The man behind the most popular female comic book hero of all time, Wonder Woman, had a secret past: Creator William Moulton Marston had a wife — and a mistress. He fathered children with both of them, and they all secretly lived together in Rye, N.Y. And the best part? Marston was also the creator of the lie detector.
Harvard professor and New Yorker contributor Jill Lepore reveals this and other surprising details about Marston in the new book The Secret History of Wonder Woman.
“I got fascinated by this story because I’m a political historian and it seemed to me there was a really important political story that had been missed that’s basically as invisible as Wonder Woman’s jet,” Lepore tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross.
Marston, who was a famous psychologist, made up Wonder Woman in 1941. He was interested in the women’s suffrage movement and in Margaret Sanger, the birth control and women’s rights activist — who was also his mistress’s aunt.
A feminist icon, Wonder Woman was an Amazon who forced people to tell the truth with her magic lasso. She was a controversial figure in the 1940s because of her overt sexuality and her link to bondage. Her costume was inspired by Marston’s interest in erotic pin-up art.
“There’s no simple story here,” Lepore says. “There are a lot of people who get very upset at what Marston was doing. … ‘Is this a feminist project that’s supposed to help girls decide to go to college and have careers, or is this just like soft porn?’
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