The Doctor and the Wonder Women: Love, Lies, and Revisionism
By R. D. Flavin
Cover illustration of Wonder Woman, No. 7, 1943 by Harry G. Peter. Cover illustration for Ms. Magazine, No. 1, 1972, by unknown artists (Ross Andru and Mike Esposito?).
"I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute." Quote from West, Rebecca. 1913. "Mr. Chesterton in Hysterics: A Study in Prejudice." The Clarion. Reprinted in: West, Rebecca. 1982. The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West, 1911-17. Selected and introduced by Jane Marcus. London: Macmillan.
[Note: Referenced figures are collected together on another web-page and are hyperlinked.]
Hillary and Barack are making appearances togther,...not sure what to make of this new twist, but I’ll conject it’s supposed to be in the best interest of the Democratic Party. I’m unsure, however, if Dr. William Moulton Marston (1893-1947) would have backed Clinton or Obama, though I think it’d be a safe guess to suggest he wouldn’t swing Republican. Marston is most often remembered as the inventor of the lie dectector test, a professional psychologist who taught and published, a media-consultant and advertising executive, a feminist, the creator of a comic-book character, Wonder Woman, and ...a guy who loved and lived with two women. He’s also remembered fondly by his family, ...so, with respect, I’d like to discuss Marston, his work and contributions, and how ‘history’ continues to be rewritten. It’s the last day of June and I’ll extend myself and propose that Marston, a Democrat, would have waited to give his endorsement until the Aug. 25-28, 2008 ‘Pepsi’ Democratic Convention in Denver, when the super-delegates officially declare themselves (like the night before a comic-book convention when some decide what super-hero costume they’re going to wear).
The New York Times; May 3, 1947, p. 17. [¶] Image: “Dr. William M. Marston (credit) Saville” [¶] Dr. W. M. Marston, Psychologist, 53 – Creator of Lie Detector Test Dies – Lecturer and Author Produced Comic Strip [¶] Rye, N.Y., May 2 – Dr. William Moulton Marston, psychologist, educator and author who was widely known as the originator in 1915 of the systolic blood pressure deception test, popularly known as a lie detector test, died here today in his home at 81 Oakland Beach Avenue. Stricken with poliomyelitis in 1944, Dr. Marston had been partly paralyzed since and recently had been beginning to walk again with assistance. His age was 53. [¶] Although still a consulting psychologist, he had been most active in the last five years as the originator, writer and producer of “Wonder Woman,” a successful comic strip appearing in book form. In this work he employed the name Charles Moulton. [¶] Lie detectors, including Dr. Marston’s, have been used by law enforcement and crime detection officials in various parts of the country for many years. Dr. Marston made his discovery when he was assistant in psychology at Radcliffe College. His work was done in the Harvard University Psychological Laboratory. In 1938, in his book, “The Lie Detector,” he explained in popular terms what the process consisted of. He denied having invented a machine. [¶] Devised Recording Procedure [¶] What he did, he wrote, was to experiment on the principle that deliberate deception affected a person’s blood pressure. He worked out a procedure, using the sphygmomanometer, a device for testing blood pressure, and other devices already in existence, by which systolic charges could be precisely recorded. [¶] He asserted that there were no quasi-magical machines, simply various combinations of long-familiar apparatus, and that these, to give results of value, must be operated by experts. [¶] Employing his procedure with success in Connecticut, Washington, D. C., and elsewhere, Dr. Marston, on one occasion, aided in saving the life of a Negro accused of murder. On another he was instrumental in the exoneration of a man who had served five years in prison on a murder conviction. More than a quarter of a century ago he did some lie-detecting work for the Army. [¶] A strong believer in the psychological doctrine of “live, love and laugh,” he had predicted that the time would come when women would run this country in political and business affairs. His definition of anger as an abnormal, conflict emotion, consisting of interrupted or thwarted dominance, aggressiveness or self-assertion, was quoted in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, to which he was a contributor. [¶] Graduate of Harvard [¶] Born in Cliftondale, Mass, he was born the son of the late Frederick W. and Annie Dalton Moulton. He received an A.B. degree from Harvard University in 1915, an LL.B. from Harvard in 1918 and a Ph.D. from his alma matter in 1921. [¶] In 1915 he was an assistant in psychology at Radcliffe and in 1918 was admitted to the Massachusetts bar and became an attorney for the Boston Legal Aid Society. He was a second lieutenant in the Army in the first World War. He soon returned to psychology, giving up the practice of law. [¶] Professor of Legal Psychology at the American University in 1922-23, he served the National Committee for Mental Hygiene in 1924 in connection with a Staten Island school survey and a Texas penitentiary survey. [¶] During the next six years Dr. Marston served at Tufts College, Columbia and New York Universities, Universal Picture Corporation and the University of Southern California. In 1931-32 he was Professor of Psychology at Long Island University and vice president of Hampton, Weeks & Marston, advertising agents. He had lectured at the New School and the Rand School, both in New York. [¶] He leaves a widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Holloway Marston; three sons, Moulton, Byrne H. and Donn R. Marston, and a daughter, Miss Olive Marston, all of Rye.
