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San Diego Author Tells Stories Of The Women In The Shadows Of Men

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March 10, 2015 1:21 p.m.

San Diego Author Tells Stories Of The Women In The Shadows Of Men

GUEST:

Marlene Wagman-Geller, author, "Behind Every Great Man: Forgotten Women Behind the World's Famous and Infamous"

Related Story: San Diego Author Tells Stories Of The Women In The Shadows Of Men

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

YOU'RE LISTENING TO MIDDAY EDITION. I'M TOM FUDGE. DO YOU EVER WONDER IF KARL MARX HAD A WIFE? AND IF HE DID WHO WAS SHE? HOW DID THEY MEET AND WHAT DID SHE DO? MARLENE WAGMAN-GELLER HAS WONDERED A LOT ABOUT THAT KIND OF THING. SO MUCH THAT SHE'S WRITTEN A BOOK WAS TITLED SORT OF TELLS IT ALL. BEHIND EVERY GREAT Man: FORGOTTEN WOMEN BEHIND THE WORLD'S FAMOUS AND INFAMOUS . MARLENE IS THE AUTHOR OF FOUR BOOKS AND SHE JOINS ME NOW AT THE CAPE UBS STUDIO. THANKS SO MUCH FOR COMING IN.
SO MUCH FOR HAVING A.
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR HAVING THIS BOOK. I WAS DOING SOME RESEARCH ON GANDHI AND THEN IT JUST DAWNED ON ME THAT I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT MRS. GANDHI AND WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE MRS. MAHATMA. IT WAS FASCINATING BECAUSE SOMEHOW SHE WAS LOST IN THE GREAT MAN'S DEMEANOR TO SHADOW. WHEN I STARTED RESEARCHING HER IT WAS INTRIGUING. SHE FASTED WHILE HE WAS IMPRISONED. SHE RAISED HIS FOUR SONS SINGLE-HANDEDLY BECAUSE HE WAS ALWAYS IN JAIL. AT THE END OF HER LIFE SHE WAS IMPRISONED WITH HIM BECAUSE THEY LEANED ON HIM TO PUT PRESSURE ON HIM. SHE HAD SUCH AN INCREASE IN -- INTRIGUING LIKE. HOW DID HER STORY GET LOST AND I STARTED RESEARCHING THE LIVES OF OTHER OUT FOR MALES AND THAT WAS THE GENESIS OF THE BOOK.
AND IN FACT MRS. GANDHI DIED IN PRISON.
SHE DID.
I KNOW YOU HAD SOME KIND OF A FORMULA OF WHAT KINDS OF WIVES OR GIRLFRIENDS YOU WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT. WHO DID YOU FOCUS ON? OR WHAT KINDS OF WOMEN DID YOU FOCUS ON?
IT WAS ACTUALLY THREE CRITERIA. THE MEN HAD TO BE THE ICONIC MEN THAT EVERYBODY KNEW. SECOND OF ALL THEIR WIVES HAD TO BE LOST IN THE SHADOWS AND IT COULD NOT BE HILLARY CLINTON OR ROOSEVELT. THEY HAD TO BE -- LEAD REMARKABLE LIES ON THEIR ON OR ELSE THERE WOULD BE NO CHAPTERS. IF THEY MET THOSE THREE CRITERIA THEY WERE INCLUDED.
OKAY I REALLY AM CURIOUS ABOUT THE WIFE OF KARL MARX. WENT ON TO TELL HER STORY.
IT WAS INTERESTING TO BE MRS. KARL MARX BECAUSE EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS MARRIED TO THE WORLD'S FOREMOST ECONOMISTS AND EXPERT ON CAPITAL HE HAD NO CAPITAL. THEY LIVED IN ABSOLUTE SQUALOR IN BRITAIN. IN LONDON. THEY HAD SEVEN CHILDREN. I DIDN'T KNOW THAT AT ALL. THEY HAD FOUR DOLLARS ALL NAMED AFTER -- DAUGHTERS ALL NAMED JENNY. THE BOOK WAS SO INTERESTING FOR ME TO DO THE RESEARCH BECAUSE IT HUMANIZED THE MAN. IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT ALL THESE MEN HAD WIVES AND BY RESEARCHING THE WIVES I WAS ABLE TO LOOK AT THE MEN THROUGH THE WOMEN'S EYES VIEW. WHICH IS OFTEN VERY DIFFERENT THAN THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE.
