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The Authors

Short biographies of the authors of the stories
in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

Edited by Fiona Dodd
County Mayo, Ireland

Fiona Dodd, The Authors

Fiona Dodd, ed., The Authors: Short Biographies of the Men and Women Who Wrote about their Recovery from Alcoholism in the Pioneering Days of the Twelve Step Program, May 2013, paperback xxii + 200 pp., ISBN 978-1-4759-8598-6, $18.95;  ebook ISBN 978-1-4759-8599-3, $3.99


The beloved stories at the end of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous have carried the AA message to people of all sorts and kinds for many years. They were the original meeting in print. All of us in the fellowship have our favourite story which we refer back to time and time again for comfort and inspiration. But what more do we know about the men and women who wrote those stories, beyond the brief words which were recorded in the Big Book? Who exactly were these pioneers who carried the message to the four corners of the world, and encouraged and inspired so many to recover from alcoholism?

This book puts together in one place all the short biographies which were later assembled within the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, giving such additional information as we have about the men and women who wrote the stories at the end of the Big Book. These brief supplemental biographies tell how they lived and died, what they did for a living, and any other information about them which had been preserved in the A.A. oral tradition or which could be gleaned from other old documents, obituaries, or archival repositories. They were put together in their present form in a project begun in 2001 (the year the fourth edition appeared) by a group of devoted A.A. members which included -- quite importantly -- some of the last people, now getting on in years, who had personally known the original members from the 1930s and 40s.

This book covers all of the stories which appeared in the original manuscript of Alcoholic Anonymous, the first edition in 1939, the second edition in 1955, and the third edition in 1976.

Circle and Triangle


Women Suffer Too

Margaret ("Marty") M.,
New York City and Connecticut

2nd and 3rd eds. p. 222, 4th ed. p. 200

"Despite great opportunities, alcohol nearly
ended her life. Early member, she spread the
word among women in our pioneer period."

Marty's date of sobriety is uncertain, but she attended her first A.A. meeting at Bill W.'s home in Brooklyn on April 11, 1939, and was an enthusiastic member of A.A. from that day until her death.

She was not the first woman in A.A. The "Lady known as 'Lil'," in Akron, who probably never got sober, and Florence R. ("A Feminine Victory" in the first edition) preceded her.

A recent biography of Marty M. reveals that there was still another woman ahead of her -- Mary C. -- who visited Marty when she was still at Blythewood Sanitarium in 1939. (This other woman, who was from somewhere in the South, would have been the A.A. woman with the longest sobriety had she not slipped in 1944, although she came back to AA and thereafter stayed sober until her death in the 1990s.)

Marty was one of the first women to enter A.A. and gain long-term sobriety. But she had several slips. Three of these were at the very beginning, between Christmas 1939 and Christmas 1940. The authors of Marty's recent biography found that she then had another slip somewhere between 1959 and 1964, most likely around 1960. She quickly recovered however, and after that stayed continuously sober until her death in 1980.

Marty grew up in Chicago, in a wealthy family. She had every advantage, the best boarding schools and a finishing school in Europe.

A popular debutante, she made her debut in 1927, after which she eloped with John B. of New Orleans. Marty said of him: "He was one of the most attractive men I've met, interesting, traveled, with a keen mind. His family was prominent socially and he was the town's worst drunk." They were both high on alcohol when they eloped. Later a church service was held in New Orleans. Marty, whose alcoholism was not far progressed at the time, could not put up with John's drinking behavior and they were divorced in 1928. She resumed her maiden name and sometime thereafter started to identify herself as "Mrs. Marty M." She never remarried.

Her divorce coincided with her father's bankruptcy and Marty went to work. For the next ten years she did whatever she wanted to do. For greater freedom and excitement she went abroad to live. She ran a successful business. Headstrong and willful, she rushed from pleasure to pleasure. But her alcoholism got out of hand and soon she was in real trouble and attempted suicide twice. She came home to America, broke and desperate. Things got even worse.

She entered Bellevue Hospital's neurology ward under the care of Robert Foster Kennedy, M.D. Eventually she entered Blythewood Sanitarium, as a charity patient, under the care of Dr. Harry Tiebout, who gave her the manuscript of the Big Book to read and arranged for her to go to her first meeting.

She said "I went trembling into a house in Brooklyn filled with strangers and I found I had come home at last, to my own kind. There is another meaning for the Hebrew word that in the King James version of the Bible is translated 'salvation.' It is: 'to come home.' I had found my salvation. I wasn't alone any more."

In a July 1968 Grapevine update of her story, Marty said the Twelve Steps were still very important to her. They 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.

Marty was a visionary and a pioneer who took on an unpopular cause during an era when women were supposed to remain silent. With the encouragement of Bill W., Marty founded the National Council on Alcoholism, through which she educated the general public about alcoholism and helped shape the modern alcoholism movement. She wrote two authoritative books on alcoholism: Marty Mann's Primer on Alcoholism in 1950 (which was rewritten and published as Marty Mann's New Primer on Alcoholism in 1958), and Marty Mann Answers Your Questions About Drinking and Alcoholism in 1970.

