Read This: “The Secret History of Wonder Woman”

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Every superhero has a secret identity. But when it comes to the biggest female superhero of all time—Wonder Woman, duh—there’s much more to the story than just her secret identity as secretary Diana Prince. Wonder Woman has a secret history, too. And as Jill Lepore details in The Secret History of Wonder Woman, that history is fascinating. It’s also feminist, and a little freaky. (To be clear, we’re talking Missy Elliott kind-of freak here.)

Jill Lepore has clearly done her research, and this is a hefty book, clocking in at 410 pages. Don’t worry, though—you have until 2017 to become an expert on Wonder Woman, considering that’s when the insanely overdue “Wonder Woman” movie is set to happen.

Until then, read this book and then don’t feel conflicted for a second when you decide to dress up as Wonder Woman for Halloween. William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, said that “Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world.”

I don’t want to give away too much of the history behind our favorite Amazonian warrior-princess with excellent accessories. You’ll have to learn that from Lepore. But here are a few highlights from The Secret History of Wonder Woman:

There’s a good reason Wonder Woman could make anyone tell the truth with that magic lasso.
Before William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman, he invented the lie-detector test. Congratulations: with that fun fact alone, you now are the secret weapon at the next trivia night.

Wonder Woman lasso gif

Think of Wonder Woman the next time you buy your birth control.
Wonder Woman’s origins are deeply rooted in the suffragist and feminist movements. The first Wonder Woman artist, Harry G. Peter, was known for his suffrage cartoons. Marston himself was a feminist and was married to Sadie Holloway, who was championing the notion of women having it all back in 1914. As Lepore writes, “New Women like Sadie Holloway held every expectation of political equality with men. They expected to control their fertility, to forge relationships of equality with the men they married, if they chose to marry, and to rise to the top of their professions, whether or not they also chose to have children.” Lean in, girl.

On top of that, Marston was also connected to Margaret Sanger, who founded the first birth-control clinic in the United States. Bonus: because of his connection to Margaret Sanger, this book is also a nice crash course or refresher about the beginnings of the birth-control movement.

wonder woman comic strip

There’s a love connection behind that Margaret Sanger connection.
Marston’s ties to Sanger are through her niece, Olive Byrne. Marston and Byrne were longtime lovers, and created what they called a “non-conformist” love unit with his wife. That kinky costume is starting to make a lot more sense, isn’t it?

And all of this is just a hint at Wonder Woman’s secret history. Lepore also includes Wonder Woman comic strips throughout the book that add context as well as entertain.

Now can we get “Wonder Woman,” the old television series, streaming on Netflix please?

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Writer. I don’t always drink beers as big as my head, but when I do, I take a picture of it.

For more of my writing, visit alisonhamm.com.

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