Beth Blum teaches modern and contemporary literature at Harvard University, where she is an Assistant Professor of English. Her book, The Self-Help Compulsion: Searching for Advice in Modern Literature was published with Columbia University Press in 2020. Recent work has appeared in PMLA, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The NewYorker.com.
Wonder Woman controls crowds, stops traffic, and makes all your wishes come true. This is not a description of the comic-book heroine invented by William Moulton Marston in 1941 but of Elsie Lincoln Benedict (1885–1970), who earned the “Wonder Woman” moniker for her self-help secrets and life-changing lectures (fig. 1). Instead of evil supervillains, she battled naysaying and bad habits.