secret wonder woman This fall we learn the truth about Wonder Woman
Jill Lepore, author of The Secret History of Wonder Woman, talks about how the Amazons origins are tied up with the history of suffrage and birth control and nicely sums up the history of women in comics in a couple of paragraphs:

I really wish I had been able to find out more about Dorothy Roubicek, who was an editor for Shelly Mayer in the forties and then comes back in the late sixties working for DC Comics again, as Dorothy Woolfolk. In 1947, Woolfolk quit and had a baby right at the time Joye Hummel quit and Marston died and Mayer quit, too. “Wonder Woman” was left rudderless, and I was really fascinated to imagine, what if Holloway had taken over? But what Kanigher did to Wonder Woman, I think, makes us appreciate how utterly odd Marston’s work was.

It was also really striking to read Marston’s stories alongside the stories that Gardner Fox writes for the Justice League for “All-Star Comics.” Fox just couldn’t think of anything for Wonder Woman to do except to type the meeting minutes and answer the phone. You almost expect her to put on an apron and start dusting. But Marston had Wonder Woman do everything. She organizes boycotts, she tells women to leave their husbands, she runs for president. It’s pretty extraordinary stuff. On the one hand, if you want to say, well, Marston wasn’t really a feminist and this was in fact a subversion of feminism, that’s a totally acceptable reading. On the other hand, compared to Gardner Fox? [Laughs]

I’ve mentioned this before but it’s really fascinating to me how past women in comics like Roubicek/Woolfolk and Dell publisher Helen Meyer are ignored in favor of the pap pap/boys network. (A recent history of comics I read didn’t even mention Meyer’s name while discussing the 1954 Senate comic book hearings.)

Was Meyer unable to find out more about Woolfolk because there was no more to find out? Or just a lack of time? I’m hopeful that it’s the latter.


  1. I can’t prove it, but I don’t think Lepore or anyone else should blame Gardner Fox for the “Wonder Woman, Secretary” phase of the JSA.

    I think that this was a decision of DC’s editors, in which they wished to use the marquee value of Wonder Woman without giving Marston and Peter input in the JSA stories. There’s an anecdote going around that in one of the early JSA tales with a Marston-Peter sequence in it, Marston rewrote the story to suit his concept. It’s been speculated that after that incident, DC’s editors put WW in secretarial chancery.

    Lepore might find it noteworthy that when WW appears in JUSTICE LEAGUE, written by Fox, she’s treated as an equal; very nearly as “one of the boys” in terms of how much action she gets. Maybe Lepore didn’t read any of those.

  2. The book sounds fascinating, can’t wait to get it! In the excerpt above I assume Lepore was referring to the Justice Society and not the 1960s Justice League.
    And on the subject of the JLA, I wonder if Lepore was aware of/knew of Justice League of America #9 (1962), written by Fox, in which Wonder Woman is in charge of housecleaning the JLA. She is indeed shown wearing a frilly little apron as she supervises the others, Superman, Batman, GL, GA, Snapper, Aquaman, et al. As Aquaman says “When it comes to cleaning time, we all agree Wonder Woman is the boss!” Oy vey.

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