The New York Times ran a somewhat concise overview of Marston's life and his 1947 death (transcribed above) and it wasn't the first time he'd been mentioned in the newspapers and wouldn't be the last, with perhaps the 1993 passing of his wife, Elizabeth, a few weeks after her hundredth birthday. Though, as his comic-book character continues to be popular it's even odds he'll be mentioned again. Also, allied with Jefferson's suggestion that "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time...," we appreciate the pulp and paper that provide us the means to entertain and educate, and expect historians to rewrite and revise as needed. Online sources such as Wikipedia and browsing the results of a search engine might produce substantive and awkwardly dependable information, yet we still need the nuance and necessity of physical verification if appropriate and there's accessibility to any requisite archives, libraries and collections. Marston will most certainly be discussed in histories to come. Maybe printed ones, too.
1923 newspaper mention of Marston’s financial problems and a portion of a 1939 FBI memo.
The early psychologists were associated with philosophy, as the supportive science was not yet available. Those pioneering psychologists made their way as best they could, several with questionable experiments, though most chose to further the new discipline of psychology with open and published discussion of hypotheticals. Many had to earn a living apart from teaching – a certain percentage did so willingly, some reluctantly and others because they could ...make a few bucks outside of their field. [Note: see my brief overview of the behaviorist psychologists: “Early Behaviorism: Pseudoscience or Poor Methodology?”] John B. Watson, if I may trust my memory, got canned from his teaching job at Johns Hopkins University because of bad publicity surrounding an affair he had with one of his students and then entered into a second career in advertizing which earned him much more than he ever could have made in academia. Another early behaviorist psychologist, B. F. Skinner, with the controversies of his “operant conditioning,” work with pigeons, and the infamous “baby-box” aside, wrote a genre novel in 1948 called Walden Two, which inspired experimental utopian communities, some of which continue until this day. Psychology, advertizing and fiction writing are related, after a fashion, and with Marston ...it all came together.
Biographical research should entail extensive forays into various depositories of civil records regarding births, marriages, and deaths, as well as contacting local historical societies for census related information. Library collections and university archives are assumed to be a mandatory resource. Then, there’s the option of contacting surviving family, though that is not an option for this column as ...this writing has no pretension of being an in-depth study. Still, despite its pot-luck combination of leftovers and fresh, this column could be expanded with further research, but not by me. It’s summer-time, I’ll endeavor to keep it somewhat simple and suggest two standard biographical works available in most major libraries: Who Was Who in America – A Companion Biographical Reference Work to Who’s Who in America – Vol. 2 Sketches of Who’s Who in America biographees listed in its necrologies, as last published in Volumes 22 to 26 inclusive (1943-1950) of it–or in any preceding volume if not in hand for inclusion in Volume 1 Who Was Who in America, which complies corresponding “Who’s Who” Volumes 1 to 21 inclusive (1897-1942) biographies–with dates of death, interment locations and requested revisions appearing in the Editors’ files, appended. Chicago, IL: The A. N. Marquis Company. 1950; p. 347, entry for Marston, William Moulton; and American National Biography. General Editors John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford University Press. 1999. Vol. 14, pp. 581-582; entry for Marston, William Moulton by Geoffrey C. Bunn. However, there’s always Wikipedia and online search engines with both listing a recent release of government files pertaining to Marston (via The Freedom of Information Act – 5 U.S.C. 552 – As Amended in 2002) which extends the historical record not yet taken into account by print publications, to wit, Marston wasn't highly regarded by the American government. He had a criminal record and the Detroit Police referred to him as a “phoney” after his “lie detector” and the 'Gillette Razor Blades' advertising scam of 1938.
