How Historically Accurate Is Libby On 'Masters of Sex'? Bill's First Wife Is A Bit of A Mystery
Showtime's Masters of Sex balances historical figures in the science world with a healthy dose of fiction. While we know plenty about the real Masters and Johnson, is Libby historically accurate on Masters of Sex ? Libby Masters is based on the real life Elisabeth Ellis, who was married to William Masters when he started his groundbreaking research.
Spoiler Alert: in real life, Bill Masters and Elisabeth Ellis did get divorced 1971 and he married Virginia Johnson. Their marriage eventually ended as well, but that wasn't until they both retired in the 1990s. Frankly, none of this should be too surprising if you're familiar with Masters of Sex and the character dynamics on the series. On the show, Bill and Virginia's relationship is tied way to their work in a way more complex than anything I've ever seen, and his marriage to Libby seemed doomed from the first season.
So, was the real Elizabeth Masters anything like her real life counterpart? In short, it's difficult to say! Since the first wife of William Masters never published a book or revolutionized anything, there isn't much information out there about her. We don't know much about her personality or relationships compared to the show. Still, here a a few tidbits that I was able to discover.
They Had A Long Marriage
William and Elisabeth Masters were married in 1942 and divorced in 1971. That's almost three decades! However, the fact that, in real life, Bill Masters married Virginia Johnson within a year that he and Ellis got divorced says to me that Masters of Sex can't be too far off about the nature of their relationship.
In fact, an NPR interview with Thomas Maier, who wrote the novel the series is based on, basically confirms that Elisabeth Ellis' marriage basically ended due to her husband's jealousy of the relationship Virginia had with one of their research consultants, who inspired Josh Charles' character on the series.
"Hank Walter was his name — wound up having an affair with Virginia Johnson, and that eventually Virginia wanted to get married to Walter. When Masters found that out, he finally decided that he was going to end his [first] marriage. The thing that was most important to him was not his family, not even necessarily his relationship with Virginia — it was that work that they were doing, that brand name of Masters and Johnson. And so Masters ended his long marriage, told his kids that he was divorcing their mother, and got married to Virginia."
They Did Have Two Children
As the interview above mentions, the couple did have two children in their lifetime. Their names were Sarah, and William Masters III, not Johnny and Jenny like the characters on the Showtime series.
She Got Far Away From Bill
At least, I hope she did. As I mentioned, it's not easy to find much about Elisabeth Ellis after she and Masters divorced, but one account has her marrying a man named Royall and dying in New England in 2001. Frankly, though she proves difficult to track down, I'm glad that Bill Masters' first spouse was able to stay out of the spotlight and get on with her life.
Images: Liz Von Hoene, Michael Desmond (3)/Showtime