I began this thing with notions and prejudice. My notion was: "that Marston fella who invented Wonderwoman is constantly referred to as a feminist*, - I doubt it! (says Croker) - I'll just pop a couple of juicy facts down here and look up a couple more, and then we'll see how feminist he is!" a foolproof plan, which, like many the foolproof plan before it completely underestimates the ingenuity of fools.
Being neither a social scientist nor a true aficionado of DC comics in the post-war era; it turns out that there's a lot I don't know, and some of the stuff I do know and had wanted to talk about I don't really want to talk about any more, as it turns out.
Anyway, by way of illustration I set before you an illustration: The last post began with a black and white photograph featuring Marston and Olive among others and so it is today. Observe:
Now I know it's only a photograph, and that the most hideous domestic situations are never revealed in the eternally smiling holiday snaps but something about this photos general wholesomeness puts me right off commenting on William Marston's home life.
It makes me feel frankly that it's none of my business. There was one sketchy report from a friend of his describing it as a patriarchal set-up but that hardly means anything, I mean; what does a visitor ever know? Upon reflection, I can't actually draw from his polygamy that he was a feminist or he wasn't a feminist, and as a blog commentator has so kindly pointed out, I have yet to even define feminist so I suppose that I should simply slap my forehead now and say, "Umm..Err.. I don't know what I'm talking about and it's none of my business anyway...".
But I'm not really smart enough for that folks.
Rather than commenting too much on several peoples' private lives, or attempting to define feminism, I think a wiser tactic might be to see what there is to support my original prejudice that a male feminist is, in some sense, a phoney.
There's a fantastic piece of phonyism in the 1941 article of 'Family Circle' where he's interviewed by Olive on the subject of the Wonderwoman comic and the doctrine of female supremacy which I have to link here and I strongly recommend reading as a delightful bit of hocum. The theories he propounds are not in spirit anyway different from the quotes in yesterdays blog, but what reads so strangely in the light of what we actually know of their relationship, is the fiction invented to give context to the article.
Our intrepid female reporter, comes back from a friends house. The friend has been widowed by recent events in Pearl Harbor, and is weary of all this talk of war, when she spots a comic-book on the table, and is suddenly inspired to visit her avuncular friend; the source of the comic-book heroine and a sage for her troubled mind.
She finds him, in his office of course, reading the exact same issue she noticed at home on the table: and then it's pretty much Harry Potter in Dumbledore's Study from there but instead of 'a scar', it's Olives' femininity which has marked her out for greatness. She remains incredulous and signs off in a tone that's more wistful than inspired as a result of her encounter with this delightful old dreamer.
Phony? check. Baloney? with extra slices, but to be fair it is Olive's phoney-baloney and it is for Family Circle magazine and it is the forties and the Japs have just bombed Pearl Harbor so it's not like an honest and direct version was ever going to be considered for publication. It's a piece of journalistic Hokum, but so what? So nothing really, I just felt I had to include it because I enjoyed it so much. It does illustrate another problem with any conclusions to be drawn from Marstons living arrangements because clearly it wasn't anything that he or his spouses could ever comment on at that time.
Still, she does lay it on a bit thick.
While Marston may or may not have been in favor of the fictional element of the article, and therefore by association, a 'phony'; he was, ironically enough for the man who invented the lie detector, an actual convicted criminal.
So what's goin on here? Well in all honesty I don't know and any further facts of this case other than what you see here elude me. On the face of it, Marston was found guilty of mendacity by correspondance to the tune of a hundred dollars; a hundred dollars may well have been a lot in those days but it was only a 30th of the bond he had to pay. There were two federal indictments and a number of creditors.
He was obviously strapped for cash and tried something he didn't get away with.
I think this makes him perhaps poor and desperate, but not necessarily a phony of any great degree and it certainly tells us nothing about his attitude to women.
The F.B.I. actually had a file on him, which is now a matter of public record. And although there isn't that much in it; I think it's fair to say that they definitely did regard him as a bit of a phony.
E.P. Coffey, who headed the FBI's Technical Laboratory,- had Marston's book reviewed for the bureau:
Re: Review of book entitled, Lie Detector Test by Doctor William M. Marston.
The above-entitled book was reviewed by Mr. Quinn Tamm of the Technical Laboratory who reports that in his opinion the book is typical of all the work done by Doctor Marston in that it is written in an extremely egotistical vein and that the sole purpose of the book seems to be to establish the fact that Doctor Marston was the first to use the blood pressure test in the detection of deception. The first three chapters in the book deal with the subject of pointing out how Doctor Marston discovered the blood pressure test as a deception detector and also ridicules all other psychological attempts along this same line. The balance of the book is devoted to the various uses to which Doctor Marston has put the so-called lie detector test such as actual use in police cases, examination of employees in banks, a chapter entitled "Love and the Lie Detector" in which Marston points out how he has settled marital difficulties by the use of his psychological test.
It is noted that throughout the book the author points out that the blood pressure test for the detection of deception in the hands of a trained operator is infallible and that once the deception has been detected it has been his experience that if this is pointed out to the subject he will admit his guilt and it will have the psychological effect upon him of making him always in the future tell the truth. This to Mr. Tamm, exemplifies the same egotistical ridiculous strain in which this book is written.
So they weren't exactly blown away.
Here's another illustration, not unusual for the era I suppose, where Marston has convoluted the application of his lie detector to demonstrate the sharpness of the Gillette blades:
Now, to yourself and meself, this seems like just another ludicrous forties advertisement, but the vast majority of its audience took it absolutely seriously.
So it seems did the F.B.I. They seem to have had an informer and have a full report on Marston's Gillette tests in Detroit. According to the report he interfered with test results to provide data the advertisers wanted and encouraged his colleagues to share the deception.
Scribbled at the bottom of the first page is the comment:
"I always thought this fellow Marston was a phony & this proves it!"
Well I always thought that fellow was a phony too, Special Agent John. S. Bugas!
Unfortunately for me though, discovering that on more than one occasion Mr Marston was willing to bend the rules in order to secure cash for both his families isn't enough for my purposes.
I've come nowhere near outing the man as a phony feminist.
But if he was a genuine feminist, he was also a a bit of a phony too.
I've a bit more to say about this, but you can all shag off until tomorrow because I'm turning into some sort of hunch-backed translucent skinned web-wraith.
*Anyone who doubts exactly how often William Moulton Marston is described as a feminist can do a Google search of his name and the word 'feminist' he is given this title in every bio I could find.