Marty influenced alcoholism legislation at the State and national levels. She is considered to be "the mother of the Hughes Act," the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act of 1970, which greatly enhanced the federal government's role in alcoholism treatment and prevention.

Mel B., in My Search for Bill W., described Marty as one of Bill W.'s closest friends and allies. "A refined, attractive woman, she impressed me as being the kind of person who can handle great responsibilities with confidence and ease. While some men may have felt threatened by such a strong woman, Bill supported her work and went out of his way to encourage her."

To protect the work she was doing during a period of heavy anti-gay bias, Marty never revealed her lesbianism except to Bill (her sponsor) and other close friends. Her long-time lesbian partner was Priscilla P., once a glamorous art director at Vogue magazine, the fifth woman Marty brought into A.A. In her last years Marty was deeply troubled by Priscilla's Alzheimer's disease.

Marty made her last public appearance at the A.A. International Convention in New Orleans in July of 1980. She arrived in a wheelchair, but after she was introduced she rose and walked to the podium to thunderous applause and a prolonged ovation.

Two weeks after her return to her home in Easton, Connecticut, her housekeeper found her unconscious at the kitchen table. She had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage the night before. Priscilla had slept through it all. She was rushed to St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, CN, where she died later that night, July 22, 1980, at the age of 75.

The New York Times ran a major obituary, and her death was widely reported around the nation. A long tribute to her was read into the Congressional Record. When Priscilla died on November 9, 1982, Marty's brother tried to make arrangements for her to be buried next to Marty in Chicago, but Rosehill Cemetery ruled that the family plot was reserved for members of the family only. Priscilla was cremated and her remains spread on the waters off the coast on the shore of Connecticut.

Acceptance Was the Answer

Dr. Paul O., M.D.,
Laguna Niguel, California

in 3rd ed., renamed for the 4th edition

3rd ed. p. 439; 4th ed. p. 407

"The physician wasn't hooked, he thought -- he
just prescribed drugs medically indicated for his many
ailments. Acceptance was his key to liberation."

Paul's story is one of the most frequently quoted in the 3rd edition because it talks so much about acceptance (pages 449-450).

His original date of sobriety was December 1966, but he slipped until July 1967. He didn't think he was an alcoholic, he just had problems. "If you had my problems you'd drink too." His major problem was his wife. "If you had my wife you'd drink, too." He and his wife, Max, had been married twenty-eight years when he entered A.A. He said she was a natural Al-Anon long before they heard of either A.A. or Al-Anon.

His story in the Big Book, and tapes of his talks, show that Paul had a great sense of humor, and was a very humble man.

Paul had begun to drink when in pharmacy school to help him sleep. He went through pharmacy school, graduate school, medical school, internship, residency and specialty training, and finally went into practice. All the time his drinking kept increasing. Soon he began taking drugs to pep him up and tranquilizers to level off.

On occasion he tried to stop completely, but had convulsions from withdrawal. When he went to Mayo Clinic he was put in the locked ward. Another hospitalization was in the psychiatric ward of a hospital where he was on the staff. But there he was introduced to A.A.

It took him a while to get off the alcohol and pills, but when he wrote his story he said: "Today, I find I can't work my A.A. program while taking pills, nor may I even have them around for dire emergencies only. I can't say 'Thy will be done,' and take a pill. I can't say, 'I'm powerless over alcohol, but solid alcohol is okay.' I can't say 'God could restore me to sanity but until He does, I'll control myself -- with pills.'"

He started Pills Anonymous and Chemical Dependency Anonymous, but did not attend them because he got all he needed from A.A. He did not introduce himself as an alcoholic and addict, and was irritated by people who want to broaden A.A. to include other addictions.

He wrote an article for the Grapevine on why doctors shouldn't prescribe pills for alcoholics, and because he had a dual problem was asked to write his story for the Big Book. It was originally published in the A.A. Grapevine with the title "Bronzed Moccasins" and an illustration of a pair of bronze moccasins. It was eventually renamed and included in the Big Book. His book, There's More to Quitting Drinking than Quitting Drinking, was published in 1995 by Sabrina Publishing, Laguna Niguel, California.

Paul complained in an interview with the A.A. Grapevine that the story might have "overshot the mark." One of the most uncomfortable things for him was the people who run up to him at a meeting and tell him how glad they are the story is in the book. "They say they were fighting with their home group because their home group won't let them talk about drugs. So they show their group the story and they say, 'By God, now you'll have to let me talk about drugs.' And I really hate to see the story as a divisive thing. I don't think we came to A.A. to fight each other."

But he denied that there is anything in the story he would want to change. The story "makes clear the truth that an alcoholic can also be an addict, and indeed that an alcoholic has a constitutional right to have as many problems as he wants! But that doesn't mean that every A.A. meeting has to be open to a discussion of drugs if it doesn't want to. Every meeting has the right to say it doesn't want drugs discussed. People who want to discuss drugs have other places where they can go to talk about that."

