The Secret History of Wonder Woman

  • by Jill Lepore
  • Narrated by Jill Lepore
  • 9 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A riveting work of historical detection revealing that the origins of one of the world’s most iconic superheroes hides within it a fascinating family story - and a crucial history of 20th-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 20th 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.


Audible Editor Reviews

"The story of William Moulton Marston, the Harvard-trained psychologist, inventor of the first lie-detector test, and creator of Wonder Woman for DC Comics, is at once inspiring and disheartening. His unlikely career shows us (among other things) that the qualities that make it possible to innovate - swagger, cleverness, tenacity—are the same ones that can render a person hopelessly out of sync with the reigning strictures of the times." (Bookforum)


What the Critics Say

"Lepore restores Wonder Woman to her rightful place as an essential women’s rights icon in this dynamically researched and interpreted, spectacularly illustrated, downright astounding work of discovery that injects new zest into the history of feminism." (Booklist)
"Wonder Woman, feminist hero, was the creation of a husband and wife who led, on the surface, average existences. Behind the mask, however, they had extraordinarily unconventional lives. It takes Harvard professor and New Yorker writer Lepore to dig into the complicated story behind the lasso (of truth), and forgive me for sounding like Upworthy, but it’s true: what she uncovers will shock you. Let’s just say that Wonder Woman’s S&M subtext was there for a reason." (Flavorwire)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Narration ruined it for me

The story was interesting, but I was so annoyed by the narration, I had a difficult time getting into it. She should have hired a professional reader. She alternated between mumbling, as if she was bored with her own book, and YELLING. I can't recommend this audio book unless it's rerecorded with a better narrator. Listen to a sample before you buy this one.
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- Julia

Authors should not always narrate their own books

The story behind the creation of Wonder Woman is interesting, but I suspect this book is better in print than in audible format. This is, after all, about a comic book--a visual art--and hopefully the book included many of the actual strips. When listening to this book I wished I could see the comic book section the author was referring to.

As to the narration, there have been times when I was thrilled that the author read his/her own book (think Eudora Welty), but Jill Lepore doesn't do her book any favors. She is a narrator who too often indulges in goofy voices for emphasis. I heard her interviewed on Fresh Air about Wonder Woman's release, and although the interview led to me purchasing Wonder Woman on Audible, as the interview progressed the author's excitement over her discoveries became more and more unhinged. So it was, when the Audible book began, I fervently hoped I'd misunderstood when the intro seemed to indicate that Jill Lepore would be reading the book. Sigh. I wish I had skipped the Audible and checked the actual book out of the library. That's my recommendation--do what I didn't.
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- Teresa

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-28-2014
  • Publisher: Random House Audio