Yesterday, as is my usual custom when I am driving somewhere, the FM radio dial was set at its usual point, at 89.7 which around these parts, Sarasota, FL, is the Public media station WUSF, I happened to tune in during the broadcast of the Fresh Air show on NPR when the host Terry Gross was interviewing Jill Lepore, a Harvard University professor and a regular contributor to the New Yorker magazine. Jill is the author of The Secret History of Wonder Woman.
Now Wonder Woman, the heroine of the most popular, and most widely read comic featuring a woman was the creation of author William Moulton Marsden more than 70 tears ago. He wrote his first Wonder Woman in 1941. Marsden had quite a story himself.
Marsden had a wife, Sadie Holloway, and a mistress, Olive Byrne who was the niece of Margaret Sanger, who was famous in her own right as the founder of Planned Parenthood as well as a crusader for birth control. He, and the wife and the mistress all lived together discreetly, and Marsden fathered children with both of them. They lived in Rye, New York. The best part of this is that Marsden, who lived this life of lies and secrets, was also the creator of the lie detector.
Now this post is not going to be about Marsden, who had a strong interest in both Suffragists and super heroes, as well as pinups and centerfolds. Nor will it be about comic books, Wonder Woman, or anything directly related. But the radio show that I heard yesterday was actually the trigger to get me started on this post – which I had been circling around, and unable to find an entry point that I liked, for more than a few days.
What I was looking for was a way to write about three different and very current examples of women for whom the term Wonder Woman fits to a degree. The degree I am referencing is the fact that all three of these women do not possess super powers of any kind. They don’t fly, stop bullets, or leap over buildings. Yet by every or any way you can think of – each of these woman are not only empowered; they’re also in a position to put their powers to use.
I’m talking about the new TV Series on CBS called Madam Secretary starring Tea Leoni, the Bollywood film with Rani Mukerji starring as a lady Senior Inspector in the Crime Branch in Mumbai, India – the film is entitled Mardaani, and the last is the 4th season of Homeland, which stars Claire Danes, who as Carrie Mathison, is now the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Let’s start with Madam Secretary.
I’m six episodes in on the new CBS-TV Series Madam Secretary. Anchored by Tea Leoni as the former CIA analyst turned college professor, which was before she was asked by the President to become the Secretary of State. Now that kind of chain of events or career changes is not something that happens every day of the week. How did this happen this time, I’ll circle back to that shortly.
It may not be all that far from the Student Union of the University of Virginia, to a horse farm outside of Charlottesville, Va., to the corridors of power in the State Department of the United States in Washington, D.C. with regular if not daily forays over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the address of The White House..
But those distances are measurable either in miles or in time to get from one to the other.
But the distance from standing in a college classroom teaching a course called Culture, Politics, and the Cold War to becoming the third highest ranking official of the United States Government, just behind the President and the Vice-President, is not so easily measured.