How did he work his program? "Pretty much every morning, before I get out of bed, I say the Serenity Prayer, the Third Step Prayer, and the Seventh Step Prayer. Then Max and I repeat those prayers along with other prayers and meditations at breakfast."

He had a special meeting format for early morning meetings. He called them Attitude Adjustment Meetings. They consisted largely of readings from the Big Book, prayers from the Big Book and 12 & 12, and a short session of positive pitches. The meetings were at 6:30 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. each day.

Paul died on May 19, 2000. Max died on July 1, 2001.

The Career Officer

Sackville O'C. M., Dublin, Ireland
2nd ed. p. 523, 3rd ed. p. 517

"A British officer, this Irishman -- that is, until brandy
'retired' him. But this proved only a temporary setback.
He survived to become a mainstay of A.A. in Eire."

Sackville attended his first A.A. meeting on April 28, 1947, and never took another drink. He was a "retired" major from the British Army, in which he served for twenty-six years. He had been discharged on medical grounds. This meant, of course, alcoholism. In a talk he gave in Bristol, England, in 1971, he said he received a letter from the Army saying they had accepted his resignation. But he didn't remember having sent it in.

He was living with his parents in Dublin, existing on his retirement pay. His long-suffering mother finally ordered him to pack his bags. He then remembered seeing something about A.A. in the Evening Mail, and told her he would try A.A. His parents agreed that if A.A. could help him he could live at home. But he would be on probation.

He arrived at his first meeting that night, drunk on gin and doped up on Benzedrine and paraldehyde.

His first meeting was at the Dublin group. It was the first A.A. group in Europe, founded by Conor F. in November of 1946. Conor had got sober in Philadelphia three years earlier, and was on vacation in Ireland. It was known as the First Dublin Group or The Country Shop Group, the name of the restaurant where they met. Sackville found what looked like a large group when he went to his first meeting. But it was the big Monday night open meeting, to explain A.A. to newcomers and their families as well as doctors and social workers.

Getting off to a shaky start, the secretary and a dozen others got drunk in the summer of 1947. Three remained sober, among them Sackville, who had joined in April. They re-formed the group in August with Sackville as secretary.

Sackville was a good organizer who had clear and definite ideas of what they should do. He suggested they switch the open public information meeting from Friday to Monday, the better to catch men coming off a weekend drunk. He also worked hard to get information about A.A. to the newspapers.

Since the vast majority of the Irish population was Roman Catholic, Sackville knew it was important to win the goodwill of the Catholic clergy. He convinced a professor of theology at St. Patrick's College, Mayhooth, to publish an article favorable to A.A. in the college paper The Furrow. Bill W. later referred to the publication of this article as an impressive step forward in A.A.'s relations with the churches.

Bill W. visited them in 1950, and held a press conference in the Mansion House (the Lord Mayor's house). Many years later Jimmy R. took great pride in showing the kitchen sink in his basement apartment into which Bill had knocked his cigarette ash as they sat around and talked for hours following the press conference. Sackville, in his 1971 talk, spoke of what a great man Bill W. was.

Sackville was a personal friend of Sister Ignatia and corresponded with her and visited her. In a letter to Ignatia in 1959 he speaks of AA "catching fire" in the west of Ireland but of there not being an AA group yet in her native Ballina despite the town's being "highly qualified to support a group of its own." Ignatia presented Sackville with a St. Christopher medal to keep him safe on his motorbike, and in a letter from 1962 he tells her, "Poor St. Christopher, he must find himself very overworked in this country."

In 1948 Sackville began a small paper, The Road Back, which did much to give the group a sense of identity. A bi-monthly group newsletter celebrating birthdays and group news, it also carried recovery sharing in a simple unpretentious five-page format. He edited it for more than twenty-eight years.

Sackville updated his story for the March 1968 Grapevine. It was titled: "Living the Program In All Our Affairs." He hoped that what he wrote would not be taken as the view of an Angry Old Man. But he complained of those who give only lip service to the slogans and the steps. He urged realism, with its frequent reminders of humility, and faith, anchored to some unchanging norm of goodness (God, as I understand him). Also atonement, patience, and thinking with spiritual discipline.

He complained of those who tell a newcomer that he only has to stay dry for today and to come to meetings. He said the meetings were necessary, but would not practice the Steps for anyone. Even the most meeting-minded member has to pass many hours of the day when he is alone and must depend on his own inner strength. These are the hours when practice of these principles in all his affairs must cease to be a conventional, superficial acceptance of them and become a master of the heart and the will.

Sackville also wasn't fond of celebrity speakers. He urged that we take every speaker, silver-tongued or tongue-tied, at his real value of being another alcoholic who is doing his best to stay recovered himself and trying to help us to do the same. And he thought that the increasing numbers of conventions and the like were diverting time and effort from our primary purpose. He added, however, that these dislikes of his were "very slight ripples in a sea of contentment."

Sackville died in 1979.


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