Monday, March 11, 2013

The All-Girl Revolution in The Marvelous Land of Oz

Baum's second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, follows a boy named Tip after he escapes from his cruel guardian, the witch Mombi. He brings his creation Jack Pumpkinhead with him, and during his adventures he meets a Wooden Sawhorse, a Highly Magnified Woggle-Bug, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman.

When Tip arrives at the Emerald City, the Scarecrow is still the ruler just as he was at the close of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Though he is a benevolent ruler, all is not well with his citizens.

The Army of Revolt is made up of girls from all over Oz who have arrived to march on the city. They are led by the confident General Jinjur (Get it? Jinjur=ginger. Red is the opposite of green, so she is unsuited for the Emerald City. This book is full of groaners, but I laughed at all of them).

General Jinjur explains the army's objections to the Scarecrow's rule this way:

"Because the Emerald City has been ruled by men long enough, for one reason," said the girl. "Moreover, the City glitters with beautiful gems, which might far better be used for rings, bracelets and necklaces; and there is enough money in the King's treasury to buy every girl in our Army a dozen new gowns. So we intend to conquer the City and run the government to suit ourselves."

General Jinjur goes on to say that her army will be unopposed because no one would raise a hand to a girl, and, besides, all of the girls in the Army of Revolt are pretty. Each soldier carries a pair of knitting needles as her weapon of choice. When the army does take over, General Jinjur eats caramels while lounging on her throne and wearing a crown. Women and men switch workloads. The women take on plowing fields while men do the laundry and take care of their children, much to this dismay of the men. It reminds me of an either Victorian or Edwardian political cartoon that depicted a father pushing a pram as a ridiculous idea.

"We've had a revolution, your Majesty--as you ought to know very well," replied the man; "and since you went away the women have been running things to suit themselves. I'm glad you have decided to come back to restore order, for doing housework and minding the children is wearing out the strength of every man in the Emerald City."

"Hm!" said the Scarecrow, thoughtfully. "If it is such hard work as you say, how did the women manage it so easily?"

"I really do not know," replied the man, with a deep sigh. "Perhaps the women are made of cast-iron."

Just whom is Baum making fun of here? Are feminists or are anti-suffragist men being panned? Baum was the son-in-law of suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage, and he supported women's rights. Susan B. Anthony was sometimes a guest in the Baum household. And yet, he depicts an all-girl army as being silly and shallow. But the men don't see typical women's work as something they should do. They grumble about it, and welcome the Scarecrow back because he is expected to put things back the way they were.

But the Army of Revolt fights with knitting needles, and women had knit clothing for soldiers during the American Civil War, so in that way Baum has them fighting a war in a way only women can. In the dialogue above a man says that the women might be made of cast-iron rather than the response I expected, which is the belief that women are naturally inclined to take care of children. There is also a hint of vanity in men when General Jinjur says the army of the Emerald City, the lone man known as Green Whiskers, is weak because he has spent his strength growing his floor-length beard. This seems to me to be a jab at those who believe women should worry more about their looks than their rights.

Whomever Baum is poking fun at, I think his solution for all of the fighting lies in men and women working together. Glinda and her all-girl army assist Scarecrow, Tip, and the others in winning back the Emerald City. However, this is where things take a very unexpected turn. Before the Wizard ruled, the throne belonged to King Pastoria. When Pastoria was overthrown, his daughter Ozma went missing. Glinda questions the old witch Mombi until she reveals Tip is actually Ozma, whom Mombi transformed into a boy.

Ozma claims the throne, the soldiers in the Army of Revolt are sent back to their mothers, "the men of the Emerald City cast off their aprons," and the women are happy because they were tired of eating their husbands cooking. Wah wah waaaaaah.

Ozma is unopposed, and Scarecrow opts to become Treasurer of Winkie country where Tin Woodman rules as Emperor. All of Ozma's citizens say she is a better ruler the Wizard ever was, and that the things she does are truly wonderful, whereas the Wizard's goodness was all artifice. As they say, "...our new Queen does many things no one would ever expect her to accomplish." In the end, Baum puts a woman in power, and with that power she proves herself to be worthy of rule. Despite the very questionable satire on the feminist movement via the Army of Revolt, Baum shows his support for women's rights through Ozma, Glinda, and Glinda's all-girl army.