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review 2017-02-15 22:09
The Secret History of Wonder Woman
The Secret History of Wonder Woman - Jill Lepore

The Secret History of Wonder Woman is an interesting read - it has great ideas about the history of American feminism, and why it's been grinding gears since the 1970s in many ways, but what it does do, and do well, is take a look at "First Wave" feminism, and at William Moulton Marston.

 

And who was he? 

 

He was the creator of Wonder Woman.

 

And he was a very strange man.  And his most famous creation reflects him in many ways.

 

William Moulton Marston headed off to Harvard just as the battle for woman suffrage was getting very heated in the US.  Ironically, the women voters in those states which allowed it re-elected Woodrow Wilson in the exceptionally tight presidential election of 1916.  (Without the female vote in a handful of states, America elects Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes instead.)  Margaret Sanger and her sister, Edith Byrne, found the organization that would become Planned Parenthood.  Alice Paul's American suffragettes are chaining themselves to the White House gates. NAWSA is leading the charge for the 20th Amendment - the woman suffrage amendment.

 

While a Harvard undergraduate, studying psychology, he invented a lie detector (based on blood pressure readings), but failed to patent it.  He married the girl down the street, Elizabeth Holloway, and they both went to law school (he at Harvard, she at Boston University - because "those dumb bunnies at Harvard wouldn't take women"). After law school, he also got a Ph.D in psychology from Harvard, and went off to the academic world, where he taught psychology at places like Columbia and Tufts.  (Elizabeth Holloway, who got the M.A., but may have done most of the work for Marston's Ph.D, went to work for companies like Encyclopedia Britannica, McCalls magazine, or Metropolitan Life Insurance.) 

 

At Tufts he met Margaret Sanger's niece, Olive Byrne, and after she graduated, gave his wife an ultimatum: either they all three lived together as a threesome, or he would leave her.

 

She chose to stay.

 

Marston, who truly did think of himself as a feminist, certainly did not live in a matriarchy.  One wife, Elizabeth, worked twelve hours a day in Manhattan, supporting the entire family.  The other, Olive Byrne (they explained her presence as "their widowed housekeeper, Mrs. Richard"), raised the four children the women had by Marston.  When she was not writing puff pieces about Marston in Family Circle.  Marston, meanwhile, hung around the house, mostly in his underwear, only dressing up for the occasional client visit.  (He had been blacklisted from academics, for a combination of his very esoteric psychological theories and the rumors about his sex life, and had then failed to make a success of himself in Hollywood.)  His attempts to get the FBI interested in his lie detector only succeeded in getting J. Edgar Hoover to open a file on him.

 

And then, as the 30s turned into the 40s, he noticed that Americans were reading an insane number of comic books, and saw his opportunity.

 

And he created Wonder Woman.

 

The first female superhero.  A feminist role model.  And also a reflection of some of Marston's other interests - she's almost as interested in detecting lies as he was, for one thing.  She's kind of kinky.  (He got a ton of interesting fan letters.)  And she was an enormous success.

 

She hit hard times, however, when Marston died in 1947.  She was given to writers who either didn't know or didn't care what her backstory was, and were certainly not feminists.  The strip's "Wonder Women of History" segment was abruptly cancelled.

 

By the late 1960s, she had been remodeled into a shadow of Emma Peel, and lost her superpowers.

 

And then she was reclaimed by "Second Wave" feminists, like Gloria Steinem.  ABC television came calling.

 

Meanwhile, American feminism splintered, and 1972, and the launch of Ms. magazine, with Wonder Woman on the cover, was the high ground never to be recovered.

 

And, Lepore claims, that's all Wonder Woman's fault.  Having set out to prove that Wonder Woman was molded by American feminism, and, I would say, having done so, she fails to prove (and doesn't really try) to prove that Wonder Woman then molded American feminism in her own image. 

 

Like I said, she makes the argument, but presents no evidence that I would call substantial.  Ms. debuted with Wonder Woman on the cover, yes.  But that doesn't mean that American feminism was now being modeled on Wonder Woman.  Frankly, Wonder Woman is a strong image (what American doesn't recognize her?), and that's what a magazine always wants for its cover - a punchy graphic that makes a statement.

