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BLOG: 'Secret History of Wonder Woman' tells a surprisingly kinky tale

BLOG: 'Secret History of Wonder Woman' tells a surprisingly kinky tale

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'Secret History of Wonder Woman'

At the end of "The Secret History of Wonder Woman" (2014, Knopf Doubleday), author Jill Lepore makes an unconvincing argument that the Wonder Woman character served as a bridge between early feminists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the 20th century feminist wave with leaders such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan. It's a claim that I doubt historians of feminism would support. 

But otherwise, "The Secret History" is a diverting and illuminating book as it reveals the unconventional, kinky life of Wonder Woman's creator, William Moulton Marston, also the inventor of the lie detector. Marston lived with two women and had a couple of children with each of them. Somehow (conveniently) this arrangement fit with his feminist beliefs, which were incorporated in the stories and dialogue of the "Wonder Woman" comic book. 

One of Marston's "wives," Olive Byrne, was the niece of Margaret Sanger, founder of the American Birth Control League, which later became Planned Parenthood (Sanger didn't like the new name, because she wanted to keep the focus on birth control). Olive Byrne may have been the inspiration for Wonder Woman, but so may have Margaret Sanger. 

The book tells a story so sloppy and strange it has to be true. No story by John Irving, master of the unlikely, is as unlikely as this one. The wonderful thing about the book is it humanizes everyone, showing them in their fullness of unpredictable eccentricity, instead of flattening them into one or two dominating characteristics, the way some histories do. 

Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at will@poststar.com and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at

@trafficstatic.

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