Pride Profile: The Marstons. William Moulton Marston is credited with creating Wonder Woman but, like much of what Marston gave himself credit for, that is only a partial truth at best. Olive Byrne, all but legally Marston’s second wife, wrote an article for Family Circle magazine about her “visit” with the famous psychologist William Marston where he lauded the educational potential of comic books. This made him known in the offices of DC, who eventually offered him the chance to write a comic book. From this, he developed Wonder Woman with suggestions from his first and legal wife Elizabeth Holloway to make the hero a woman, using her knowledge of ancient Greek and modern feminist literature, a shared experience among the three with lie detectors, and their personal history with the feminist movement. Marston’s Wonder Woman stories are infused with the ideas of early feminism from literally breaking the bonds that held women captive to an island or a future ruled by women. And, critics of Wonder Woman, including Seduction of the Innocent author Wertham, were not entirely off base identifying a lesbian undertone with the idea of Paradise Island. The contributions of his wives, particularly Elizabeth, went far beyond ‘inspired by.’
As for this unconventional household, while the 2017 movie Professor Marston and the Wonder Women depicted an intimate relationship between Elizabeth and Olive there is no available evidence to support this and the family has steadfastly denied it. And really, in the end it is beside the point. Both women, and Marston himself, came of age fully immersed in what was then the radical fringe of early 20th Century feminism challenging ideas of women’s place in society and the family. The relationship and roles these women developed were also essential in supporting the family with Marston’s continual career instability. We do know the women loved one another and stayed together as a family until their deaths decades after Marston’s. What we can say, is that this family in more than one way made major contributions to Pride representation in comics.