 

Lepore provides almost fulsome detail about anything connected with Marston.  He led a fascinating life.  The material on Wonder Woman, and on American feminism, after Marston's death is almost perfunctory.

 

Lepore got access from DC Comics, as well as permission to use, copious numbers of illustrations from 1940s Wonder Woman strips.  They make fascinating viewing.

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text 2017-02-15 14:26
Hope in the Midst of War

Suzy Henderson is a guest on my blog today with a wonderful post about the disfigured soldiers of WWII and the doctors who worked tirelessly to give them new lives.

 

Source: samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com/2017/02/hope-in-midst-of-war.html
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review 2017-02-10 14:33
Wherein I discuss my totally rational fears + reminisce on blog beginnings
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania - Erik Larson

Today I'm going to tell you about Deep Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania aka reason #5022 why I will never go on a cruise. I have an odd fascination with shipwrecks but also a deep, crushing fear of them. I cannot deal with images of sunken ships, statues, or really anything submerged under the water and nestled at the bottom of the ocean floor (you can also substitute ocean with sea, lake, or deep pool). Here is also where I confess that I am woefully ignorant about World War I. I always struggle to remember who was fighting in the war and what it was really about (I think this is still being puzzled over in some places). As far as the Lusitania, the only thing I knew was that it was a large passenger ship that had sunk (filling me with terror like the sinking of the Titanic and the film Poseidon with Kurt Russell). So I went into this book pretty much as a blank slate and by 30 pages in I was already spouting facts about it to my coworkers (who may never go on a cruise either). Like with all of Larson's works, he focuses on a major topic while interweaving storylines that occur parallel to the main event. For example, this book is about the Lusitania and its final voyage but in order to put that into context Larson had to discuss WWI and President Woodrow Wilson's state of mind in regards to the neutrality of the United States in that war (Wilson was one passionate dude, ya'll.). So not only did I learn about the machinations of the leading world powers of the early 20th century (Germany, Great Britain, and the U.S.A.) but I also got a glimpse into President Wilson's personal life, learned how submarines operate, and discovered that people really liked to smoke in 1915.

 

PS As mentioned in other posts, I love reading the end notes of nonfiction books because there are always fantastic little tidbits there that just didn't fit in the overall narrative of the book. Dead Wake was no exception. It led me to The Lusitania Resource which is a website dedicated to uncovering all of the facts of the sinking of the ship including primary documents, articles concerning the controversy of its significance to WWI, and much more. I highly recommend you check it out if nothing else than to whet your appetite for Larson's book. (Yes, I know that it's insane for me to be obsessed with this site after referencing my very real fears of traveling on a cruise ship but I like to have all of my facts ready for those trying to change my mind. It's perfectly normal.)

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-02-09 19:46
Spooky and atmospheric tale
Eltonsbrody (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) - Visiting Professor John Thieme,Edgar Mittelholzer

Eltonsbrody an eerie Gothic mansion in the Caribbean under the patronage and possible  madness of Mrs Scaife. Into this tropical paradise enters Mr Woodsley seeking accommodation close to Bridgetown in Barbados.

 

The story written in 1960 is typical of the horror writing of that period. The author does a wonderful job of portraying Mrs Scaife as a kindly yet possible dotty keeper of the inn! As the story gathers momentum the fear element increases and the reader begins to understand that all is not well in the house of Eltonsbrody and in particular its owner Mrs Scaife. There is some beautiful and elegant prose that greatly adds to the overall atmosphere in this Gothic tale of intrigue and growing uneasiness...."The soft swishing rustle of the casuarinas might have been a spirit-voice warning me of danger."......."And it was human hair. Human hair which must have been forcibly uprooted from the head which had once borne it."...."The wind. Just the wind whooping now, moaning now, whining in under the eaves, shaking the windows downstairs."....

 

My thanks to the good people at Valancourt Books for supplying me with a gratis copy of this spooky little tale, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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review 2017-02-08 05:55
All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy - Edward Klein

This book offers some interesting observations and insights into the 10 year marriage of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy (1953-1963) via what the author was able to assemble of the historical record, as well as from personal interviews with people who had close relationships with both Kennedys

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