Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

Not only is Wonder Woman’s origin story not really known, how the character came to be is equally mysterious.  Until now.  Lepore hunted around lots of archives and sorted through personal papers to get to the heart of Wonder Woman’s creation.  What she uncovered is the nontraditional family of the creator that fed his creation, as well as the roots of feminism and women’s rights that sparked the imagination of one man to create the first enduring, and it can be argued, only enduring, female superhero.

William Moulton Marston is an interesting juxtaposition of differing perspectives and ideals.  He is dedicated to the cause of women’s rights, believes women will come to rule the world and rightfully so in his opinion, yet he lives in a household of seven individuals: his wife, his four children, and the mother of two of the four.  All seven live in harmony but the “not legal” wife lives in fear that her children will discover her secret, one that they do not know until they are adults.  Marston is a famous (or should I say infamous) inventor, having created the lie detector machine (can you say golden lasso?) and he also was one of the first psychology professors teaching the subject as a discipline rather than an offshoot of philosophy.

I found the personalities behind Wonder Woman’s creation intriguing, but I really enjoyed learning about the women who fought for women’s rights to birth control that inspired her creation.  Wonder Woman doesn’t form until about two-thirds of the way through the book, so I was a little disappointed in that.  I was hoping for more about the character, but the characters behind the character are fascinating.

I recommend this book to those looking for an in-depth profile of an almost forgotten creator of part of American pop culture, with a story stranger than fiction at its core.