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Behind Every Great Man: Women in the Shadows of History's Alpha Males

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  331 ratings  ·  68 reviews
A fresh and fascinating look at the untold half of history

Throughout history, men have gotten most of the good ink. Often overlooked are the extraordinary wives, mistresses, and companions who were every bit as instrumental in shaping their destinies. Discover Emma Wedgewood (Mrs. Charles Darwin), Alma Reveille (Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock), and 26 more women who stood behind th
Published February 3rd 2015 by Sourcebooks (first published February 1st 2015)
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Marlene Wagman-Geller Hi! I felt my editor was quite liberal in allowing this chapter. Dylan was prescient, "The times they were a-changin.'"
The best,
Hi! I felt my editor was quite liberal in allowing this chapter. Dylan was prescient, "The times they were a-changin.'"
The best,
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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Kelly Hubbard
I loved the idea of this book, however I found myself annoyed by the writing style of the author as well as the lack of content. There are a couple chapters that I have marked as I would like to do a bit more research on but mainly I found that the author was reciting the wikipedia page of the women in question. I wanted to know more about their story beyond where they were born, their parents and if they had children or not. I wanted to know how they influenced their husbands, agreed/disagreed ...more
nikkia neil
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
I enjoyed this book so much! I learned a lot about history that i didn't know and its helped me understand more of the historical fiction I read also. Everyone needs to read this! ...more
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
Behind Every Great Man: Forgotten Women Behind the World's Famous and Infamous by Marlene Wagman-Geller was touted as about the women who helped 'propel' their husbands 'to the top'.

I was all for reading about gals like, say, Dolley Madison and Abigail Adams, but who had been forgotten by the historians. (Likely because they were too busy writing about the men.) 28 women nearly forgotten! Including Alma Hitchcock and Emma Wedgewood Darwin!

Wagman-Geller is very entertaining. You laugh out loud, y
C.E. Clayton
“Behind Every Great Man” has a great—pardon the pun—premise: highlighting the lives of extraordinary women whose lives and accomplishments have been forgotten in the shadow of their famous—or infamous—husbands. Forty women whose names have been forgotten, some while still alive, is documented in short 5-8 page chapters in a rather light and sometimes humorous manner. But for how perfect this books sounds, how desperately I wanted to praise these forgotten sister’s accomplishments, about 80% of t ...more
Katherine P
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
The length of the chapters was really perfect. It was just long enough to give us a good understanding of where each woman came from, how she met her famous (or infamous) husband, and what her life was like as a married woman. There was enough to get a sense of the woman without getting overly bogged down in detail. I thought her choices of women was terrific as they were all the wives of people I was familiar with but almost all the names were new to me. I know nothing about Einstein's first wi ...more
Mar 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: feminism
This book is quite bad. Not only is it completely negative about the relationship between men and women, but the author's attempts to be clever actually make it impossible to figure out the facts. The women are portrayed as slavishly attached to their husbands' talent and position, with no will or principles of their own. The men chosen for this book are for the most part philandering, narcissistic and crass. Even those who have been acclaimed for their ethical leadership are portrayed with inse ...more
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
While I enjoyed the premise of this book the writing was a bit disjointed. The writer seemed torn between styles. Certain sections would lean towards tell-all gossip, which was interesting, and more formal sections, which conveyed information and a sense of timeline. Occasionally I would read an entire section only to realize I'd forgotten the woman's name, because it was only mentioned once or twice. Writing like that, did not highlight the woman herself, and several sections often seemed more ...more
Rhonda Lomazow
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful read really a must for all the strong women who stand behind their'll laugh &you'll learn history of famous&infamous couples .the good the bad&other ugly.this book would make for a great book club read. ...more
Pat Lampe
I liked the idea of this book. The stories were quite brief but enough so that if you were interested, you could find other biographies. I didn't know the background of many of the men she chose, much less their wives. So in many ways this was an introduction. Likeable. ...more
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I received a free copy of this book from the GoodReads First Reads Program in exchange for an honest review. Both entertaining and educational, I really enjoyed this book.
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
So far so good. This is my first Wagman-Geller book, I like the length of the chapters and her wit. The only thing I hate is the work is not unbiased which almost caused me to put it down.
Vicki Hoppenrath
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was very interesting. It was illuminating about many of the women. You realize that many were invisible while their husbands were in the Spotlight.
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While at times interesting, I am disappointed in this book. I was under the impression that this book would discuss how these women influenced their man's careers or they had some lesser fame that was over shadowed by their husbands. This was not the case. Instead it seemed to highlight how many wives and mistresses were abused and cheated on. It seems like staying with your man and pumping out babies was a lot of these woman's accomplishes. Some chapters seemed to discuss the husbands more than ...more
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I like the idea of learning more about the women behind the men in history. I don't much like that this book use these women as a cheap excuse to make bad jokes, and can't be bothered to cite the memoirs written by those same women. It's hard to be impressed when all of your research is websites. ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Another fascinating read by Marlene Wagman-Geller. This book does not disappoint. I really enjoyed learning about women behind the men who dominate history and who are barely even mentioned as a foot note in their stories. From the sad story of Einstein’s wife who after helping him with his discoveries and then cruelly pushed aside when it suited him to the kinky love life of Mrs Fleming. It’s a varied mix of stories that are both fascinating and at times painfully sad.
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Really, I would give this 2.5 stars. There are things I did like about this book, but not enough to say I liked the book. I put this book on my list of missed opportunity books. I LOVE the premise of this book and I was very excited when I found it. I love women's history and find it especially fascinating to read about women who stand in the shadows making history rather than the headliners; so this book seemed right up my ally.
So why was it a missed opportunity? First off, I really disliked t
Reading Harbor
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
***Disclaimer: This was a Good Reads Win.***

