Who would have thought that taking a psychology class at Katharine Gibbs School in NYC would land Joye Hummel a position as the first female journalist to publish stories for Wonder Woman? That is exactly what happened when 19-year-old submitted her final exam on Jan. 25, 1944.
She was in Dr. William Moulton Marston’s class in New York, and says the professor gave the class an exam with questions that dealt with handling one’s domestic and business relationships using the psychology taught in his class.
Marston was the brainchild who helped birth Wonder Woman, a scientist credited with the earliest work on the lie detector system and a sought out psychologist with keen insights on human living.
“I must have inhaled the course because of how in depth I answered the questions on his final exam,” Joye says. (Over the years, Joye went from her maiden name of Hummel to her first married name, Joye Murchison, then after the death of her first husband, to her second married name, Joye Murchison Kelly.)
When she wrote her final exam, which in those days was composition style, “I wrote and wrote, and wrote and wrote, I wrote up and down the sides of it and everything. The person that was looking at the exams first turned it over to him and said this looks like you wrote it. Like Marston had written it. And when he got ahold of that, he had been looking for someone who would understand his psychology, and it was obvious that I understood his psychology,” she says. So Marston got permission from the school to contact Joye for an interview to write Wonder Woman.
“He had not found anyone to write Wonder Woman stories to incorporate how he wished his heroine, Wonder Woman, portrayed and who would be able to write his theory into the stories,” she says. “He wanted Wonder Woman to be a positive role model for his young female readers and inspire them to go out into the world and use their abilities.
Wonder Woman is credited with starting the Woman’s Movement.
The Wonder Woman movie released in June 2017 hit the box office and various movie lists as among the “top ten” movies of the year. Joye says that her feeling about this movie is that the actress who played Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, was well suited for the role. She says if Dr. Marston were alive, he would be “very happy with her acting” and her alluring quality as well. And the writers did a great job of “telling a story,” she says.
However, she did note that the film was set in World War I, and Wonder Woman was not created until World War II.
Also, that war was part of the film, she adds that Marston “never felt that war would settle anything, and that it only created more hatred.”
Meanwhile, another movie, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” was released in October this year. This film revolves around Marston and his wife, Elizabeth, and what was said by some to be his mistress, Olive Byrne. A story line, which portrays Olive to have fallen in love with both Marston and his wife, develops and alleges that both Marston’s wife and alleged mistress were the inspiration for his Wonder Woman character.
Joye says that Marston’s “private life was his private life,” and her interest was strictly in writing Wonder Woman. “Dr. Marston was a very brilliant, kindly man, who really dedicated his life to having a strong women’s role in the world,” she says.
Her thought on that film is that, “I have always thought that it was despicable for the sake of making money, to put out information, whether movies, newspapers, etc. that tries to overemphasize a private side that is strongly unconventional.” Joye spoke of Marston’s support for women to be strong leaders in the world, noting “I would like to live long enough to see equal treatment of women in this world.”
The story of Joye’s life working with Marston shows that she herself was a woman working in what was considered in those days a man’s world, yet achieving goals and dreams by the effort she put into her careers.
She met with Marston and his wife at the Harvard Club in New York shortly before she graduated in March 1944. He hired her to start work right after graduation.
The two went over his vision, she says, and he emphasized that he wanted Wonder Woman to be portrayed as “an alluring woman, never masculine, a loving, wise and strong woman who fought evil and promoted goodness.”
Taking a break from her conversation with the Haven magazine at her dining room table in Polk County a few weeks ago, she eyes one of her earlier manuscripts, now yellowed from time.
“Legend, blazing a trail of death and degradation through the heavens soar a band of air pirates. Hijacking the most valuable metal in the nation, kidnapping the world’s greatest scientist, the ruthless band disappear into a mysterious hideaway. Even the alluring and brilliant Amazon Princess, beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, swifter than Mercury and stronger than Hercules, must release the full fury of her superhuman strength to halt the brutally nefarious careers of the “Terrors of the Air”! it reads.
