Jill Lepore: The Secret History of Wonder Woman (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), 448 pages.
By Bryn Upton
The first female superhero arrived at the beginning of US involvement in World War II and stood astride the intersection of first wave feminism, Greek mythology, popular psychology, and kink. An Amazon who left paradise to save one man, Wonder Woman instead saved America from the bonds of patriarchy in a red bustier, blue shorts, a gold tiara, metal bracelets, and knee-high red boots. She had extraordinary powers, with telling limitations: her bracelets stopped bullets, her lasso forced people to tell the truth, but if a man bound her at her bracelets, she lost her powers. For more than seventy years she has captured imaginations—appearing in 4,756 comic book issues, an eponymous television show, and a slate of novels, animated cartoons, and video games—but what do we really know about Wonder Woman? In The Secret history of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore, Professor of American History at Harvard University, contends that we cannot understand Wonder Woman without understanding the man—and women—behind her. Lepore states that the key to Wonder Woman lies in understanding the unique set of feminist influences upon her creation. “Feminism made Wonder Woman,” she writes. “And then Wonder Woman remade feminism…”*