Early 20th century photograph of Harvard philosophers: L-R George H. Palmer, Hugo Münsterberg, Josiah Royce and William James (seated).
As best as I can discern from published accounts, Marston has claimed that the initial idea for a deception test occurred to him in 1913, though whether this was at the end of his second year as an undergraduate at Harvard or the beginning of his third year is unclear. Marston has also written that experiments took place in his third and fourth years as an undergraduate (1913-1914 & 1914-1915), although many, Marston included, point to 1915 as the exact (approximate?) year of the invention of the Marston lie detector test.
In 1917, Marston published his first work on psychology and deception in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, edited at the time by John B. Watson. Of pregnant import would be the glaring lack of acknowledgment of the investigations of Hugo Münsterberg, save for a single mention in small print at the end of his article. Similar to lines spoken by Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of a Third Kind: “This means something. This is important.”
Harvard’s fledgling psychology department (technically part of the philosophy department until 1934) was begun under William James who brought in Hugo Münsterberg to imbue the new discipline with academic eagerness, a committed work ethic, and an open willingness toward investigation. Münsterberg did not disappoint (at least not in the area of psychology with public relations being another matter).
1907 cartoon of “Prof. Münsterberg’s Little Machine” and 1915 drawing of Marston’s “Original Harvard Experiment.”
Local newspapers carried many accounts of the fund-raising and the building of the Harvard Psychological Laboratory at Emerson Hall. Münsterberg made significant contributions to psychology that included several studies on deception. In fact, a 1907 Boston Globe article satirizes and distorts Münsterberg’s deception work (see cartoon above), though this was but one of many newspaper accounts which alternatively praised and attacked Prof. Münsterberg. And then the Great War (WWI) started and Münsterberg’s pro-German comments became sensational copy for the press.
Marston’s 1917 article did not mention that he was a student of Prof. Münsterberg, Münsterberg’s previous deception and criminological efforts, nor Prof. Münsterberg’s 1916 passing while beginning a course lecture at Radcliffe College, where and when Marston was employed as an Assistant Professor (his first academic position). Whether or not this was politics, an establishment of priority, or poor manners can’t be ascertained with certainty at this time. In 1938, Marston wrote some silly dialogue he claimed occurred between the world renowned psychology professor and the third year undergraduate from Malden High School, yet Marston in 1938 had already written his historical BDSM novel, Venus With Us: A Tale of the Caesar, and was a few years away from writing comic-books, so perhaps his reconstruction of verbal exchanges with Münsterberg should be pardoned with a grant of poetic license. Personally, I don’t think it should be pardoned and regard Marston’s creative dialogue as negative revisionism.
In one of the few non-cursory studies of Marston, Geoffrey C. Bunn (his Ph.D. dissertation from York University was on "The Hazards of the Will to Truth: A History of the Lie Detector”) has suggested that Marston was Münsterberg’s “illegitimate heir” as a populist of psychology (in Bunn, Geoffrey C. 1997. "The Lie Detector, Wonder Woman and Liberty: The Life and Works of William Moulton Marston." History of the Human Sciences. 10: 91–119. See p. 93). Bunn’s approach to Marston seems to reach very near the mark of well reasoned, though he doesn't know of or chooses not to include the particulars of Marston’s financial and criminal problems or his ménage à trois (Fr “household of three”) formed with two women. I advance that Marston’s early distancing of himself from Münsterberg and his later reconstructed remembrances (pp. 46-47 and 48-49) were most likely financially motivated despite that one doesn’t get paid for a published journal article and that his 1938 The Lie Detector Test was through a minor NYC book publisher, therefor likely, at least partially, self-published as small publishers have always charged a bit for the niceties of photographs and graphics printed on nice paper and perhaps some editing clean-up of the text. Marston was always trying to make a buck – in and of itself simply a matter of survival. Still, Bunn’s analysis is important because, among other contributions, his discussing Marston’s indebtedness to a theory that an integration of physiology with psychology based on a study of ‘inhibition’ served as an integral and basic unit of his personal (read: unique and a candidate for patent and copyright ownership) model of human behavior based upon emotion, his subsequent sociosexual theory of domination and submission, predictions that women would one day have more “power,” and admirably mentioning Marston’s “psychons” and that Wonder Woman seemed to get captured and tied up more than other comic-book characters of the time.
