Elizabeth Holloway Marston
Sarah Elizabeth Holloway

(1893-02-20)February 20, 1893
DiedMarch 27, 1993(1993-03-27) (aged 100)
Bethel, Connecticut, United States
Other namesSadie Holloway
EducationMount Holyoke College (BA)
Boston University (LLB)
Harvard University (MA)
Occupation(s)Editor, author, lecturer
Known forCreation of Wonder Woman
Systolic blood-pressure test
Spouse(s)William Moulton Marston and Olive Byrne
PartnerOlive Byrne

Sarah Elizabeth Marston (née Holloway; February 20, 1893 – March 27, 1993)[1] was an American attorney and psychologist. She is credited, with her husband William Moulton Marston, with the development of the systolic blood pressure measurement used to detect deception; the predecessor to the polygraph.[2][3]

She is also credited as an inspiration for her husband's comic book creation Wonder Woman, along with their polyamorous life partner, Olive Byrne.[2][4][5][6][7][8]

Early life

Marston was born Sarah Elizabeth Holloway on the Isle of Man, to William George Washington Holloway (died February 13, 1961), an American bank clerk, and his English wife, Daisy (née De Gaunza; died July 19, 1945), who had married in England in 1892. After her family moved to the United States, Sarah was raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Her nickname was "Sadie". She eventually discarded her forename in favor of her middle name, Elizabeth, by which she would become known.[6][9]

Career and family

Marston received her BA in psychology from Mount Holyoke College in 1915 [2] and her LLB from the Boston University School of Law in 1918,[10][11][6] one of just three female graduates of the School of Law that year.[2]

Marston married William Moulton Marston in 1915. She first gave birth at age 35, then returned to work. During her long and productive career, she indexed the documents of the first fourteen Congresses, lectured on law, ethics and psychology at several American universities, and served as an editor for Encyclopædia Britannica and McCall's. She cowrote a textbook, Integrative Psychology, with her husband and C. Daly King. In 1933, she became the assistant to the chief executive at Metropolitan Life Insurance.[2][4]

Sometime in the late 1920s, Olive Byrne, a young woman William had met while teaching at Tufts University, joined the household. Elizabeth Marston had two children, Peter and Olive Ann, while Olive Byrne also gave birth to two of William's children, Byrne and Donn. The Marstons legally adopted Olive's boys, and Olive remained a part of the family, even after William's death in 1947.[2][4]

Olive stayed home with the children while Marston worked. Continuing at MetLife until she was sixty-five, Elizabeth sponsored all four children through college — and Byrne through medical school and Donn through law school as well. She and Olive continued living together until Olive's death in 1990.[2][4] Both Olive and Marston "embodied the feminism of the day."[12]

Systolic blood-pressure test

Marston enrolled in the master's degree program at Radcliffe College of Harvard University while her husband William attended the doctoral program in psychology at Harvard, which at that time enrolled only male students. She worked with William on his thesis, which concerned the correlation between blood pressure levels and deception. He later developed this into the systolic blood-pressure test used to detect deception that was the predecessor to the polygraph test.[2]

In 1921, Marston received her MA from Radcliffe and William received his PhD from Harvard. 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 blood pressure/deception research. She appears in a picture taken in his polygraph laboratory in the 1920s, reproduced in a 1938 publication by William.[2][13][14]

Wonder Woman

A 1992 "Our Towns" feature of The New York Times discussed Marston's involvement in the creation of Wonder Woman (although no source is cited in the article for the declaration "this super-hero had better be a woman" that was attributed to Holloway):

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.[6]

Her 1993 obituary also stated that she contributed to the development of Wonder Woman,[2][15] while Lillian S. Robinson argued that both Olive Byrne and Elizabeth were models for the character.[16][17]


Marston died on March 27, 1993, one month after her 100th birthday.[18]

In film

Marston's life is depicted in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, a 2017 fictional biographical drama that also portrays her husband William, Olive Byrne, and the creation of Wonder Woman.[19] Marston is portrayed in the film by British actress Rebecca Hall.[18]


Asteroid 101813 Elizabethmarston was named in her memory.[20] The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on September 25, 2018 (M.P.C. 111800) along with the naming of Asteroid 102234 Olivebyrne.[21]



  1. ^ New England Historical Society
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 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.
  3. ^ Comm. to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph, Nat'l Research Council. The Polygraph and Lie Detection (2003).
  4. ^ a b c d Marston, Christie (October 20, 2017). "What 'Professor Marston' Misses About Wonder Woman's Origins (Guest Column)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  5. ^ "Alumni Spotlight: Elizabeth Holloway Marston (LAW '18)"
  6. ^ a b c d Malcolm, Andrew H. "OUR TOWNS; She's Behind the Match For That Man of Steel". The New York Times, February 18, 1992.
  7. ^ Moon, Michael (March 12, 2012). Darger's Resources. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0822351566.
  8. ^ Daniels, Les (2000). Wonder Woman: The Complete History. Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-2913-8.
  9. ^ Lepore, Jill (2015). The Secret History of Wonder Woman. New York: Vintage Books. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-385-35405-9.
  10. ^ "THE LAST AMAZON Wonder Woman returns", New Yorker, September 22, 2014.
  11. ^ Green, Hope. "Panel Recognizes Astral Advances of Women in Law", B.U. Bridge, vol 5, #31, April 19, 2002.
  12. ^ Tim Hanley, Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine, Chicago Review Press, 2014, pg. 12.
  13. ^ Marston, William Moulton. The Lie Detector Test (1938).
  14. ^ The Polygraph and Lie Detection (2003): Chapter: Appendix E: Historical Notes on the Modern Polygraph, nap.edu; accessed March 27, 2018.
  15. ^ "Elizabeth H. Marston, Inspiration for Wonder Woman, 100". The New York Times, April 3, 1993.
  16. ^ Glenn, Joshua. "Wonder-working power". Boston.com, April 14, 2004.
  17. ^ Pollitt, Katha. "Wonder Woman's Kinky Feminist Roots", Atlantic Monthly, October 14, 2014.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "Wonder Woman Creator Biopic Gets Mysterious First Teaser". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on March 23, 2023.
  20. ^ "101813 Elizabethmarston (1999 JX7)". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  21. ^ "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved October 17, 2018.