Tag Archives: Wonder Woman

Now in The Psychologist: Conwy Lloyd Morgan, Stories of Psychology Event Report, Wonder Woman Film Review

New in the December 2017 issue of the British Psychological Society‘s The Psychologist are a couple of pieces of interest to AHP readers. First, Jan Noyes describes the life and work of Conwy Lloyd Morgan, an early psychologist who conducted research on animal learning, put forward what is now known as Morgan’s canon, and proposed – alongside Henry Fairfield Osborn and James Mark Baldwin – a theory of evolution now best known as the Baldwin Effect. Morgan, as Noyes notes, was also the first psychologist to become a Fellow of the Royal Society.

The issue also includes a piece from Ella Rhodes reporting on the BPS’s recent seventh annual Stories of Psychology event which explored the history of women in psychology to mark the 30th anniversary of the Psychology of Women Section. As Rhodes notes,

Women make up a majority of members of the British Psychological Society (BPS), women have been instrumental in shaping what psychology is today, and women may be the face of the subject for many decades to come. Yet inequality remains steadfast. The History of Psychology Centre’s seventh annual Stories of Psychology event traced the history of women within psychology and celebrated 30 years of the Psychology of Women Section.

Sophie Bryant, Beatrice Edgell, Alice Woods, Caroline Graveson, Mary Smith, Nina Taylor, May Smith, Helen Verrall, Nellie Carey, Jessie Murray, Julia Turner, Jane Reaney, Laura Brackenbury, Ida Saxby, Susan Isaacs and Victoria Hazlitt – these were the first female members of the BPS. The Society, founded in 1901, was unusual for a scientific society in the early 20th century in that it allowed women to join.

Finally, do not miss George Sik’s review of the just released feature film Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

As Sik notes,

Marston’s private life created scandal (the film begins in 1928 when prohibition was in full swing and, while Cole Porter might have penned Anything Goes in 1934, it was clear that, at the time, very little went – in the American bedroom at least). He had a complex three-way relationship with his wife Elizabeth and research student Olive Byrne, the three of them often sleeping together, which lost him his job as a lecturer and got him kicked off campus. Like Liam Neeson’s Kinsey (2004), here was one psychologist whose theories and sex life became deeply intertwined… quite literally in this case as Marston’s fondness for ropes and sado-masochistic role-play became more and more apparent. It is fascinating how much it dominated – if that’s the mot juste – the early Wonder Woman comic strips.

The film somehow avoids making it seem salacious, however. By concentrating heavily on Elizabeth and Olive, one strident, one shy, and played superbly by Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote, the two emerge as characters more interesting and maybe more important than Luke Evans’s Marston. In fact, there is a deliberately feminist tone to the proceedings, a touch ironic given how much Marston made of the differences between men and women. Like Hitchcock (2012), which emphasised how important his wife Alma was to the Master of Suspense’s films, so it is here with Marston’s theories and indeed Wonder Woman herself, at least as much an empowered female icon as a fetishistic male fantasy. Marston put it this way: ‘Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.’

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Psychologist and Wonder Woman Creator William Marston’s Papers Now at Schlesinger Archives

A collection of papers of psychologist and Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston have landed at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study’s Schlesinger Library. And more papers from Marston’s granddaughters are set to arrive at in the archives in the months ahead. Undoubtedly the Marston’s papers will also feature items from his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and partner Olive Byrne, both of whom are well deserving of collections in their own right. As described in the Harvard Gazette,

Over the past academic year, two collections of William Moulton Marston, the Harvard graduate, psychologist, and inventor of the lie detector machine whose Wonder Woman comics promoted the triumph of women, arrived at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study’s Schlesinger Library.

Though there’s little material directly related to Wonder Woman among the photos, letters, articles, drawings, and miscellanea in the archive, the collections go a long way toward explaining the influences in Marston’s life that inspired his righteous crime-fighting character, her racy look, and her fantasy storylines.

“His collection helps tell a back story rooted in Marston’s controversial research and the women in his unorthodox personal life,” said Kathy Jacob, curator of manuscripts at the Schlesinger. That includes Marston’s simultaneous relationships with two strong and idealistic women, a connection to Margaret Sanger ­— one of the most important feminists of the 20th century — as well as Marston’s work with behavioral psychology and his theories on love.

