Lepore reports, for instance, that the Marstons had a polyamorous relationship with another woman, Marjorie W. Huntley, before they met Byrne, and that she remained an on-and-off member of the family long after Byrne arrived, helping out with the inking and lettering of the Wonder Woman comics in the 1940s, and occasionally staying with Holloway and Byrne after Marston's death. Further, Huntley, Byrne, Holloway, and Marston all participated in what Lepore describes as a "sex cult" in 1925-26 at the home of Marston's aunt Carolyn. Participants celebrated female sexual power, dominance, submission and love by forming “Love Units” consisting of multiple partners, including Love Girls who "do not … practice … concealment of the love organs" (translated from New Age, that means they didn't wear clothes.) Among the topics of discussion at these meetings was the work of Olive Byrne's aunt, Margaret Sanger—and one of Lepore's central accomplishments is to show just how close Byrne and Sanger were, and to describe how Wonder Woman sprang from an intellectual milieu that included both New Age free love and a radical commitment to reproductive rights.
As Lepore says, Wonder Woman was born out of "feminist utopia" and "the struggle for women's rights." But Marston's vision of feminist utopia—complete with love leaders, dominance, and bondage—doesn't necessarily look like the feminist utopia most people imagine today. Marston—and Sanger too, according to Lepore—believed that women were purer and better than men. That's a view that sits very uncomfortably with the current feminist movement, which often (and with justice) sees discussions of feminine purity as an excuse to restrict what women are allowed to do. Feminist success, in our day, is generally seen in terms of empowering women to achieve equality with men—not in terms of a naturally superior femaleness, the purity of which will transform society spiritually and ethically.
Marston's personal life also raises questions about his feminist commitments. In the first place, he met Byrne when she was his graduate student; it's not entirely clear if he started sleeping with her while she was under his supervision, but if he did, that certainly raises ethical questions. The way he introduced Byrne into his marriage is also disturbing; according to Lepore's archival research, Marston told his wife that she could either accept Byrne into their marriage, or Marston would leave. "Holloway was devastated," Lepore writes. "She walked out the door and walked, without stopping, for six hours."
The long-term household arrangement can also seem incongruous with feminism. Lepore glancingly compares the Marston's living arrangements to a "harem," and points out that Holloway was the one whose job as an editor supported the family while Marston flailed about from one hapless scheme to another. "The year … Marston held a press conference about Amazonian rule, Olive Byrne was typing his books and raising his children, and Sadie Elizabeth Holloway was supporting him." She concludes ironically, "A matriarchy Cherry Orchard [the Marston home] was not." Katha Politt echoes that sentiment in her review for The Atlantic print magazine, writing that "Marston had a sweet thing going: two remarkably smart, adoring women to cater to his every need, each apparently believing she’d landed in feminist heaven."