Dedication page from: Marston, William M. 1928. Emotions of Normal People. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd. and portion of p. xvi of the “Foreword” to: Marston, William M., C. Daly King, and Elizabeth Holloway Marston. 1931. Integrative Psychology: A Study of Unit Response. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd.
Marston’s first book, Emotions of Normal People, incorporated his deception work, however its central purpose was an attempt to establish the foundation of a behavioral psychology model based on mental and physiological responses, mainly fear and love. He was assisted by a former student, Olive Byrne, whom he’d worked with at Tufts University in an investigation of the female freshmen “The Baby Party” hazing ritual (Fig. 1), and was thanked on the book’s dedication page (see image above). As he moved from Tufts in Medford, MA to Columbia University in New York City, NY (Fig. 2), so too did Byrne, who took her M.A. with an essay (Fig. 3) entitled “The Evolution of the Theory and Research on Emotions.” A discussion of the abuse of power by sophomores against freshmen anticipates the later work of Zimbardo and the 1971 “Stanford Prison Experiment.” At ease with sexual tension, Marston’s approach lingers almost clumsily on the supportive nature of females to one another (see “Girls Punishing Girls Experience Captivation Emotion” on pp. 299 and 300-301). In Emotions of Normal People he introduced a Domination - Inducement - Submission - Compliance (DISC) theory which would be finalized three years later in a textbook, Integrative Psychology, co-written with his wife and with acknowledgment once more of Olive Byrne, who is referred to (see image above) as “Mrs. Olive Byrne Richard.”
Criticism of Integrative Psychology and DISC theory was mixed. A positive example is: “The ingenuity with which these four ‘unit-responses’ have been combined to account for all the responses of the organism is remarkable. As usual a simple scheme ingeniously handled illumines the fielf, and new aspects of responses come to our notice when we view them in the light of the four-fold scheme. We have, further, a simple basis for characterology; we can divide people up according to whether they are acquisitors or lovers, takers or givers, or perhaps both–a duplex type, sometimes takers and sometimes givers.” [From: Sprott, W. J. H. 1932. “Untitled review of Integrative Psychology.” Mind. 41, 164: 495-501. See: p. 497.] And a negative example would be: “This book illustrates the folly of trying to write a systematic psychology with all of the impedimenta of a new vocabulary, new definitions and a ‘unified idea’ under the guise of a textbook for beginners. .... On the contrary, the authors have felt keenly the confusion wrought in the minds of beginners by so many systems of psychology and they have therefore, solved a teaching problem by inventing another system. It seems doubtful whether this method of writing textbooks can serve either the task of teaching elementary psychology to beginners or the task of fabricating the systematic foundations of a science.” [From: Griffith, Coleman R. 1934. “Untitled review of Integrative Psychology.” The American Journal of Psychology. 46, 2: 365-366.]
[From: Harvard Class of 1915 25th Anniversary Report, pp. 480-482.]
WILLIAM MOULTON MARSTON
BORN: Cliftondale, Mass., May 9, 1893. Parents: Frederick William Marston, Annie Dalton Moulton.
PREPARED AT at: Malden High School, Malden, Mass.
YEARS IN COLLEGE: 1911-1915. Degrees: A.B. magna cum laude, 1915; LL.B., 1918; Ph.D, 1921.
MARRIED: Elizabeth Holloway, Abington, Mass., Sept. 16, 1915. Children: Fredericka, 1920 (died 1920); Moulton, 1928; Byrne Holloway, 1931; Donn Richard, 1932; Olive Ann, 1933.
OCCUPATION: Psychologist, 347 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y.
ADDRESS: Rye, N.Y.
I took my A.B. in June 1915, having been engaged in graduate research work in the psychological laboratory during the preceding year on the physical symptoms of deception. It was during this year that I had the luck to discover the so-called Marston Deception Test, better known as The Lie Detector, now used widely by police departments, prosecutors, the F.B.I., banks, chain-stores, admissible as evidence in the courts of six states, and recently applied successfully in testing commercial products by measuring consumers’ reactions and in clinical psychology.
I married in September, 1915, and my wife attended Boston Univ. Law School while I went to Harvard Law. I interrupted my last year at Law School, 1917-18, to do government work with the deception test, spy cases, etc., as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army, this work being interrupted in turn by the Armistice. But we both took our law degrees in 1918 and passed the Massachusetts Bar Exams and joined the Bar together, the following fall. Then we did more research on the deception test togther, my wife taking an M.A. from Radcliffe while I took a Ph.D. at Harvard. Meanwhile I practiced law.
