Baum’s mother-in-law was none other than famous activist and suffragette Matilda Joslyn Gage. She was a frequent visitor at their house, as were many other suffragettes of the time, including Susan B. Anthony. Baum was not only sympathetic to their cause, but active towards it, serving as the secretary for Aberdeen Women’s Suffrage Club, and writing editorials for the “Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer,” urging citizens to vote for women’s suffrage. The revolt of Jinjur in “The Marvelous World of Oz” is an allusion to the women’s movement, and it’s said that the gutsy character of Dorothy was inspired by Matilda, though one can easily see a bit of feisty Maud in her, too.
Though Baum brushed off claims that Oz was at all political, he made a decided choice to make women front and center of the series. They’re princesses, ordinary farmgirls, witches (both good and bad), rag dolls, generals, pastry chefs, and problem-solving faeries. They have adventures, lead search parties, rescue one another, solve difficulties, and challenge the Nome King in combat. Perhaps most significantly, none of the characters -– not Ozma, Glinda, Betsy or Dorothy –- ever engage in romantic relationships. Baum made a point of avoiding such trappings as love interests, because he believed children would find passionate romance boring, and an emotional element which they wouldn’t truly understand. Perhaps there was a personal element in this as well, as Baum, conscious of what Maud sacrificed in order to marry him, allowed his heroines perpetual youth and personal freedom.