The woman behind “Wonder Woman” was born today in 1893. Now WE know em


Elizabeth “Sadie” Holloway was born February 20, 1893 in on the British island of Isle of Man.

Her family soon moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where she grew up fascinated with knowledge.

Bachelor of Arts

Sadie received her B.A. in psychology from Mount Holyoke College in 1915.

She then asked her father to support her through law school;

“He told her: ‘Absolutely not. As long as I have money to keep you in aprons, you can stay home with your mother.”

So Sadie met a man, fell in love and got engaged.

Wishing to join her fiance William Marston to study at Harvard Law School, however, according to an interview she later gave to the New York Times;

“Those dumb bunnies at Harvard wouldn’t take women […] so I went to Boston University.”

Law Degree

Undeterred, Sadie peddled cookbooks to local ladies’ clubs.

She needed $100 for her Boston University tuition, and by the end of the summer she had it.

Sadie married Bill that September, but still she paid her own way, graduating as one of three women that year from the Boston University School of Law in 1918.

When her and her husband Bill sat for the bar exam, she later explained;

“I finished the [Massachusetts Bar] exam in nothing flat and had to go out and sit on the stairs waiting for Bill Marston and another Harvard man . . . to finish.”


Masters Degree

Both Bill and Sadie joined the psychology department at Harvard (Harvard’s doctoral program was restricted to men; so Sadie enrolled in the master’s program at neighboring Radcliffe College).

She worked with hew husband Bill on his dissertation which concerned the correlation between blood pressure levels and deception.

Bill would later develop this into the systolic blood-pressure test used to detect deception that was the predecessor to the polygraph test.

This work led to a Ph.D for husband Bill from Harvard, while Sadie settled for her Masters degree from Radcliffe in 1921.

As noted later by Boston University;

“In an era when few women earned higher degrees, Elizabeth received three.”

Balancing a Career and family

William Marston hoists aloft his bride, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, during a 1916 summer vacation in New Hampshire.

William Marston hoists aloft his bride, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, during a 1916 summer vacation in New Hampshire.

Sadie was a career woman, a position that was controversial for the time in which she lived:

“She indexed the documents of the first fourteen Congresses, lectured on law, ethics, and psychology at American and New York Universities, served as an editor for Encyclopædia Britannica and McCall’s magazine […] All this at a time when teachers who married were expected to hand in their chalk, and wives needed their husbands’ permission to work as operators for Ma Bell.”

By 1933, Sadie had become the assistant to the chief executive at Metropolitan Life Insurance (a position she held until she was 65 years old).

She had her first child at the age of thirty-five and continued to work even after having children, which was also revolutionary for the time.

Sadie eventually had two children (Pete and Olive Ann) and also supported the two children of Olive Byrne, who lived with the couple as part of a polyamorous relationship. Eventually, these children, Byrne and Donn, were legally adopted by Bill and Sadie.

While Olive Byrne raised their children, Sadie supported the family when Bill was out of work and after his death in 1947.

This included financing college and the graduate education of all four children as well as supporting Olive until her death in the 1980s.

Wonder Woman


Sadie’s involvement in the creation of the DC Comics character Wonder Woman was discussed in detail in a 1992 New York Times article published one year before her death:

“Our Towns reveals the true identity of Wonder Woman’s real Mom. She is Elizabeth Holloway Marston. She’s not 1,000; she’s 99 come Thursday […] One dark night as the clouds of war hovered over Europe again, Mr. Marston consulted his wife and collaborator, also a psychologist. He was inventing somebody like that new Superman fellow, only his character would promote a global psychic revolution by forsaking Biff! Bam! and Ka-Runch! for The Power of Love. Well, said Mrs. Marston, who was born liberated, this super-hero had better be a woman […] Wonder Woman was created and written in the Marston’s suburban study as a crusading Boston career woman disguised as Diana Prince […] Meanwhile, in a small Connecticut town, Wonder Woman’s Mom has disguised herself as a retired editor who lives in postwar housing.”

Elizabeth “Sadie” Holloway Marston lived to be one hundred years old, dying March 27, 1993.

Sadie’s obituary stated that she was the inspiration for Wonder Woman.

It also quoted her son Pete as stating that Sadie had told Bill (after he was asked to develop a new superhero in the early 1940s),

“Come on, let’s have a Superwoman! There’s too many men out there.”

A 2001 article in the Boston University Alumni Magazine, which included extensive interviews with her family, further noted that “William Moulton Marston, a psychologist already famous for inventing the polygraph (forerunner to the magic lasso), struck upon an idea for a new kind of superhero, one who would triumph not with fists or firepower, but with love. ‘Fine,’ said Elizabeth. ‘But make her a woman.'”

Now WE know em


One response to “The woman behind “Wonder Woman” was born today in 1893. Now WE know em

  1. I know Wonder Woman from the TV show I used to watch in the early 80s, rather than the comic. I can’t recall whether there were any messages about female empowerment, or if it was purely about entertaining us.

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s