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Lynda Carter Focuses Her Superpowers on New Women’s History Museum

‘Wonder Woman’ actress is working to highlight the women’s stories that shaped America

spinner image lynda carter smiling outside; grass, shrubs and tree behind her
Courtesy: Lynda Carter/Matt Beard

Lynda Carter, 72, is best known as the embodiment of female power in her 1970s TV role as DC comics superhero Wonder Woman. These days, she’s championing strong women as an advisory council member for the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum. Congress signed legislation to create the museum in 2020 with the goal of highlighting the often untold and overlooked historical accomplishments of American women. Carter explains why she jumped at the chance to be a part of the museum’s leadership team, the women who have inspired her and how she’s still speaking out through song.

“I’ve always embraced Wonder Woman as the ideal of what womanhood is.”

At 17, you start singing professionally. By 19, you’re crossing the country with a band. At 21, you’re crowned Miss World USA, and at 23, you land the role of Wonder Woman. That’s quite a ride at a young age.

Well, there were some lean years when I didn’t have a penny. I really couldn’t squander anything. I stayed with some friends for a while when I ran out of money. Eventually, I got the part of Wonder Woman, but I really survived by singing jingles and things to stretch the budget. But I had support from my mom in terms of “You can do it! You’re going to be great!” Looking back, I had a lot of tenacity and determination. I was naive in a helpful way.

Wonder Woman made you ­famous. How do you explain her enduring appeal?

spinner image lynda carter dressed as wonder woman with arms crossed across chest
Carter rose to fame playing the role of DC comics superhero Wonder Woman.
ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

I think it’s because this is the portrayal of a woman as the powerful creature that she is, one who cannot be diminished or overlooked. She is not a victim. She is extraordinary, as women are.

You became identified with your first big role. Any regrets?

No! I’ve always embraced Wonder Woman as the ideal of what womanhood is. It’s what we are trying to capture at the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum.

You serve on the advisory council for that museum, which is in its planning stages. What drew you to the project?

They were looking for people who would bring some new blood to the process. I jumped at the chance. I live in the D.C. area, so it was a thrill to see something in its early stages and know that it will last for generations to come.

What need will this museum fill?

It’s about creating a space for women’s history on the National Mall in Washington, to inspire conversations and connections and change. This has to do with really having an understanding of stories that have not been told about women with true grit.

Wonder Woman has been a role model for millions of girls. What women past or present influenced you?

I would say Betty Friedan ... Hillary Clinton ... Golda Meir ... Indira Gandhi. Oh, and Dinah Shore —The Dinah Shore Chevy Show! [Sings “See the USA in your Chevrolet!”] Dinah inspired me because she could sing and dance!

I saw a music video recently in which you look fit enough to wear your old Wonder Woman costume. How’s that possible?

I work out all the time. [Laughs.] No, I don’t really. I try to watch what I eat and exercise a little bit. The secret is I’ve got my mother’s genes.

One reason to stay in shape is the American Women’s History Museum is tentatively scheduled for completion in 2030. Will you be at the opening?

If I survive! If not, then my daughter will be there.

The museum will highlight issues with which women have dealt in the past. What do you see as the critical challenges facing older women?

With older women, older people, there is a loneliness factor that is so important. Also, the warehousing of older Americans is now becoming a real problem.

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Your daughter, Jessica, has embraced the idea that women shape their destiny. She was an attorney and moved into music late. Was Mom responsible?

She started singing and doing some duets with me onstage. Jessica just loved it so much. It was a big decision to leave the law, but I stepped aside; she had to make those discoveries on her own.

You lost your husband, Robert Altman [a Washington-based attorney and businessman], three years ago to leukemia. How did you handle that loss?

I still grieve for him. I’m doing much better, but I miss him ­every day. He was the love of my life. I have to figure out how to fill the moments that would be filled with his company, his conversations, his laughter.

You’ve filled some of that time with interesting projects. You just released a new song.

Yes, the song is called “Rise Up.” It’s a call for people to let their voices be heard, to not be afraid, to say what’s on their mind. Speak up for democracy. Speak up with love and determination for democracy.

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