WAS MRS. MARX ALSO A COMMUNIST? MAYBE THEY DIDN'T CALL THEM COMMUNIST BACK IN THOSE DAYS. DID SHE HATES -- HAVE THE SAME KIND OF YOU?
SHE DID. SHE WAS DEVOTED FOR HIM EVEN THOUGH SHE CAME FROM THE UPPER CLASS. WHAT KEPT HER GOING THROUGH THE DEATHS OF HER CHILDREN THROUGH POVERTY RELATED DISEASES AND LIVING IN THE SLUM WAS HER BELIEF THAT ONE DAY HER HUSBAND'S PHILOSOPHY WOULD BE EMBRACED. SHE LIKENED HIM TO A PROMETHEUS LOCKED INTO A PROLETARIAT ROCK AND SHE THOUGHT ONE DAY THE WORLD WOULD EMBRACE HIS PHILOSOPHY.
HOW DID THEY GET BY IF THEY DIDN'T HAVE MONEY?
WHAT SCM WAS FREDERICK INGLES. HE WAS MARK'S FRIEND AND COLLABORATOR AND HE WAS VERY WEALTHY IN HIS OWN RIGHT AND HE SAVED THEM AGAIN AND AGAIN. WHEN KARL MARX HIRED -- SIRED AN ELEMENT CHILD TO HELP SAVE CORAL DECLAIMED PUT TRINITY. -- PATERNITY. HE CLAIMS PATERNITY OF THE BABY WITH THE MADE. HE SORT OF DID A SCHWARZENEGGER.
IF YOU SAY SO. MARLENE WAGMAN-GELLER IS MY BEST. SHE'S AUTHORED FOUR BOOKS. HER MOST RECENT IS CALLED BEHIND EVERY GREAT Man: FORGOTTEN WOMEN BEHIND THE WORLD'S FAMOUS AND INFAMOUS . SHE TEACHES HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH. IN NATIONAL CITY. WITH SOME OF THESE FOLKS -- WOMEN, I THINK THEY'RE PROBABLY HASN'T BEEN A LOT THAT'S ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT THEM. HOW DID YOU RESEARCH THIS BOOK?
ONE OF THE PROBLEMS WAS LIKE YOU SAID THERE WAS VERY LITTLE INFORMATION ABOUT THEM BECAUSE THEY WERE LOST IN THE SHADOW -- FOR EXAMPLE GANDHI. EVEN THE PEOPLE IN INDIA WHO I TALK TO SAID HE WAS MARRIED. THEY DIDN'T EVEN KNOW. FOR HIS CASE I HAD TO READ BIOGRAPHIES BY THE GRANDSON. IT WAS HARD TO FIND RESEARCH WITH SOME OF THESE WOMEN BECAUSE THEY WERE OBSCURED. I DID HAVE TO DO SECONDARY SOURCES QUITE A BIT.
DID YOU FIND COMMON THREADS? BETWEEN THESE WOMEN OR WAS EACH CASE DIFFERENT FROM THE NEXT?
THERE WERE SOME COMMON TO NANOMETERS BECAUSE ALL THESE WOMEN WERE MARRIED TO NARCISSISTIC OVERPOWERING MEN. ANOTHER COMMON DENOMINATOR -- DENOMINATOR WAS THEY WERE ALL VERY CHALLENGING BEING MARRIED TO THESE MEN. COMPARED TO THESE WOMEN I AM A RANK MERIT -- AMATEUR IN THE MARRIAGE DEPARTMENT. I THINK A LOT OF WOMEN CAN FEEL THAT BECAUSE THESE MEN PUT THEM THROUGH ENORMOUS RIGOR.
SO THEY MUST HAVE HAD A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF PATIENTS FOR ONE THING.
I THINK THEY DID. THEY WERE VERY STALWART. OSCAR WILDE'S WIFE IS CALLED CONSTANTS. ONE MARRIED -- MINUTE SHE WAS MARRIED THE NEXT SHE WAS -- HE WAS ON TRIAL FOR -- [INDISCERNIBLE] ALL HIS AND LANDED ON HER. SHE BASICALLY CHANGED HER NAME AND ESCAPED TO ITALY. THEY HAD HUGE THINGS TO DEAL WITH.