In 1921 I taught legal psychology at American University in Washington, D.C., and during the ensueing period I offered the Lie Detector Test as evidence in the Frye Case, Washington, got it rejected on the ground that the test had not been made in court and later, following the Frye case dictum. got the test admitted in evidence at Indianapolis, Ind. in 1924.
I came to New York City in 1924 to work with the National Committee for mental Hygiene, making school survey in Staten Island and a survey in Texas during which I tested and analyzed according to my own emotions theory every prisoner, male and female, in the state penitentiaries.
There isn’t much of interest in the rest of the story. I scratched up a living in various dull ways, teaching at Columbia, New York University, Tufts, and so on; became a consulting psychologist–a new sort of creature who seems to combine the advisory functions of the old-time pastor and country doctor. I went to Hollywood as personal adviser to the late Carl Laemmle in the production of motion pictures and was called upon to do everything I knew nothing about, from raising three million dollars to putting new music in “Show Boat.” But I did have some congenial duties also, buying and supervising adaptation of stories for picture production, trying to out-guess the state censors as representative of the Hays organization in cutting pictures on the Universal lot and some work with color photography.
Returning to New York I started an advertising agency at the wrong time. lost my last dollar, was laid low by appendicitis and complications following and took to writing while recovering physical health. Later I resumed my consultation practice in New York City and have managed to keep fairly busy at various lines I dabble in–lie detecting, testing consumers’ reactions to various products with the Lie Detector apparatus, advising advertisers and agencies on quality of products to be advertised, advising private individuals on marital adjustment and personality problems, writing, lecturing and some radio work. My real job, however, is trying to bring up four youngsters in the four different ways they should grow.
PUBLICATIONS: “Systolic Blood Pressure Symptoms of Deception,” Jour, Exp. Psy., 1917; “Reaction-Time Symptoms of Deception,” Jour. Exp. Psy., 1920; “Primary Emotions,” Psychological Review; also see “Emotions, Analysis of,” Encyc. Britannica, 14th ed.; besides above which report the original findings of the so-called “Lie Detector” and the emotional theory on which it is based, considerable number of articles in psychological journals and publications; several hundred articles, mostly on topics of applied or “popular” psychology, in such magazines as Readers’ Digest, Rotarian, Forum, Esquire, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Your Life, etc. and in newspaper syndicates such as This Week, some detective fiction, Liberty Magazine, etc.
BOOKS: “Emotions of Normal People,” 1928; “Art of Sound Pictures” (with W. B. Pitkin), 1930; “Integrative Psychology” (with E. H. Marston and C. D. King), 1930; “Try Living,” 1937; “The Lie Detector Test,” 1938. Novel: “Venus With us,” 1932; non-fiction in preparation: “March On,” articles on “Blood Pressure,” etc. Encyc. Brit. 14th ed.
MEMBER OF: Am. Psychological Ass’n.; Am. Ass’n, Crim. Law & Criminology; Am. Ass’n, Adv. of Science (fellow); Orthological Inst. (surveyor), London, Eng.; Harvard Club of New York City; Coveleigh Club, Rye, N.Y.; Lake Elsinore Country Club, Lake Elsinore, Calif.; Sons and Daughters of First Settlers of Newbury, Mass., Newbury, Mass. [RDF – typos and stylistic differences are in the original text.]
In his background on the creator of Wonder Woman, the comic-book historian Les Daniels wrote:
Olive Richard had originally been Olive Byrne, the student who had helped Marston with his study of the sorority “baby party” at Tufts. She is also visible, a dark-haired woman monitoring blood pressure tests, in photos of Marston’s well-publicized demonstrations of the lie detector. Clearly she was collaborating with him on the Family Circle articles, and the suggestion that she was merely a magazine staffer asking him innocent questions was another subterfuge.
