The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

Amazing. I had no idea Wonder Woman was so directly connected to the history of American feminism. Lepore’s account shows how Wonder Woman joins the feminism and suffragist movements of 1910-1920 to the second wave of the 1970s.

Weaves together family histories, feminist politics, and all the messy complications of love without pulling punches or demonizing any of the participants. An incredible book.

Three things I learned:

  • Feminists (word arises around 1910) distinguished themselves from 19th century reformers by saying women and men were equal in all ways, that neither sex was superior to the other in any way, and that women therefore deserved equal rights.
  • Not only did the Harvard of 1910s not admit women, they weren’t even allowed to speak on campus. When the Harvard Men’s League for Woman Suffrage invited British suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst to speak, they had to book Brattle Hall, in nearby Cambridge, because she was not allowed on campus.
  • Margaret Sanger and Ethyl Byrne (sisters), both trained nurses, opened a birth control clinic in New York in 1916. Women lined up for blocks to get in, till the two were arrested: it was illegal to even talk about contraception in New York (!)