Wonder Women of History reached its peak during the period 1948 – 1951: End of an Era. While it continued to run as a regular feature in Wonder Woman, throughout these years it also ran in most issues of Sensation Comics. Many of the entries would only be two pages in length, though, preventing any but the most superficial examinations of the women being discussed.
While the series continued to feature predominantly American women, it branched out more globally during this era, and delved back in time as well, telling the stories of, among others, Margrete, the Queen of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Clara Schumann, and medieval author Christine de Pisan.
One of the more unexpected entries dealt with Mumtaz Mahal, in Wonder Woman 39. This woman is best known, really, for being dead, and having the Taj Mahal built in memoriam.
The first native American to get an entry was covered in Wonder Woman 27, as Sacajawea, the guide for Lewis and Clark on their expedition across North America, gets a very clean and hagiographic entry.
Because there were so many entries, the strip moved far beyond the nurses, wives of famous men, and entertainers that characterized it at the beginning. Not that those were ignored. Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale” gets an entry in Wonder Woman 31, recounting her youth and wildly successful American tour, as does dancer Anna Pavlova in Sensation 85. Sadly, this entry completely fails to mention the wonderful desert of meringue and fruit created in her honour.
Many of the women covered were Americans who were the first to succeed in their chosen fields, and often completely unknown to me, such as Margaret Brent. She was the first female lawyer in the United States, and I was pleasantly taken aback to discover that the British immigrant was practicing law in the US in the early 1600s, in Sensation 76.
Nelly Bly was not unknown to me, and her entry, in Wonder Woman 30, is a lot of fun. It covers the journalists trip around the world, in emulation of the Jules Verne novel, as well as other unusual stories she pursued during her career.
Harriet Quimby, whose story is told in Wonder Woman 46, predates Amelia Earhart as an early American pilot, who flew across the English Channel a couple of years before World War 1.
And I would feel remiss if I neglected the woman with by far the most memorable name, Annie Jump Cannon. While one might expect her to be some sort of circus performer, the story in Wonder Woman 33 explains that she was an early female astronomer, who found and classified more stars than any other person in history.
Moreso than in earlier periods, the installments from 1948 – 1951 really made the point that Wonder Women of History had set out to do, that women could be successful and leave their mark in any type of occupation.
Wonder Women of History continues in the next period, 1952 – 1955: We Don’t Need Another Hero.