Their son Byrne Marston explained the rest of the story. “Bill Marston married Elizabeth Holloway. Then in the late 1920s Olive Richard, whose name was Olive Byrne at that time, was a student at Tufts when he was teaching there. He met her and she became friends with him later on. And they pretty much lived together, the three of them, from then on – there may have been a hiatus, but almost always. Then the children came. Elizabeth and Bill Marston had two children, my older brother Pete and my sister Olive Ann. Olive Richard had two children, one was myself and the other was my brother Donn. As far as any of us really know, Olive Byrne was never married, because ‘Richard” was a pseudonym she used. But we were the biological children of Bill Marston. It was an arrangement where they lived together fairly harmoniously. Each woman had two children, and my brother and I were formally adopted by Elizabeth and Bill somewhere along the line.” (According to Who’s Who, there was another child, Fredericka, who died young, and Donald’s name is given as Donn Richard.)
These living arrangements, unusual now and extraordinary in Marston’s day, may have accounted for some of his career changes. Few colleges would have countenanced a professor who was living with two women and having children with both of them, so Marston may have sacrificed his academic opportunities out of affection for these two women, who apparently were friendly enough to name their kids after each other. As Marston’s editor became aware of the situation, he was non-plussed but ultimately was won over. “I couldn’t handle the things he could handle,” said Sheldon Mayer. “He had a family relationship with a lot of women, yet is was male-dominated.” As Mayer described the household in Rye, New York, “Betty Marston was the mother, Dotsie Richard was the secretary, there were other people who needed homes and got them, and they all operated beautifully.” Mayer ultimately became a close friend of all concerned and described Marston as “the most remarkable host, with a lovely bunch of kids from different wives and all living together like one big family – everybody very happy and all good, decent people.” [From: Daniels, Les. 2000. Wonder Woman: The Complete History (The Life and Times of the Amazonian Princess. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.]
Daniels’s suggestions are insightful, though the quotes from Byrne Marston and Sheldon Mayer allow us to see a glimpse of a past hitherto unknown. Did or didn't Olive Byrne get married at one point? Marston had “different wives”? We’re going to need better glasses...
From a letter dated December 12, 1941 by Marston to Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "To furnish for your consideration an accurate and complete record of my qualifications for the types of service which i might render my country, I take the liberty of enclosing: (1) my background and career as published in the “Cyclopaedia of American Biography”, Vol. E. 1937-1938; (2) biographical sketch from “Who’s Who in America”, vol. 20, 1940-41; (3) a copy of my book, “The Lie Decector test”, N.Y.C., 1938; and (4) a brief summary of suggested applications of the Lie Detector test in time of war. [¶] Should my services be called upon to organize deception test work for military or civilian purposes, I have available a trained executive assistant who also volunteers his services as per letter enclosed, and other operators. [¶] With my personal pledge of loyalty and devotion to the greatest cause on earth, believe me to be, Mr. President, [¶] Very sincerely yours, [¶] /s/ William Moulton Marston"
Shortly after a last-minute rushed debut of Wonder Woman, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Marston volunteered his services in a letter to FDR less than a week later. His reply, dated January 5, 1942, came from C. W. Palmer, Special Assistant to the Attorney General, who suggested he contact the United States Civil Service Commission, today’s Office of Personal Management, the agency which handles non-military federal employment. The years 1942 to 1944, though war raged around the world, were good times for Marston as Wonder Woman became financially successful, Elizabeth continued her job as assistant to the chief executive of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in Manhattan, Olive stayed home in Rye, NY with the kids, and everything seemed stable until Marston became sick and disabled from polio in 1944. He died three years later (Daniels appends lung cancer with polio and a Boston University alumni magazine article floats a bubble with skin cancer as the cause of death).
A reprint of Venus With Us and Wonder Woman tied up and bound.
My motivation to write this column was not to point and sneer at Bill Marston, a descendent of early Newbury, Massachusetts colonists, but to remark with awe at those four kids with two moms and that Olive lived with Elizabeth for forty more years after Marston’s passing. Wow... Sure, one is tempted to contemplate the sexual relationship between the two women and where and how Marston fit in, yet I’d be remiss not to admit a consideration that there may have been more than two women in Bill Marston’s life. Several online descriptions of Marston and his relationship with two women term it ‘polyamorous’, which because of its open number extending beyond a ‘threesome’, suggests something akin to a 'sex' group or cult.
Wonder Woman was spanked and occasionally spanked others.
The Wikipedia entry for ‘polyamory’ claims, “In 1999, Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart was asked by the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary to provide a definition of the term (which the dictionary had not previously recognized). The words ‘polyamory/ous/ist’ were formally added to the OED in 2006.” Morning Glory Zell? The hippy neopagan who pulled the unicorn confidence game in the mid-80s and acquired a respectable amount of cash from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus? Sure, it ...follows. Love, Lies, and Revisionism.
