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Learn about Wonder Woman’s creator and his place in history

By Laurie Robb

Rowan Public Library

What do Wonder Woman, women’s suffrage, Margaret Sanger and the lie detector all have in common? The answer is Wonder Woman’s creator, Dr. William Mouton Marston.

Marston, the topic of “The Secret History of Wonder Woman,” gets a thorough examination by Harvard historian Jill Lepore. In the book, Lepore explores how feminism and women’s suffrage influenced Marston’s life from his early days to his years of psychological studies that lead to the lie detector test and to his ideas that became Wonder Woman.

A well-written book with lots of photographs, quotes and comic book frames, Lepore presents facts from hundreds of sources to give a complete picture of all of the elements that contributed to the iconic superhero.

Throughout his life, Marston had a penchant for controversy. While trying to prove the lie detector test was legitimate, he was arrested for fraud. He couldn’t keep a job teaching psychology. With Wonder Woman he found success, yet still sparked the ire of many people who objected to her lack of clothing.

Others found the often-used portrayal or plot line of evil villains placing Wonder Woman in bondage disturbing. Marston insisted the chains were symbols of suffrage. Wonder Woman always broke out of the chains.

But the most controversial aspect of Marston’s life was his nontraditional living arrangement, hidden from the public during his lifetime. Marston lived with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and Olive Byrne, the niece of birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger.

Lepore also describes the cultural elements behind the hero that Marston felt the world needed in the early 1940s. With women gaining the right to vote and outspoken women’s rights leaders taking the podium, Marston wanted a different kind of hero, one that would be “a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood.”

He was able to create the first female superhero that embodied strength, intelligence and independence, with her own comic book, a woman who forced honesty from her enemies with her Lasso of Truth, inspired by Marston’s own lie detector test. An additional goal was to educate his readers about important women through a “Wonder Women of History” section. Some of the women featured were Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix and Joan of Arc.

So, in the spirit of Wonder Woman and Marston who declared that, “The only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women,” learn about those who fought for women’s rights.

Titles at Rowan Public Library include:

  • “Not for Ourselves Alone: the Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony,” by Geoffrey C. Ward;
  • “Notorious RBG : the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” by Irin Carmon;
  • “The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice,” by Patricia Bell-Scott;
  • “The Feminist Revolution: a Story of the Three Most Inspiring and Empowering Women in American History,” by Jules Archer, found in the juvenile book section.

Summer Reading Registration: Ongoing. Three age categories: Children (newborns-rising fifth-graders), Teens (rising sixth- through 12th-graders), and Adults (ages 18+). In addition to tracking reading hours, 2017 Summer Reading festivities include special programs and a variety of prizes. Contact your nearest branch for full details.

Baby Time: A highly interactive program for infants up to 23 months with a parent or caregiver; 30 minutes. through July 7. Headquarters, Wednesday, 10 a.m.; East branch,  Mondays, 10 a.m.; South Regional, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.

Toddler Time: 18 to 35 months. Highly interactive, 30-minute program with a parent or caregiver. Through July 7. Headquarters, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Tuesdays, 11 a.m.; South, Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m.

Preschool Time: Each program last 30-45 minutes. Doors close at 10:40 a.m.; 3- to 5-years-old. Through July 28. All at 10:30 a.m. — Headquarters, Tuesdays; East, Thursdays; and South, Mondays.

School age: Rising first- through fifth-graders; 45-60 minutes. Storytellers, educators and entertainers provide different programs each week for seven weeks. To enter the weekly prize drawing, “Reader Book Reviews” should be turned in before the program begins. Headquarters, Thursdays, 2 p.m.; East, Wednesdays, 2 p.m.; South, Tuesdays at 2 p.m.

Program schedule: July 3-7, Ro & Mo Stories at East July 5, Cleveland and headquarters July 6; July 10-14, Dan Nicholas Wildlife; July 17-21, Captain Jim; July 24-28, Lee Street theatre.

Cleveland: School-Age programs at Town Hall, 302 E. Main St., on Thursdays at 10 a.m. Patrons in Cleveland may report summer reading hours during the programs.

Teen Summer Reading: All at 3:30 p.m. Mondays, East Branch; Tuesdays at headquarters; Thursdays at South Rowan Regional. Teens receive booklets to keep track of points earned by reading, attending library programs and completing activity challenges. Points can go toward prizes at the end of summer.

Program schedule: July 3 at East, July 5 at headquarters and July 6 at South, Coloring With My Community, learn about art and its impact with Brittany Gaddis; July 10-13, Build a Better Bridge, complete the bridge and tower challenge; July 17-20, Mini Model United Nations, become an expert on a deadly zombie pandemic that threatens the world and stop the next outbreak; July 24-27, Quiz Bowl; July 28, National Teen Lock-in, 6:30-10:30 p.m. at library headquarters; permission slip required for teens to participate.

Adult Summer Reading: Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bee Supportive. Local beekeeper Marcel Renn address the importance of bees and what we can do to safeguard them.

Summer reading film series: Monday, 5:30 p.m., East; headquarters, July 7, 10 a.m. “BFG.” This PG film has a runtime of 117 min. Free, open to the public, all ages welcome;  an adult must accompany children under 9. Free popcorn and lemonade.

“Spare Parts,” South, July 5, 2 p.m. PG-13 film has a runtime of 114 min. Free, open to the public, all ages welcome; an adult must accompany children under 13. Free popcorn and lemonade.

Genealogy class: Land and Taxes, headquarters, July 22, 10 a.m. Co-hosted by Genealogical Society of Rowan County and Edith M. Clark History Room, free, open to the public. Buying, sellin, and settling land leaves a trail that we can follow to find our lineage. This class explores land and tax records. For more information or to register, please contact Gretchen at Gretchen.Witt@rowancountync.gov or 704-216-8232 or visit www.rowanpubliclibrary.org.

Displays: Headquarters, Piedmont Players Theatre and Bookend Art Sculpture by Wayne Gladden; East, Charles Whitley art; South, lunch box memorabilia by Sharon Ross.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.

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