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

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Photo credit: University of Hawaii at Manoa

An undated photo of Kasturba Kapadia and her husband Mohandas Ghandi.

The adage "behind every great man there stands a great woman" was the inspiration for a Sweetwater High School teacher's new book that explores the women in the lives of famous men.

Marlene Wagman-Geller began researching the stories of wives of famous men and used them for her book, "Behind Every Great Man: Forgotten Women Behind the World's Famous and Infamous."

In the book published in March, Wagman-Geller tells the stories of 40 women, including Kasturba Kapadia, whose husband was Mohandas Gandhi, and Johanna Bertha Julie Jenny von Westphalen, who was married to Karl Marx.

Wagman-Geller told KPBS Midday Edition March 10, 2015, she had three criteria for the women to be included in her book.

“The men had to be iconic men who everybody knew, the women had to be lost in the shadows, and they had to lead remarkable lives on their own,” Wagman-Geller said. “If they met those three criteria they were included.”

Wagman-Geller said in some cases finding details on the women was difficult so she used primary sources including letters and diaries to piece together the stories. She learned a lot too.

For example, she said she learned that Marx had seven children including four daughters who were all named after his wife.

“She was devoted to him even though she came from the upper-class. She thought one day the world would embrace his philosophy,” Wagman-Geller said. “It was interesting to do the research because it humanized the man.”

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