09 October 2008

Wonderful Weekend of Oz in Fayetteville, NY

Today I start a journey westward to the Wonderful Weekend of Oz in Fayetteville, New York, outside of Syracuse. This convention on 10-12 Oct 2008 is co-sponsored by the International Wizard of Oz Club and the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation.

Gage (1826-1898) was a pioneering feminist and the mother-in-law of L. Frank Baum. She's credited as one of the three editors of the first three volumes of The History of Woman Suffrage (1881-1887), along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. However, as I learned at a seminar by Prof. Lisa Tetrault last February, Gage was dismayed to find her material largely rewritten. Anthony and Stanton seem to have wanted to draw on her archive of early feminist literature, but had their own ideas on how to portray the political movement.

Gage broke with Anthony and Stanton in order to write Women, Church, and State, an examination of how many religions relegated women to subordinate roles and made God solely masculine. She composed such passages as:

To the theory of “God the Father,” shorn of the divine attribute of motherhood, is the world beholden for its most degrading beliefs, its most infamous practices. Dependent upon and identified with lost Motherhood is the “Lost Name” of ancient writers and occultists. When the femininity of the divine is once again acknowledged, the “Lost Name” will be discovered and holiness (wholeness) of divinity be manifested.
Challenging religious precepts was too radical for Anthony, who was trying not to alarm mainstream America with the notion of women voting.

Gage lived in Fayetteville, and raised her daughter Maud there. L. Frank Baum grew up in nearby Chittenango and Syracuse, son of a wealthy lubricant manufacturer. He met Maud when he was a mildly successful actor and playwright, and they married in her mother's house. Later Matilda Gage moved west to live with her daughter and son-in-law, and family tradition credits her with encouraging Baum to write down the magical stories he told his sons.

2 comments:

ericshanower said...

I read Woman, Church, and State a couple months ago in anticipation of attending this convention. It is a powerful book. I was fully prepared to find it drudgery to get through, but I was almost immediately captivated. I was intrigued that, despite the advances of women in the past 100+ years, so much of the attitudes she wrote about in the book pervade our society still. The book has stayed with me since I read it and I find myself looking at people and media around me through its lens.

See you at the con!

J. L. Bell said...

It was good to see you in Fayetteville!

Incidentally, your comment here has spurred one Oz and Ends reader to take Gage’s book out of the library. That would be my mother.