WE ARE WRITING ABOUT A TIME WHEN DIVORCE WAS NOT COMMON AND IT WAS MUCH MORE FOR BID AND THEN TODAY. DID ANY OF THESE WOMEN LEAVE THEIR HUSBANDS?
THE ONLY ONE --
OR MAYBE YOU DIDN'T WRITE ABOUT THOSE?
THAT DIDN'T MATTER. THIS IS PRETTY MADE OFF BECAUSE WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO GO FROM THE QUEEN OF MANHATTAN TO BASICALLY MARRIED TO THE MOST REVILED SCUMBAG IN MANHATTAN HISTORY. [ LAUGHTER ] WHEN YOU READ ABOUT MADE OFF WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO GO FROM THE DIZZYING HEIGHTS TO HAVE A HUSBAND WHO MADE HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS PER YEAR TO BASICALLY YOUR HUSBAND IS IN PRISON IN YOUR WEALTH IS GONE -- SHE DID LEAVE HIM. IT WAS TOO MUCH. AND THEN NOT ONLY DID SHE LOSE HER HUSBAND AND WEALTH BUT ONE SON COMMITTED SUICIDE AND THE OTHER DIED FROM CANCER. SHE DID FINALLY. WHAT MADE HER DIVORCE HER HUSBAND WASN'T LOSING THE WEALTH OR REPUTATION. SHE FOUND OUT HE HAD IN THE PIT -- IN A FAIR.
BARBARA SINATRA CALLED THE WIFE OF FRANK SINATRA.
SHE STARTED OUT THE DAUGHTER OF A KOSHER BUTCHER AND -- IN SOME WHISTLE STOP TOWN IN THE MIDWEST. SHE BASICALLY BECAME A LAS VEGAS SHOWGIRL. SHE CAPTURED THE ATTENTION OF ONE OF THE MARX BROTHERS. SHE BASICALLY USE THEM AS A MEAL TICKET OUT AND SHE ENDED UP MOVING TO PALM SPRINGS. THEIR NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOR WAS -- FRANK SINATRA. HE WAS MARRIED TO MIA FARROW. HE DIVORCED THE UP ARROW AND THEN THEY SORT OF STARTED AN AFFAIR AND THE MARX BROTHER WAS UPSET BECAUSE SHE BROKE THE COMMANDMENT OF NOT COMMITTING ADULTERY. THEY DIVORCED AND SHE ENDED UP MARRYING THANKS SINATRA. THAT WAS OF -- FRANK SINATRA. THAT WAS A DIZZYING RIDE.
I IMAGINE. HARD DRINKING AND LOTS OF ISSUES WITH FRANK SINATRA.
SHE HAD THE BEST. SHE HAD ALL THE MATERIAL IS SOME IN A RING THAT WAS CALLED THE HOLY -- SHE HAD TONS OF WEALTH BUT HER HUSBAND WAS AN ALCOHOLIC AND HE WOULD SLAM DOORS AND HE HAD THIS HAIRTRIGGER TEMPER. IT WAS THE VERY BEST IN THE VERY WORST.
WHEN YOU LOOK AT SOMEONE LIKE MICHELLE OBAMA THERE IS SO MUCH ATTENTION FOCUSED ON HER SOMETIMES IT SEEMS LIKE A THANKFUL -- THANKLESS JOB BEING MARRIED TO A MAN LIKE THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. ON THE OTHER HAND THERE MUST'VE BEEN SOME WOMEN THAT YOU WROTE ABOUT WHO WE WOULD SAY WERE SOCIAL CLIMBERS WHO SAW THEIR HUSBAND AS A WAY TO ADVANCE THEIR OWN STATE.
I THINK THAT MIGHT'VE BEEN WITH BARBARA SINATRA. SHE HAD A CHILD. SHE WAS DIVORCED. SHE WAS A SHOWGIRL WALKING WITH STATUES OF LIBERTY ON HER HEAD. SHE NEEDED A MAN. I THINK IT TURNED INTO A LOVE AFFAIR. I THINK SHE TRULY DID LOVE FRANK SINATRA.
JUST TO TALK ABOUT ONE OTHER INDIVIDUAL CASE -- YOU WERE CURIOUS ABOUT EVA BROWN WHO WAS NEVER MARRIED TO EIGHT UPHELD UNTIL RIGHT BEFORE THEY DIED. WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT AVA BROWN?
