Rummanah Aasi
  Besides being the most famous and recognized female superhero, I knew very little about Wonder Woman. Last year I've seen many positive review of Jill Lepore's book called The Secret History of Wonder Woman and thought I would give it a try. I found it very interesting and I think readers who like popular culture and their influence on society would find a lot to enjoy in this book. I also thought it fitting to review this book during Women's History Month.

Description: A cultural history of Wonder Woman traces the character's creation and enduring popularity, drawing on interviews and archival research to reveal the pivotal role of feminism in shaping her seven-decade story.

Review: The Secret History of Wonder Woman is an absorbing read about the evolution of the most popular female superhero and the fight for women's rights. Since her inception Wonder Woman has became an ever-changing symbol that represented many things for many time periods: a suffragist, a feminist, or as some would call it an androgynous woman who has the physical strength of a man yet the sensibilities and beauty of a woman. Long-legged, wearing short shorts and knee-high red boots, Wonder Woman burst into comics in 1941, the creation of William Moulton Marston, a Harvard-educated psychologist. Marston, who also coincidentally was the creator of the lie detector.
  Marston created Wonder Woman as his attempt to demonstrate women power. He oddly believed that submission and bondage were intrinsic to women's happiness. He pushed the envelope several times in changing the appearance of Wonder Woman and having her chained, bound, gagged, lassoed, tied, fettered and manacled in several scenes.
 The creation, publishing history and eventual demise of Wonder Woman are only part of Lepore's story. The other half of the story uncovers the secret of Marston's startlingly unconventional family. For instance Marston didn't believe in monogamy and had an open marriage. Married to Elizabeth "Betty" Holloway, who often provided the family's sole support, Marston brought into their home Olive Byrne, the niece of Margaret Sanger. Byrne had been his student, became his mistress, and had two of his children, who were brought up thinking their father had died. Marston had two children with Holloway, as well, whom Byrne raised, freeing Holloway to go to work. After Marston's death in 1947, the two women spent the rest of their lives together.
  Watching how Wonder Woman has evolved through many transformations was fascinating especially how many times it paralleled to Marston's own personality and view points as well as her image slowly changing when some of the comics were written by women. The book rises lots of questions such as: can Wonder Woman be truly unique and not seen as a 'female version of Captain America'? and what does it mean that there have been many, many failed attempts to bring Wonder Woman to the movie screens? Also how can one lonely figure represent an entire gender and should she? The Secret History of Wonder Woman is thought provoking and an irresistible story. It's clear that the author is very much intrigued in her topic and that shines through the book.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some discussion of sexualizing Wonder Woman from her costume to the various scenes where she is bonded. There are also discussion on Marston's open marriage but nothing too graphic or detailed. Recommended for mature teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Wonder Woman Unbound by Tim Hanley, The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid
2 Responses
  1. I'm glad it doesn't shy away from the sexualizing of the character. This does sound like a very interesting book! Thanks for putting it on my radar.


  2. Jenny Says:

    "He oddly believed that submission and bondage were intrinsic to women's happiness"

    Huh. I wonder why he believed that? Maybe he should have hooked a few women up to his lie detector machine and asked them ;-) This definitely sounds like a really interesting read Rummanah, I don't know much about the Wonder Woman comic or how she came to be, and I love learning new things! I'll be interested to see too if the latest incarnation of Wonder Woman will finally be a hit on the big screen.


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