An unexpected feminist in an unexpected time

I’ve been reading to my children the OZ books, since I’ve always enjoyed them so much, and have come to one of the parts that have always made me cringe. In the second book, The Marvelous Land of OZ, we come across an army of pretty girls armed with knitting needles intent on taking over the Emerald City to take the jewels (which would be better used as jewelry) and raid the treasury (which woud buy each of the girls a dozen dresses each). To me, this seems to have been a rather scathing rendition of the suffragettes of the authors day (1907).

So, being fortunate enough to live in a time where we could look up such things, I decided to look up what relationship L Frank Baum (the author) had with the womens suffrage movement of the early 20th century. What I found surprised me.

Baum was the secretary of his town suffragette society. Susan B Anthony stayed at his house when she was in town. He’d evidently also written several other books, not in the OZ series, of girl detectives and of women in traditionally male activities. I was also reminded of the many strong female characters in the OZ series. From the start, Dorothy moves forward to find her way home, helped not ony by a small cadre of male characters, but also the strongest magic users in the land, all women. Even in this second book, after defeating the silly army of girls, the land of OZ becomes led by Ozma, who advocates for gender equality. The remaining books have just as many female as male main characters, all strong in their own way. It’s funny that this one characature throws me every time I read it.

Sometimes that’s the way we can be; despite all the good things we see in someone, we take one thing we think is bad, expand it, magnify it, and let it remove all the good impressions we had before. I think that’s part of why we’re told to not judge. Not only can we never really know all the details or circumstances involved, we can have our own biases that get in the way.

And it’s cool to learn that L Frank Baum wass a feminist.


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