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'Women are the unsung heroes in our field'

March 26, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Celebrating Women's History Month

Men and women alike have contributed large ideas and improvements to the addiction treatment field, but Rebecca J. Flood, MHS, LCADC, NCACII, BRI II, feels that oftentimes “women are the unsung heroes in our field.”

In order to bring these women and their accomplishments to light, the staff at New Directions for Women began researching and developing a timeline of pioneering women in the recovery and treatment communities. The timeline was built under the guidance of field historical expert William White and accepted new suggested additions from the 34 female CEOs that gathered in North Carolina in early February.

Flood, executive director and chief executive officer of the California treatment center and lead organizer of the research, shared with me some of the milestones that the timeline focuses on, including:

·        1869 The first gender specific treatment program; the Martha Washington Home in Chicago opened.

·        1898 Dr. Agnes Sparks published a series of articles on the treatment of addicted women.

·        1944 Marty Mann became the first woman to maintain long term sobriety through AA. Marty Mann established the   National Committee for Education on Alcoholism, today known as NCADD.

·        1949 Dr. Ruth Fox treated patients with Antabuse and developed protocols for its use.

·         1951 Lois Wilson, Bill Wilson’s (co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) wife, established Al Anon for families of alcoholics.

·        1955 The tell-all autobiography about the alcohol addiction of film star Lillian Roth became a bestseller.

·         1957 Geraldine Owen Delaney established Alina Lodge.

·         1982 Betty Ford established the Betty Ford Center.

·         1985 LeClair Bissell’s book Alcoholism in the Professions was released.


One of the main reasons Flood believes it’s important to highlight these women in the field is “so people can begin to choose their heroes, read up on them and really know about them so they can begin to take on leadership roles of their own.”

She says that 70% of the current workforce in the addiction treatment field is female. “So much of the current leadership will be aging out over the next five to ten years, and so much of that group is male. But who’s there to replace them? Predominantly women,” she explains.

For women currently in leadership positions, her advice is to “begin a live mentorship so that the passing of the torch can be helpful and we don’t lose ground in the addiction treatment field by not sharing both our successes and our failures; our fears and our accomplishments; and our joys and our sadnesses.”

As for gender inequalities in the field, Flood notes that they still exist in this field as they do in all work systems across the nation.

“It’s not unique to the addiction treatment world. We’re still not paid dollar-for-dollar what men are in similar positions and we quite often hold higher level degrees in order to maintain similar positions as men,” she says.



Shannon Brys

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