I THINK THE THING IS WHILE DOING MY RESEARCH ALL I KNEW IS SHE WAS HIS GIRLFRIEND OF 14 YEARS AND HIS WIFE OF 14 HOURS. SHE DIED WITH HIM IN THE BERLIN BUNKER. IT WAS VERY INTERESTING TO DO RESEARCH ON HER AND THERE ARE STILL LINGERING QUESTIONS. WHAT SHE THE FIRST LADY OF NOKIA SOME OR AN APOLITICAL BLONDE WHO LOVED HER MAN EVEN THOUGH HE WAS THE ARCHITECT OF GENOCIDE. IT IS QUESTIONABLE HOW MUCH SHE KNEW?
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE STORY? THIS IS A LEADING QUESTION BECAUSE I KNOW YOU LIKE THE STORY OF SIMON THESE AND PAUL AND HIS WIFE. HE WAS A JEW WHO WAS PERSECUTED BY THE NAZIS AND THEN BECAME WHAT YOU MIGHT CALL A [ NULL ] HUNTER.
RIGHT. I DID LIKE THAT CHAPTER BECAUSE HE IS A [ NULL ] HUNTER . THE NEW CM -- MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE IS NAMED AFTER HIM. THEIR STORY WAS VERY TOUCHING AND IT WAS -- THEY WERE MARRIED AND WHEN THE NAZIS TOOK OVER THEIR HOMETOWN IN POLAND THEY WERE BOTH -- HE WENT TO A CONCENTRATION CAMP AND ENDED UP THINKING SHE WAS THAT. THEY BOTH FOUGHT EACH OTHER HAD NOT SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST. THEY MET COMPLETELY HAPPENSTANCE. IT WAS VERY MUCH A LOVE STORY. I DID LIKE THAT CHAPTER.
HOW DOES THIS BOOK REVIEWERS RELATE TO THE SUBJECT -- OF YOURS RELATE TO THE SUBJECT BECAUSE YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE WOMEN WHO WERE ASSOCIATED WITH MEN WHO ARE MUCH BETTER KNOWN AND MUCH MORE FAMOUS THAN THEY WERE?
I CONSIDER IT A FEMINIST TONE BECAUSE I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS IS WHEN WE LOOK AT HISTORY IT IS HIS STORY, HIS HISTORY. HISTORICALLY WOMEN WERE COMPLETELY REGULATED TO THE SHADOWS OF THESE MEN AND I THINK IT'S VERY MUCH FEMINISM -- THE BOOK BECAUSE IT LETS THEM EMERGE FROM THE SHADOWS AND A LOT OF TIMES LIKE EINSTEIN'S FIRST WIFE WHO HE ABANDONED IN EUROPE -- THEY USED TO SIGN THEIR PAPERS WE. HE WROTE HER A LETTER WHEN OUR GREAT THEORIES ARE RECOGNIZED. SO IT MAKES US WONDER -- HIS WIFE WHO WAS A BRILLIANT PHYSICIST IN HER OWN RIGHT -- HOW MUCH WAS SEAT -- A RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS THEORIES? IT'S GIVING POST-HUMANIST ACKNOWLEDGMENT TO HER ROLE IN PERHAPS THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY.
HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO OTHER BOOKS YOU'VE WRITTEN?
ALL FOUR BOOKS HAVE THE COMMON DENOMINATOR SOMETIMES THE BACK STORY IS EVEN MORE INTRIGUING OR JUST AS INTRIGUING AS STORY IS HELD. BY DOING THE INVESTIGATION IT SORT OF LOOKS AT FAMILIAR SUBJECTS IN A NEW LIGHT. THEY WERE ALL LABORS OF LOVE.
MY GUEST HAS BEEN MARLENE WAGMAN-GELLER. SHE'S THE AUTHOR OF FOUR BOOKS AND WE BEEN TALKING ABOUT HER MOST RECENT BOOK IS CALLED BEHIND EVERY GREAT Man: FORGOTTEN WOMEN BEHIND THE WORLD'S FAMOUS AND INFAMOUS . MARLENE, THANKS FOR A MUCH FOR COMING IN.
THANKS SO MUCH FOR HAVING A.
-- ME.