The Sunday Edition

The secret feminist history of Wonder Woman

When Wonder Woman made her debut in 1941, she was the first female superhero to have her own comic-book. And she was a huge success - her popularity rivaled only by Batman and Superman. ...
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When Wonder Woman made her debut in 1941, she was the first female superhero to have her own comic-book. And she was a huge success - her popularity rivaled only by Batman and Superman. 
Her costume was brief - boots, a bustier and skimpy shorts - and her physique well-endowed, including legs for days and a waist smaller than most women's necks. But, demonstrating the wisdom of the English idiom, you can't judge a comic book by its cover.  

Wonder Woman (seen below in an image from Harvard College Library) wasn't just a sexy gal in a glam getup. She was a product of the suffrage and feminist movements, and her character was inspired by the early 20th century women's rights activist and birth control advocate, Margaret Sanger.  

WW150.jpg
Ms.Sanger was a nurse and a radical thinker. In 1914, she founded a magazine called The Woman Rebel, and she and her sister were arrested for opening the first birth control clinic in the United States. She became internationally famous as a result of her work in woman's reproductive rights. 

Wonder Woman's creator, William Moulton Marston, was an oddball academic who claimed to have discovered the lie detector test. He also had a secret life, and a penchant for polyamory.  

Marston was also a radical who thought women should rule the world. His superhero creation was meant to be "psychological propaganda for the new type of woman". 

The remarkable story of Wonder Woman, and the man who created her, is chronicled in a new book: The Secret History of Wonder Woman. The author is Harvard historian and author  Jill Lepore, who spoke with Michael Enright.



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