The Secret History of Wonder Woman Audiobook, by Jill Lepore Play Audiobook Sample

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Author: Jill Lepore Narrator: Jill Lepore Publisher: Random House Audio Audio Length: Release Date: October 2014 Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download ISBN: 9780553551341

Publisher Description

A riveting work of historical detection revealing that the origin of one of the world’s most iconic superheroes hides within it a fascinating family story—and a crucial history of twentieth-century feminism Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is the most popular female superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman, no superhero has lasted as long or commanded so vast and wildly passionate a following. Like every other superhero, Wonder Woman has a secret identity. Unlike every other superhero, she has also has a secret history. Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore has uncovered an astonishing trove of documents, including the never-before-seen private papers of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator. Beginning in his undergraduate years at Harvard, Marston was influenced by early suffragists and feminists, starting with Emmeline Pankhurst, who was banned from speaking on campus in 1911, when Marston was a freshman. In the 1920s, Marston and his wife, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway, brought into their home Olive Byrne, the niece of Margaret Sanger, one of the most influential feminists of the twentieth century. The Marston family story is a tale of drama, intrigue, and irony. In the 1930s, Marston and Byrne wrote a regular column for Family Circle celebrating conventional family life, even as they themselves pursued lives of extraordinary nonconformity. Marston, internationally known as an expert on truth—he invented the lie detector test—lived a life of secrets, only to spill them on the pages of Wonder Woman. The Secret History of Wonder Woman is a tour de force of intellectual and cultural history. Wonder Woman, Lepore argues, is the missing link in the history of the struggle for women’s rights—a chain of events that begins with the women’s suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later.

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Quotes

  • “Jill Lepore’s obsessively researched book on Wonder Woman, the four-color embodiment of the women’s rights movement, reveals that the life of the character’s creator, Dr. William Marston—inventor of the lie detector, charming crank, ardent feminist and secret polygamist—was waaay more colorful than any comic book superhero. Suffering Sappho!” 

    - Art Spiegelman, New York Times bestselling author of Maus II
  • “Links the iconic superhero’s 1941 creation by William Moulton Marston (also the inventor of the lie detector) both to the aims of mid-twentieth-century feminism and to the influential Marston family’s deep domestic intrigues.”

    - Elle
  • “Ms. Lepore’s lively, surprising, and occasionally salacious history is far more than the story of a comic strip. The author, a professor of history at Harvard, places Wonder Woman squarely in the story of women’s rights in America—a cycle of rights won, lost, and endlessly fought for again. Like many illuminating histories, this one shows how issues we debate today were under contention just as vigorously decades ago, including birth control, sex education, the ways in which women can combine work and family, and the effects of ‘violent entertainment’ on children…Her superb narrative brings that history vividly into the present, weaving individual lives into the sweeping changes of the century.”

    - Wall Street Journal
  • “Lepore clearly has a passion for intelligent, opinionated women whose legacies have been overshadowed by the men they love…It has nearly everything you might want in a page-turner: tales of S&M, skeletons in the closet, a believe-it-or-not weirdness in its biographical details, and something else that secretly powers even the most ‘serious’ feminist history—fun.”

    - Entertainment Weekly
  • “On the one hand…[The Secret History of Wonder Woman] is a yea-saying tale about how this comic book character, created in 1941, remade American feminism and had her roots in the ideas and activism of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. On the other hand, “The Secret History of Wonder Woman” is fundamentally a biography of Wonder Woman’s larger-than-life and vaguely creepy male creator, William Moulton Marston…[Lepore] fully tells Marston’s history for the first time, as well as the complete history of how so many crisp feminist ideas made their way into Wonder Woman comics. It’s complicated material that she capably explores…There are many profitable detours in this book: the history of female cartoonists, the moral panic over comics and juvenile delinquency, a history of the feminist movement.”

    - New York Times
  • “The Secret History of Wonder Woman is the fullest and most fascinating portrait ever created about the complicated, unconventional family that inspired one of the most enduring feminist icons in pop culture….In [Lepore’s] hands, ‘The Secret History of Wonder Woman’ is its own magic lasso, one that compels history to finally tell the truth about Wonder Woman—and compels the rest of us to behold it.”

    - Los Angeles Times
  • “The Secret History of Wonder Woman relates a tale so improbable, so juicy, it’ll have you saying, “Merciful Minerva!”…An astonishingly thorough investigation of the man behind the world’s most popular female superhero….With Lepore’s zippy prose, it all makes for a supremely engaging reading experience.”

    - NPR
  • “It’s an irresistible story, and the author tells it with relish and delight.”

    - Kirkus Reviews
  • “An absolutely unputdownable book. The life history of polymath charlatan and/or genius (I couldn’t ever decide) William Moulton Marston, who worked his way through law, movie scenarios, lie detection, ménages a trois, free love, BDSM, and polygamy before creating the first feminist super-person had me saying ‘wow’ practically every other page. And that’s not even mentioning the tough-as-nails women he exalted, lifted from, and, uh, shared who make up the molten core of this newly revealed story. Rocketing from the suffragism of the 1910s to the ERA of the 1970s on a wave of homespun pop culture righteousness, this story’s head-spinning weirdness ultimately makes you question your own accomplishments, aims, and—almost like a great modern novel—your real motives.”

    - Chris Ware, author of Building Stories
  • “The Secret History of Wonder Woman is as racy, as improbable, as awesomely righteous, and as filled with curious devices as an episode of the comic book itself. In the nexus of feminism and popular culture, Jill Lepore has found a revelatory chapter of American history. I will never look at Wonder Woman’s bracelets the same way again.”

    - Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home
  • “Lepore’s book is powerful…Her voice is sometimes screechy and quavering and does not lend itself to male dialogue. But the book is amazing as it reveals Marston’s desire to be dominated by women and his peculiar lifestyle with the two, possibly three, women who shared his home.”

    - AudioFile

Awards

  • A BookPage Top Pick in History for November 2014
  • One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice

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About the Author

Jill Lepore, a New York Times bestselling author, is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at the New Yorker. Her many books include New York Burning, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; The Name of War, winner of the Bancroft Prize; The Mansion of Happiness, short-listed for the 2013 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction; and Book of Ages, a finalist for the National Book Award.