Date of Award

Spring 4-12-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in American Studies (MAST)


Interdisciplinary Studies

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Stacy Keltner

Second Advisor

Nirmal Trivedi


Substance-related issues have long been a societal concern, yet there is a dearth of empirical evidence about effective treatments. One of the most prominent methods of resolving substance-related issues, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), has been criticized for its white, Christian middle-class, heterosexual male provenance. Particularly, the utility of AA for women has been questioned. Yet, many women do find recovery within AA. Therefore, the question becomes less about the fundamental efficacy of AA and more about for whom does AA work. As such, the present study set out to analyze recovery narratives drawn from the primary AA text. The stories of four women and four men of early AA significance were selected for a feminist phenomenological analysis to determine how women may experience substance use and recovery differently from men. The study revealed that gender played a much more significant role in the experience of alcoholism and became less pertinent in the discussion of recovery. Both women and men were working to produce a counterstory within their recovery narratives, however women were working to do that on the dual fronts of gender and alcoholism. Finally, there was evidence of agency within the narratives that suggest that existing autonomy may be critical for those seeking recovery within AA.