peace of mind, a sense of being comfortable with herself and with the world in which she lived, and a lot of other things which could be summed up as a sense of growth, both emotional and spiritual.” Once Marty realized all this she made it obvious she didn’t want others to feel the way she once felt and she used her deviant identity to influence a positive part of her life.
Marty utilized her deviant behavior and took it upon herself to see her past in a different light. She chose to use her deviant behavior in a positive way and felt comfortable enough to speak out about alcoholism. “Marty was a visionary and a pioneer who took on an unpopular cause during an era when women were supposed to remain silent,” by speaking out about alcoholism. Marty founded the National Council on Alcoholism, which is still around today, and she educated the general public about alcoholism and helped shape the modern alcoholism movement. Marty wrote books speaking out about alcoholism, and she even went on to influence alcoholism legislation at state and national levels. Marty allowed her deviant identity to become a key part of her life and a positive part of her life. By speaking out when expected to remain silent, Marty was able to educate many people on the problems with alcoholism and abuse and helped pave a way into society about the importances of the subject. By Marty Mann defying societal norms she helped educate society and get rid of the stigma alcoholics were faced with. Marty raised questions about alcohol being “the next public health crisis” (American Health Line). As well as raising awareness of addiction and what to do to get help.
With Marty’s help, perceptions about alcoholics and alcoholism changed since the pioneer days especially in regards to women. Throughout U.S. history, most Americans believed that female alcoholics were less common than their male counterparts, so much less common that their very existence represented a phenomenon. Drinking was not something believed to come naturally to women, and therefore women who did it were considered deviant and unusual. Marty being one of the first women in Alcoholics Anonymous she helped defeat the stereotype that women can’t or don’t drink as much as men. No only can they drink like men, they can face the repercussions of it too. Marty speaking out about it helped make alcoholics today feel more comfortable about stepping forward and admitting they may have a problem no matter their gender.
Legislation passed regulations on alcohol abuse and made it possible to seek help more conveniently. A window has been opened into the concept of addiction since Marty’s time. Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States. Studies have shown that one in every twelve adults suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems. Now that alcoholism isn’t seen as such a thing to ignore, more programs have been opened to help addicts get better. Medical institutions even study the effects of alcoholism on the body of people of all ages, races, and genders.
Since the pioneer days of Alcoholics Anonymous, opportunities have been opened up for those suffering from alcoholism. And this is all thanks to Marty. Marty was not the first woman in Alcoholics Anonymous but she was the first woman to have gained long term sobriety and one of the first people to speak out about alcoholism. From the beginning of her days at Alcoholics Anonymous until her death, Marty was constantly enthusiastic about the program. Marty was able to look back on her life and understand that through the process of deviance avowal she had the ability to transform the mistakes she made in the past into a bright and positive future. If it were not for Margaret (“Marty) Mann, our social norms would not be where they are today and many people would still be suffering from the same issues the pioneers of Alcoholics Anonymous faced. With Marty’s deviance she was able to change people’s attitude and understanding of alcoholism. What was considered deviant then is now being talked about and treated. Through Marty’s courage to turn her negative past into a positive life she encouraged social change for our world.