A couple of years ago, Joye donated much of her memorabilia to the Smithsonian Institute, to be used in their SIL’s Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology.
The young 19-year-old had enjoyed working with Marston on the Wonder Woman copy.
“It was great fun as our imaginations knew no boundaries. We collaborated with each other on story ideas but then wrote our own scripts. Our scripts had to be very comprehensive, written like a play. The characters, setting, action, background, size of panels, had to be described in great detail to make sure our artist, Harry G. Peter, understood what we wanted depicted,” she says.
There was at the time a list of 10 restrictions, she says, that the writers had to obey in writing Wonder Woman. The board who reviewed the copy included such greats as Pearl S. Buck, she noted. The restrictions were assembled by a special Editorial Advisory Board made up of professional people interested in having young readers exposed to stories that would have a positive influence on them and not promote violence as something to be admired, she says.
“When both of our scripts were finished, Dr. Marston and I met at the New York office. He checked my finished script to be sure WW was depicted as an admirable heroine and that my story was exciting and incorporated a positive influence. After typing both of our scripts, I delivered them to our editor, Sheldon Mayer,” she adds.
Mayer then returned the scripts to their art studio, where they were given to Harry G. Peter, the chief artist, and his assistants to do the art work and then to the staff in charge of lettering. Joye did all the proof reading before they were delivered to the publisher.
“It was a wonderful experience working in New York on Wonder Woman. I enjoyed going with Dr. Marston when he was asked to give lectures. We had many luncheons - together to discuss Wonder Woman stories and ideas. Also he continued giving me what amounted to be a college course in psychology. which helped me not only in writing Wonder Woman stories but in my personal life experiences dealing with people,” she says.
“Comics is a very interesting thing to write. When you write a comic strip like Wonder Woman, the way it was written, it is like writing a play. You have what you say in those days, what you write, goes on a big white drawing paper, it has to be ruled like these columns. Double horizontal, triple horizontal, double vertical.
“When you write it, you have to tell the artists what kind of panel you want in there, in each illustration, every single thing that you want in that panel. We had professional who did the lettering, with Leroy lettering, so your lettering, your scripts are in there. Every single thing that is in that panel has to be told to the artist, so that they understood,” she says.
“And they had to understand what the heck we wanted, and I was there to explain it,” she says as she laughs heavily.
“And they were wonderful. I never had a bad day with anybody I worked with, not one bad day.” Here, her present husband, Jack, with whom she just celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary, said, “The difference is, in her day, there was no ego. She was so happy in doing what she did. Today there is so much ego that I have got to be better than somebody else and I have got to be more important. She didn’t have to worry about that. She was it and she loved it.”
So as a young journalist now writing for the comic strip that would be known around the world one day, she was given her own office.
Joye was responsible for writing comic strips that would get read by children and adults alike.
About six months after she began working for Marston, their meetings at the art office stopped and she met with him at his home in Rye, N.Y.
“On Aug. 25, 1944, I was with him when he boarded the train to Boston. However, he never walked off the train. He was carried off. He had been stricken with poliomyelitis. This astonished doctors, because he was 55 and considered too old to be afflicted with this disease, commonly called infantile paralysis. Unfortunately, the diagnosis proved to be correct. A planned cruise to Bermuda with my mother was cancelled. I told my mother that Dr. Marston was hospitalized with a severe arthritis attack and I was needed at work. At that time, many people were stricken by polio and no one knew how it was spread. I believe she would have forced me to stay away from him,” she notes, adding she kept the truth about his disease from her mother.
“Dr. Marston was a tall, well-built man and exceedingly strong. At first he did not accept being crippled and pulled on the rings over his bed in the Lenox Hill Hospital room, using so much strength that he almost yanked them out of the ceiling in an attempt to raise himself. It took time for him to adjust to the fact that he was unable to walk,” she says.
When Marston was released from the hospital, he was still not able to walk.
“From then on, we always worked several days a week or on the weekend at his home, in Rye, New York. I also spent time at the New York office taking care of the usual work I did there. Dr. Marston never went into New York City again.”