Tim Zell and Diana Moore (aka Oberon and Morning Glory) and a 1985 circus publicity photograph.
It’s easy for casual readers to confuse the terms polyamory and polygamy. Marriage in the super-power government of the United States of America is usually just a licence fee that some follow with a ceremony, though there are a significant amount of couples who “marry” with a ceremony but don’t bother with or can’t legally qualify for a marriage license. The current trend of so-called “gay marriages” is really just a license granting legal partner status and the debate seems to be unnecessarily fixated on grammar rather than on admitting the basic human and civil rights of a person to decide who their partner should be regardless of gender. Multiple partners? Well, Swingtown has been around longer than the current season, but those relationships are usually brief (often too brief) and are considered as never meant to have lasted long anyway. Long lasting and permanent multiple partners would seem to be exceptional and, if honest, rare, as our species has developed from primal monogamous bonds and polygamy has historically presented itself associated with strength, wealth, and communal prestige. Plenty of sex, but little love. America continues to confront polygamy most often with Fundamentalist Mormons, such as the early April 2008 raid on a West Texas polygamist community. In the rest of April and all of May 2008 polygamy and Mormonism were regularly in the news. I’m unsure if any of the remaining 2008 presidential candidates of any party opined on the massive compound and all the confused children, though one ex-candidate should have, a former Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Willard Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon and the great-grandson of a polygamist who left the United States for Mexico in 1885.
FLDS compound raid on April 4th and 5th, 2008.
Romney dropped out of the race for the 2008 Republican nomination for the office of President of the United States of America on Feb. 7, 2008 and didn’t bleep the media-radar until the May 22, 2008 announcement of a new political action committee called the “Free and Strong America PAC” which plans on assisting “officeholders and candidates who are dedicated to advancing social, fiscal, and foreign policies that will strengthen America at this critical time in the nation’s history.” The “values” pac reportedly maintains a Belmont, MA post office box. Romney’s new web-site was created with a Westford, MA account through GoDaddy.com on April 8, 2008 and, at this writing, was last updated April 21, 2008.
Former Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts W. M. Romney and a 1895 photograph of his grandfather and father in Mexico.
Investigating Olive Byrne, even casually, proved problematic and some answers are too ambiguous to claim much beyond mention that 'more' investigation is needed. The 1925 Tufts yearbook (including the women of Jackson College) lists an ‘Olive Abbott “Bobby” Byrne of New York, NY (Fig. 4) and a later Tufts alumni record lists an ‘Olive Mary Byrne’, parenthetically qualifies her as ‘Mrs. William Richard’, and gives her address as Rye, NY (Fig. 5). Columbia alumni information lists an ‘Olive Byrne’ with a later amendment describing her as ‘Mrs. William Richard’ (Fig. 6). In the forward to Integrative Psychology (see image above), dated December 21, 1930, Marston refers to her as “Mrs. Olive Byrne Richard.” Olive is said to have given birth to two children – one in 1931 and the other in 1932. Chances are that she was pregnant with Marston’s child when he referred to her as “Mrs. Olive Byrne Richard.” Was she ever married or was this an example of socially motivated fabrication? Apparently others have inquired about this and her son admits that “As far as any of us really know, Olive Byrne was never married...” Regarding two different middle names for Olive Byrne at Tufts? Could there have been more than one ‘Olive Byrne’ from New York? Perhaps, but unlikely. A more reasonable conclusion would propose that ‘Olive Abbott Byrne’ and ‘Olive Mary Bryne’ were one and the same person, as ‘Olive Abbott Byrne’ is listed as graduating from Mount St. Joseph Academy, an all girls Catholic college preparatory high school located just outside of Philadelphia, and some Catholics use their confirmation name as a second middle name. “William Richard” is another matter, however. ‘William’ was the middle name of Marston’s father and Marston’s first name. ‘Richard’? In 1932 Olive is said to have given birth to Donn Richard (Marston). Name-games were definitely at play, but I suspect there’s much more to the story. And nick-names? That Elizabeth went from “Sadie” to “Betty” and Olive went from “Bobby” to “Dotsie” is well beyond the intended scope of this column. Marston’s pseudonym used when he wrote the scripts for Wonder Woman was ‘Charles Moulton’, the combined middle names of comic-book publisher Max Charles Gaines and his own. Many have deemed ‘Olive Richard’ to be a Bryne's professional pseudonym, but this is far from conclusively demonstrated, indeed, 'Richard' is used as her married name and was later used as the middle name of her son, Donn. A 'William Richards' graduated with a degree in journalism from Columbia in 1930, but I doubt there's any connection.