Relatedly, a new feature film, Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, is set to be released later this fall.

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Video: Jill Lepore’s “How Wonder Woman Got Into Harvard”

In the above video Jill Lepore, Professor of American History at Harvard University and staff writer for the New Yorker, discusses her work on the history of Wonder Woman before Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman was recently released by Random House. (For more on Lepore’s work on Wonder Woman see here.)

Tip o’ the hat to Ben Harris for alerting us to this video.

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The Last Amazon: Jill Lepore on Wonder Woman

The New Yorker recently published a piece by Harvard historian Jill Lepore on the roots of wonder woman. Created by psychologist William Marston in the 1940s wonder woman has become something of a feminist cultural icon. (See our previous posts on the subject here.) As Lepore puts it,

Superman débuted in 1938, Batman in 1939, Wonder Woman in 1941. She was created by William Moulton Marston, a psychologist with a Ph.D. from Harvard. A press release explained, “ ‘Wonder Woman’ was conceived by Dr. Marston to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood; to combat the idea that women are inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men” because “the only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women in all fields of human activity.” Marston put it this way: “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”

Read the full piece here.

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BBC Radio 4: The Truth and Nothing but the Truth

BBC Radio 4 recently broadcast The Truth and Nothing but the Truth in which psychologist Geoff Bunn explores lie detecting technologies, past and present. In this episode, much like in his recent book The Truth Machine: A Social History of the Lie Detector, Bunn explores the creation of lie detectors by psychologists and others, as well as the link between this work and pop culture icons Dick Tracy and Wonder Woman. An excerpt from the episode can be heard here. As described on the BBC Radio 4 site,

Dr Geoff Bunn discovers that Dick Tracy and Wonder Woman both have starring roles in the history of lie detection. The culture of the comic book influenced the cultural perception of science then, and now colourful brain images from fMRI scans direct the public’s view of what science can achieve. But does seeing parts of the brain light up when a subject lies provide any more concrete proof of what is true and what is not than did measuring heart and sweat rate in the traditional polygraph?

Dr Geoff Bunn investigates the latest lie detecting technology with the help of Steven Rose, Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience at the Open University and Geraint Rees, Director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. He discovers that the early history of the lie detector features a psychologist, William Marston, who went on to create the comic book character Wonder Woman, and an amateur magician, Leonarde Keeler, who was an inspiration for the comic strip hero, Dick Tracy.

He explores the history of the American obsession with lie detection, aided by Ken Alder, Professor of History at North Western University and Garyn Roberts, biographer of Chester Gould, who created Dick Tracy. He investigates Wonder Woman at the Travelling Man comic book shop in Manchester with the help of Dr Joan Ormrod, co-editor of the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. And he hears from Bruce Burgess, founder of Polygraphs UK, who uses his company’s services.

You can listen to the full episode, The Truth and Nothing but the Truth, here.

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Podcast: BackStory‘s DSM and Deception Episodes

BackStory with the American History Guys is a podcast series hosted by U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh. In each episode Ayers, Onuf, and Balogh, along with their guests, explore the historical roots of a topic of current relevance. Two recent podcasts explore issues of interest to historians of psychology. In “States of Mind: Mental Illness in America,” the American history guys use the recent release of the DSM-5 as a springboard for discussion of the history of mental illness in the United States,

…exploring how the diagnostic line between mental health and madness has shifted over time, and how we’ve treated those on both sides of it. We’ll hear how the desire of slaves to escape bondage was once interpreted as a psychological disorder, how a woman’s sleepwalking landed her in the state asylum, and how perspectives on depression altered in the 1970s. Plus, the Guys walk us through a mid-20th century quiz that promised to identify a new kind of mental “disorder” – our susceptibility to fascism.

Bridge for Sale: Deception in America,” features an interview with psychologist Geoff Bunn on the history of the lie detector and its connection to Wonder Woman, which is also detailed in his recent book The Truth Machine: A Social History of the Lie Detector. In this episode, the American history guys,

…dig into the long story of confidence men and counterfeiters. We discover a time when fake money jump-started the economy, and take a look at the long, strange history of “the truth compelling machine.” And, oh yeah… we try to sell the Brooklyn Bridge.

Check out even more episodes of BackStory here.

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