The Wonderful Women of Oz
September 18, 2020
Hello! I spent several years writing a very long paper on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. In this paper I looked into Baum, his influences, the world he lived in, and his incredible children’s book to show that Oz was the first feminist children’s book in American literature. Take a look below to find some fun facts and resources to discover a side to the classic that you might not have known. This blog post is based on that research and uses some resources beyond the scope of the library.
- Matilda Joslyn Gage: I would argue that the most important person in the creation of Oz was Matilda Gage, a fierce feminist, accomplished author, and the mother-in-law to Baum himself. In 1893 she published a book titled Women, Church and State which was one of the first compilations of women’s history. In the book she discusses important concepts such as the role a matriarchy could play (the witches rule Oz) and the idea that women were human too, meaning they could be both good (like Glinda) and evil (like the Wicked Witch of the West). Gage was also one of Susan B Anthony’s right hands, and was irreplaceable in the women’s movement, despite being written out of history due to her opposition of the church. Check out some resources below.
2. Dorothy Gale: The 1939 film The Wizard of Oz presents a much different representation of Dorothy Gale from the original six year old that leads the book. In the book after being whisked away into another land, Dorothy completes the hero’s journey, maintains her independence and is responsible for her male counterparts’ (the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion) survival. She never allows her fear to overcome her, and is constantly resourceful and self-reliant. Try giving the original book a read! It is an engaging and terrific story with a sense of wonder that surpasses the film. You can check out the book here or the audiobook here!
3. Re-tellings: One of the main reasons why The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is not considered feminist and has so many other theories applied to it is due to the legacy of the 1939 film. However, when looking into other adaptations, it becomes clear that the story maintains the empowerment of young women, a matriarchal society overcoming a corrupt patriarchal one, and belief in humanity, friendship and kindness. Take a look at some of the resources below to learn more!