Elizabeth Holloway Marston

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Elizabeth H. Marston
Born Sarah Elizabeth Holloway
(1893-02-20)February 20, 1893
Isle of Man, British Isles
Died March 27, 1993(1993-03-27) (aged 100)
Bethel, Connecticut
Nationality Manx/American
Other names Sadie Holloway
Education Mount Holyoke College (B.A. in Psychology 1915)
Boston University School of Law (L.L.B., 1918)
Radcliffe College (M.A. in Psychology 1921)
Occupation Editor, author, lecturer
Known for Involvement in the creation of Wonder Woman and the systolic blood-pressure test
Spouse(s) William Moulton Marston
Partner(s) Olive Byrne

Elizabeth Holloway Marston (February 20, 1893 – March 27, 1993) was an American attorney and psychologist. She is credited, with her husband William Moulton Marston, for the development of the systolic blood pressure measurement used to detect deception.[1][2]

She is also credited as the inspiration for her husband's comic book creation Wonder Woman, a character also fashioned on their polyamorous life partner, Olive Byrne.[3][1][4][5][6][7]

Early life[edit]

Marston was born Sadie Holloway in the Isle of Man and raised in Boston, Massachusetts.[5] She was the daughter of an English mother, Daisy, and William George Washington Holloway, an American bank clerk.[8] She received her BA in psychology from Mount Holyoke College in 1915 and[1] her LLB from the Boston University School of Law in 1918,[9][10][5] where she was "one of three women to graduate from the School of Law that year."[1]

Systolic blood-pressure test[edit]

Both William and Marston joined the psychology department at Harvard, with William in the doctoral program and Marston in the master's program at Radcliffe College. She worked with William on his thesis, which concerned the correlation between blood pressure levels and deception.[1] He later developed this into the systolic blood-pressure test used to detect deception that was the predecessor to the polygraph test.[1]

In 1921, William received his PhD from Harvard and Marston her MA from Radcliffe. Although Marston is not listed as William's collaborator in his early work, a number of writers refer directly and indirectly to Elizabeth's work on her husband's deception research. She appears in a picture taken in his polygraph laboratory in the 1920s, reproduced in a 1938 publication by William.[1][11][12]

Career and family[edit]

Marston's career included indexing "the documents of the first fourteen Congresses, lectur[ing] on law, ethics, and psychology at American and New York Universities, [and] serv[ing] as an editor for Encyclopædia Britannica and McCall's. In 1933, she became the assistant to the chief executive at Metropolitan Life Insurance.[1]

William had children with both Marston and their partner, Olive Byrne (Marston eventually legally adopted Byrne's children).[1][3] While Olive stayed home to raise the children, Marston supported the family when William was out of work, as well as after his death in 1947.[1][3] Both Olive and Marston "embodied the feminism of the day."[13]

Wonder Woman[edit]

In 1992, The New York Times discussed Marston's involvement in the creation of Wonder Woman:

Our Towns reveals the true identity of Wonder Woman's real Mom. She is Elizabeth Holloway Marston. She's not 1,000; she's 99 come Thursday [...] One dark night as the clouds of war hovered over Europe again, Mr. Marston consulted his wife and collaborator, also a psychologist. He was inventing somebody like that new Superman fellow, only his character would promote a global psychic revolution by forsaking Biff! Bam! and Ka-Runch! for The Power of Love. Well, said Mrs. Marston, who was born liberated, this super-hero had better be a woman [...] Wonder Woman was created and written in the Marstons' suburban study as a crusading Boston career woman disguised as Diana Prince [...] Meanwhile, in a small Connecticut town, Wonder Woman's Mom has disguised herself as a retired editor who lives in postwar housing.[5]

Her 1993 obituary also stated that she contributed to the development of Wonder Woman,[14][1] while Lillian S. Robinson argued that both Olive Byrne and Elizabeth were models for the character.[15][16]


Marston died on March 27, 1993, just a month after her 100th birthday.[17]

In film[edit]

Marston's life is depicted in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, a fictional biographical drama also portraying her husband William Moulton Marston, Olive Byrne, and the creation of Wonder Woman.[18] Marston is portrayed in the film by British actress Rebecca Hall.[17]


  • Integrative Psychology: A Study of Unit Response by William Moulton Marston, C. Daly King, and Elizabeth Holloway Marston, 1931.
  • "Chalk Marks on the Gate", by Elizabeth Holloway; illus. Adolf Treidler; Woman's Home Companion, 1924, January; pp 14–15, 96.
  • "Gift-Horse", by Elizabeth Holloway; illus. George Wright; Woman's Home Companion, 1922, July; pp 22–23, 92–93.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lamb, Marguerite. "Who Was Wonder Woman? Long-Ago LAW Alumna Elizabeth Marston Was the Muse Who Gave Us a Superheroine", Boston University Alumni Magazine, Fall 2001.
  2. ^ Comm. to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph, Nat'l Research Council. The Polygraph and Lie Detection (2003).
  3. ^ a b c Marston, Christie (October 20, 2017). "What 'Professor Marston' Misses About Wonder Woman's Origins (Guest Column)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 21, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Alumni Spotlight: Elizabeth Holloway Marston (LAW '18)"
  5. ^ a b c d Malcolm, Andrew H. "OUR TOWNS; She's Behind the Match For That Man of Steel". The New York Times, Feb. 18, 1992.
  6. ^ Moon, Michael (2012-03-12). Darger's Resources. Duke University Press. ISBN 0822351560. 
  7. ^ Daniels, Les (2000). Wonder Woman: The complete History. Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-2913-8. 
  8. ^ Lepore, Jill (2015). The Secret History of Wonder Woman. New York: Vintage Books. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-385-35405-9. 
  9. ^ "THE LAST AMAZON Wonder Woman returns", New Yorker, September 22, 2014.
  10. ^ Green, Hope. "Panel Recognizes Astral Advances of Women in Law", B.U. Bridge, vol 5, #31, April 19, 2002.
  11. ^ Marston, William Moulton. The Lie Detector Test (1938).
  12. ^ The Polygraph and Lie Detection (2003): Chapter: Appendix E: Historical Notes on the Modern Polygraph, nap.edu; accessed March 27, 2018.
  13. ^ Tim Hanley, Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine, Chicago Review Press, 2014, pg. 12.
  14. ^ "Elizabeth H. Marston, Inspiration for Wonder Woman, 100". The New York Times, April 3, 1993.
  15. ^ Glenn, Joshua. "Wonder-working power". Boston.com, April 14, 2004.
  16. ^ Pollitt, Katha. "Wonder Woman's Kinky Feminist Roots", Atlantic Monthly, October 14, 2014.
  17. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 15, 2017). "Annapurna To Release MGM's 'Death Wish' Over Thanksgiving; Sets October Date For 'Professor Marston & The Wonder Women'". Deadline.com. Retrieved September 15, 2017. 
  18. ^ Wonder Woman creator biopic gets mysterious first teaser

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