The Smithsonian Institute has a new book called “The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects”, a collection of important American artifacts. The Smithsonian houses a ridiculous amount of historical items, including a lot of comic book memorabilia, but one comic was singled out as one of the objects that made America:
The entry states:
“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength and power,” psychologist William Moulton Marston wrote in 1943. He had already modeled a new archetype on his wife and fellow psychologist, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and Olive Byrne, a homemaker who lived with the Marstons in a relationship that included shared children. Wonder Woman, a magic-lasso-toting dispenser of justice, broke the superhero glass ceiling in All Star Comics in December 1941.
I love this choice. And not just because I love Wonder Woman, but because it recognizes the historical impact of a female superhero. The Wonder Woman entry is listed in the “Power” section alongside Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, Susan B. Anthony’s gavel, and the lunch counter that held the first anti-segregation sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina. These objects represent significant growth in the advancement of equality, and while Wonder Woman may not be quite as impactful as Abraham Lincoln (he’s already had several movies), Wonder Woman is certainly a well known and powerful symbol for female strength. She is the archetypical strong woman, an icon whose impact has resonated for nearly 75 years.
The Smithsonian has an excellent Wonder Woman collection, particularly in terms of the Golden Age, and I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of it. There are great letters between William Moulton Marston and his publisher, M.C. Gaines; notes for Wonder Woman issues; an assortment of Marston’s articles; and many other odd and interesting things. The Smithsonian is a fantastic resource for researching Wonder Woman, and a lot of the items have been digitized so you can get access to them (after filling in the proper forms) without actually having to travel to the Smithsonian itself. I highly recommend checking it out.
It’s good to see the Smithsonian recognizing Wonder Woman as the important, beloved icon that she is. The company that owns her often doesn’t seem to much appreciate her worth, so there’s some nice consolation when someone else does.