William Moulton Marston was born on 9 May, 1893 in Cliftondale, Massachusetts, USA. He is known for accomplishments as diverse as psychologist, inventor, comic book creator and feminist theorist.
Marston received his early education at Harvard University, graduating with B.A. in 1915, L.L.B. in 1918, and Ph.D. in Psychology in 1921, immediately moving to Washington D.C. to embark on a teaching career at American University, followed by Tufts University in Medford, MA. During his time at these universities, Marston produced several influential psychological theories regarding gender, emotions and their relationship with blood pressure.
He is credited with the invention of the Systolic Blood Pressure test although it has been stated that Marston’s wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston should have been cited as a collaborator, with many scholars referring to Elizabeth’s work on her husband’s research. From his psychological work, Marston was convinced that women were able to work quicker and more precisely, also being more truthful and dependable. He penned these observations in the Emotions of Normal People (1928), which argued that individuals act along two axes, with their responsiveness being either passive or active dependent relative to their perception of his or her environs as favourable or antagonistic. Marston posited that masculine notions of freedom are inherently anarchic and violent (linked to activity), opposed to feminine notions of ‘Love Allure’ that leads to ‘an ideal state of submission to loving authority.’
In addition to such theorising, Marston’s most famous achievement is the creation of the Wonder Woman comic book character, inspired by his wife Elizabeth as well as his former student Olive Byrne, who lived with the couple in a polyamorous relationship. In the early 1940s, Marston wanted to create a feminine superhero to counteract the male dominated DC Comics Line. She was to be the model of a conventional yet powerful modern woman; ‘tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are’, combining ‘all the strength of a superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.’ His character had superhuman strength and agility, as well as a magic lasso which forced villains to tell the truth when bound by it. Themes of bondage and submission in Wonder Woman reflected Marston’s controversial ‘sex love training’ theory, whereby people can be trained to embrace compliance through eroticism. Except for four months in 2006, the series has been in print ever since its debut in 1941.
Marston died of Cancer on May 2, 1947 in Rye, New York. He was entered into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.