No Witch is a Bad Witch: A Commentary on the Erasure of Matilda Joslyn Gage

24 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2010

Date Written: November 30, 2009


As part of the Law and Literature symposium, Taking Oz Seriously, held at Albany Law School in November 2009, this Essay focuses on the life of Matilda Joslyn Gage, mother-in-law of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum. It also uses the text of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, to explore the nature of power (or the illusion of it) and hierarchy, especially in organizations which seek progressive objectives. It examines power and the means used for its maintenance in Oz. The Essay provides some basic analyses on the operation and maintenance of hierarchy. In this regard, this Essay might be viewed as the next phase of the theories identified in The Paradox of Hierarchy – Or Why We Always Choose the Tools of the Master’s House, New York University Review of Law & Social Change, Vol. 31, p. 627, 2001.

This Essay also provides a comparison between fantasy and reality and explores the complexities of hierarchy in real historical context. The Essay includes a short biography of the life of Joslyn Gage, especially pointing out her contributions to woman’s equality and history, and detailing her advocacy against Christian witch-hunts. The text applies lessons learned from the nature of hierarchy to give insight into how Joslyn Gage came to be omitted from history. Contemporary examples, including references to Frederick Douglas, Francis Willard, and Ida B. Wells, are used for comparison and support of the general theories of hierarchy. Encompassing the overall discussion are musings about the role of fantasy and activism in finding real change.

Suggested Citation

Fenton, Zanita E., No Witch is a Bad Witch: A Commentary on the Erasure of Matilda Joslyn Gage (November 30, 2009). Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, Vol. 20, 2010; University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-35. Available at SSRN:

Zanita E. Fenton (Contact Author)

University of Miami ( email )

Coral Gables, FL 33124

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