Selina Kyle (Catwoman) was dressed up as Wonder Woman, beaten, and raped by the Joker in 1986's The Dark Knight Returns.
Daniels reproduces a 1928 photograph of Olive Byrne wearing her metal bracelets (Fig. 7) and also a family group portrait photograph taken just a couple of months before Marston’s death (Fig. 8). Everyone looks happy, including a seated Marjorie Wilkes, who apparently is no longer married and using the surname of ‘Huntley’ (see images above). Was she, as Sheldon Mayer described, one of those “other people who needed homes and got them,” or was the relationship more personal? I begin to stray too far from the path of a lonely comic-book nerd and further speculation would require either mass quantities of intoxicants or an extended hospital stay.
Screen-shot of 6-05-08 "The Daily Show" with a Wonder Woman reference. Used without permission.
Marston has been described as a “feminist” for his 1937 prediction that America would became a matriarchy within a hundred years. Some balk at applying the term to Marston because of the sexual submissiveness involved. While a case of apples and oranges could be argued, I’m reminded of Prof. Münsterberg’s observation: “A serious warning lies in the well-known fact that of all professional students, the young medical men have the worst reputation for their reckless indulgence in an erotic life. They know most, and it is psychologically not surprising that just on that account they are most reckless (Münsterberg, Hugo. 1914. Psychology and Social Sanity. New York: Doubleday, Page & Co.; p. 26).” I’ve developed the opinion of Marston that he was a charismatic opportunist with “appetive emotion” (per Marston, William M. 1920. "Reaction Time Symptoms of Deception." Journal of Experimental Psychology. 3: 72–87) who experienced periods of feast and famine. With the Great Depression still in force at the beginning of FDR’s “New Deal,” Marston chose to take his four kids and move back home with his parents in the Cliftondale neighborhood of Saugus, MA for over a year in 1934-1935 while Elizabeth was beginning her job at Met Life in New York City. It must have been difficult for the Alpha-male to accept, but he apparently got over it and lived the years he had left as best he could.
Dr. William Moulton Marston believed that women are superior to men in certain areas of judgement and reasoning. However, this may have been a convenient and manipulative argument to assist him in what his comic-book editor called a “male-dominated” household.
Screen-shot of a recent CNN story mentioning "Wonder Woman." Used without permission.
All the women in Marston’s life were wonderful and probably served as the basis for his comic-book super-heroine. In one of his early philosophical asides he tried to amend William James and qualified fear as arising not from running away from the bear, but from not running fast enough. Marston seemed fearless, though the bear ultimately won out. Sen. Hillary Clinton, wonderful and fearless, ran to be the Democratic presidential nominee and is perhaps still running. Maybe it’s Taoist with a touch of Forrest Gump and it really is all about the running.
Wonder Woman wearing her bracelets three years before her comic-book debut, described as “GIVING A LIE DETECTOR TEST – Dr. Marston (right) asks questions, H. C. Weaver inspects polygraph record made by Berkley Psychograph on table. C. D. King takes blood pressure with Tycos sphygmomanometer. Olive B. Richard records testee’s answers (Marston 1938, frontispiece)."
True equality and freedom doesn’t favor one over the other and kowtow entitlements based on gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation or lack thereof, or whether a certain coat goes with a certain pair of shoes, though as a nation America has become more fashion conscious of late. Maybe Obama will pick Howard Dean, the “metro-sexual,” as his VP? Or Edwards? Maybe not...
It’s one thing to lean this way or that, to favor a personal cause or to identify with a particular group, but at the end of the race we’re all equal and equally wonderful.
For their assistance, I thank the staff of the Tufts, Columbia, and Harvard archives departments, the reference librarians at the Boston Public Library, Boston College’s O’Neill Library, and Brandeis University. I also sincerely thank the Fung Wah Bus drivers for not getting into an accident while I was aboard and traveling between Boston and New York City.
deciding whether to hit the sack or the stacks,