A nurse came to administer special pain treatments, and although the doctor had advised Marston he would never walk again, he decided to take matters in his own hands, she says, and began exercising regularly to regain his strength.
“He was determined to walk again. Unfortunately, it was not to happen,” she says.
Just when Marston was starting to take a few steps, tragedy struck again.
“I was present at his home when a surgeon removed a lump from under the skin in the middle of his back. The lump later biopsied, was diagnosed with incurable cancer cells that were spreading.
Marston did live nine months after this, however, in much pain and he was unable to walk.
Shortly after she married, she resigned from writing Wonder Woman. “I was fortunate to inherit a darling wee daughter, four and a half, who was definitely in need of a stay at home mother.”
And she did stay at home for many years, she notes, raising children. Then when her two sons were in high school, at age 40, she was offered a position as an executive secretary in a stock exchange office in Hollywood, Fla.
“I believe Marston would feel proud of me that while working as a secretary, I studied for nine months with the New York Institute of Finance by correspondence, passed the New York Stock Exchange exam and the Chicago Board of trade and became a stockbroker, registered on the New York Stock Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade. It enabled me to help finance the college education for my three children,” she says.
There is the discussion of the magic lasso. “The magic lasso was not to bind you,” she says.
“It was – if you were doing bad things, or very bad things, the magic lasso is just to go around you and make you think how you could turn your bad things that you do against the law, against people, physical, and think about it. And change your ways.”
Wonder Woman’s skirt was shorter than most in those days.
“Marston wanted her to be very alluring, very attractive. It didn’t matter about beauty. You can be an alluring person and not have good features, but it is the way you are. The kind of person you are. But the first thing you do is see appearance.”
“If you wear your dress just above the knees, knees are not nice looking, but if you show the thigh, it is very alluring. He didn’t want Wonder Woman looking like she was wearing men’s under-drawers.”
And at such a tender age, she was responsible for writing comic strips that would get read by children and adults alike.
Ideas were everywhere.
She and Marston constantly were creating story lines. “The first thing you have to do is get ideas. I took the railroad back and forth. I could see what people were doing, I could see different things. But more than that, we both had tremendous imaginations. From the time I was a young child, I imagined doing stories. I actually wanted to be an actress,” she confesses.
So the stories came out of her head, onto paper.
And she wrote all night, every night, at home.
This presented issues with her mom, who like most people in those days, slept all night.
Here, her husband breaks in: “She had a fascination with atoms,” he says.
And there is a Wonder Woman story about atoms, “before the atom bomb,” she notes. “We and one other comic strip were talked to by the government. They wanted to know where we got that idea,” she said.
The library was near her, and she studied and was an avid reader of all things science and psychology. “I found out about atoms. I did a synopsis and wrote a story and Marston checked it. Marston and I could get on the same wavelength talking about them. I would have to give him all my ideas and he would ascertain if they were worthy, because he was the first to make the decision on my script. The editor was the final.”
“My theory, which Marston went along with it, is you make a decision, you should think about it, think about the results, and then do it. And if it is working out, then that is a good decision, you stay on that path.”
Today, Joye makes her home in Polk County with her husband, Jack Kelly. She thinks back to the days when she was just a teen writing Wonder Woman, and her professional life and accomplishments. Her eyes light up when she thumbs through anthologies that have been assembled since 1944, noting, “They are still publishing my stories.”
Wonder Woman is now published by DC Entertainment. Joye lives a quiet life and is known only to her closest friends and family. She loves to go to church, and yes, occasionally goes to Walmart. One time years ago, she went on an outing with a friend of hers, who casually told people who they were spending time with. Soon, she was surrounded by people who wanted her autograph.
An original? Yes. She lived before, during and after the women’s movement. One time, she even addressed a boss (after Wonder Woman) about how everyone had gotten raises except her. So she waited until everyone left for the day, spoke to her boss, who then gave her a $400 bonus. “You can do anything you put your mind to,” she said.
She went home to her husband, took him into the bedroom, closed the door and tossed $400 worth of cash all over her bed and said, “This is what your wife did today.”