DC Comics History: Wonder Women of History
By Deejay Dayton
July 28, 2015 - 07:09
Wonder Women of History was a long-running back-up series in Wonder Woman's book, beginning in the first issue. Each story gave a four page summary of the life of a notable woman, a role model for young girls to look up to.
The stories, being so short, and intended to inspire, to tend to simplify the women's lives, and remove anything that might not be so admirable. The first installment relates the life of Florence Nightingale, for example, but certainly does not mention her death from syphilis.
It does take a while before the series talks about any woman other than a nurse. Nightingale is followed by Clara Barton, who founded the US Red Cross, Edith Cavell, who was executed for helping prisoners escape in World War 1, and Lillian Wald, who created the concept of a school nurse. All quite admirable people, but it started to feel like the series was saying that the only noble profession was nursing.
With issue 5 the strip becomes more progressive, relating the life of Susan B. Anthony and the struggle to get women the vote. There is no larger context in this story, though, and one might get the impression that no country had given women the right to vote before Susan came along.
Wonder Woman 6 narrates the life of Soon g May-Ling, under the more recognizable name of Madame Chiang Kai-shek. She was much beloved in the United States, and is presented in glowing terms. But then, this was written during World War 2, and the Chinese were always portrayed very sympathetically at this time.
Joan of Arc gets the spot in Wonder Woman 7, and again the story is made very clean and simple. But again, this is wartime, and Joan became an icon for the freeing of France from occupation.
Then it's back to a nurse for issue 8. But this time it's an Australian, Elizabeth Kenny, and overall one of the more impressive tales, possibly because I had never heard of her, or her battles with doctors over how to treat infantile paralysis.
The last of the women dealt with in this era was also unknown to me - Jane Addams. Her tale is also fairly impressive, as she creates the first shelter for the poor, and was as driving force behind labour laws forbidding the use of children in factories.
Wonder Women of History continues in the Late Golden Age
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