I was excited to receive this book because I thought it would offer some insightful vignettes as to how some great women helped raise/ support / nurture men. As you know, most of history is written by men - the feminist movement did not start until late, maybe 1920-ish in America and is still non-existent in some parts of the world. Although I would not necessarily consider myself a staunch feminist, I do support history correctly reflecting the signif
I loved the idea behind the book, and the information was good (if incomplete). It was the writing itself that stretched what should've been an afternoon read into three weeks. Some of the cross references and attempts at humor are either awkward or just oddly placed, and even paragraph breaks seem often to be a sentence too soon or too late. The topic will apparently have changed when suddenly a lost statement from the previous topic surfaces, disconnected. These things cause the book to read a ...more
Katy Cater
Jan 18, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction
This book was not well-written. One thing that really bothered me is that the author attributes thoughts to people. For instance, "He assured her of its success by explaining all women loved furs; she bit her tongue from responding the only time she had ever seen one was on the shoulders of his lovers, a present from him." Maybe this thought was stated in an autobiography or letter, but the presentation seems strange to me. I also feel like the majority of the stories I read were less about the ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women
"It was very tragic seeing her name carved in a tombstone - her surname, my name not mentioned. I had a sense of the uselessness of all regrets. Life is a very terrible thing." Oscar Wilde In 1963, her family added an addendum to her tombstone: wife of Oscar Wilde."

"Gandhi was burdened with lifelong guilt that he had been in the throes of lust with his teenage wife when his father breathed his last, without his son at his side."

"As Gertrude Stein lay dying she asked Alice B. Toklas What is the a
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
I really enjoyed reading about women that history has forgotten. I think the concept for this book is really great. Some of the women ("Mrs. Robin Gibb" Dwina, for example), don't seem to quite fit the mold of the book. Wagman-Geller states that the book is to show off women that history has forgotten or neglected, but who have made an impact in the life of their famous or infamous husband. A small handful of women seem to just be wives. The way their story is told doesn't provide solid evidence ...more
Wished I could click 3.5 stars since I liked this book for what it was - a plucky and humorous view of women behind their famous men. I didn't know who was crazier - the male geniuses or the women who stayed married to them or pursued them? But I sure enjoyed learning more about both since Wagman-Geller is great at bringing in trivia that I hadn't heard about before. It made for frolicking right-before-bedtime read that prompted chuckling and head shaking disbelief at the craziness of some peopl ...more
Julia Bragg
Apr 29, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book had such a potential to tell an amazing story - it really did. However, it didn't tell that story. It was basically like reading each woman's wikipedia page, instead of focusing on their individual accomplishments aside from where they grew up, who their parents are, and their children. This book failed this women just as society "forgot" as the title suggests. ...more
Jennifer Martin
Feb 04, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish, 2016
Really great premise but really poor execution. Selection of women was interesting. Bios read like they were written for blog; half the sentences sound like the author wanted to put "lol" after them. The choice of details included were odd at best and there is little to no attempt to put things in historical or chronological context.

Wasted a great idea with really poor writing.
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Short biographies of women and their famous partners make up this interesting book. While the chapters only give a mini- synopsis of the women and their partners, Geller entices you to want to learn more about these women. Some of the women written about include Eva Braun, Oona ONeill, Winnie Mandela and Constance Lloyd. Fascinating!
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
40 informative, mini-biographies of women who played pivotal roles in the lives and accomplishments of infamous and famous men over the last 120 years. The stories have elements of happiness, tragedy, love and intrigue. Some of the stories left me shaking my head in disbelief, in the end I learned a great deal.
Kristin Benninghoff
The untold stories

This was a completely fascinating look at the intimate lives of historic couples. A quick and easy read that I really enjoyed.
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favourite pick of 2016! Witty and humorous i even laughed on the train while reading this
Kiki Z
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book is fascinating in the way watching a trainwreck is fascinating. These women are, as a whole, not the sort of people one should idolize. Either they themselves are questionable people, or they are the sort of women who give up their entire lives and well-being for terrible men who treat them badly. Some of it is the time, all of it is upsetting. I have no idea how much of this is because the author spends very few pages on each woman and only covers the surface, but it makes for some qu ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
The blog says, “Discover the Little Known Women Who Have Put the World's Alpha Males on the Map”! This is another inspiring book by Marlene Wagman-Geller. In this book she looks at forty women behind famous and infamous men. This includes, Constance Lloyd, Mrs Oscar Wilde, Carolyn Adams, Mrs Jerry Garcia, Alma Reville, Mrs Alfred Hitchcock, Elena Diakonova, Mrs Salvador Dali, Winifred Madikizela, Nelson Mandela’s wife and Ann Charteris, Mrs Ian Fleming.
In Marlene’s prologue she says the well-kno
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Marlene Wagman-Geller grew up in Toronto and is a lifelong bibliophile. She is a veteran high school English teacher in National City, California, and currently lives in San Diego.

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