The Secret History of Wonder Woman is Jack Edwards’ favourite. He acquaints us with it-
The Secret History of Wonder Woman: A Book by Jill Lepore
A sensational piece of writing, Jill Lepore’s award winning book is a marvellous journey through the history of what lead to the creation of one of the greatest comic book heroes in the world – Wonder Woman. Lepore’s begins with the early life of her creator, William Moulton Marston, recounting his youth and his time at university and how he was influenced by the women’s suffrage movement. It also delves into his early work in science and law, which lead him to develop a device which contributed to the invention of the lie detector.
It then moves on to his personal life, looking into his polyamorous relationship with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and his “other wife” Olive Byrne. Here we see how this relationship and the influences of these women contributed to Wonder Woman’s creation.
We also learn at this point how Margaret Sanger, the founder of the modern birth control movement, was a direct influence on Wonder Woman’s character. We are then taken on the main part of this exciting trip: Wonder Woman’s creation and the loops Marston went through for a comic book publisher to take his ideas for a female superhero seriously and to get them published. We also learn of how Marston fought against censorship, due to the perceived threat that Wonder Woman, and comics in general, posed in that period to traditional family values. The adventure doesn’t end there.
We then move on to how Wonder Woman evolved following Marston’s death, from being almost forgotten about following the Second World War to re-emerging as the feminist icon she was (and still is) with the help of Marston’s widows, Elizabeth and Olive. All the way through this literary adventure through history we are treated to excerpts from Wonder Woman’s early comics, which help readers see the direct influences Marston’s life had on the Amazonian princess’s stories later.
As well as being a narrative history, Lepore includes some of her own academic observations. The most striking being her argument that Wonder Woman could be the missing link between first-wave and second-wave feminist movements. Her evidence is convincing, but it will be up to readers like you to agree or disagree.
Drawing on many years of research and a nearly endless list of primary sources, Lepore’s book is so good that it even won the 2014 American History Book Prize, and when you finish reading it you will understand why. If you love history, and you love comics, then I highly recommend this book. If you enjoyed Wonder Woman’s 2017 blockbuster movie, then this book will only make you fall in love Wonder Woman more.