June 10, 2010

Dorothy Gale

"Oh, but anyway, Toto, we're home. Home!
And this is my room, and you're all here.
And I'm not gonna leave ever, ever again, because I love you all, and -- oh, Auntie Em -- there's no place like home!"

Thomas Clarkson Gage, son of Henry Hill Gage and Matilda Electa Joslyn, was born 18 Jul 1848 in Manilus, NY and died 10 Oct 1938 in Aberdeen, SD. He married Sophie Taylor Jewell, daughter of Francis S. Jewell and Eliza Alling Shipman, 1 Jun 1885 in Aberdeen. She was born 4 Feb 1855 in Rochester, NY and died 26 Dec 1945 in Aberdeen.

Matilda Electa was a suffragist, a Native American activist, an abolitionist, a freethinker and a prolific author who was born with a hatred of oppression. She was considered to be more radical than either Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton (with whom she wrote History of Woman Suffrage). There is a memorial stone at Fayetteville Cemetery that bears her slogan:

“There is a word sweeter than Mother, Home or Heaven. That word is Liberty.”

She had also been a serious student of the occult during the last decade of her life, and came to believe in reincarnation. Matilda explained to one of her grandchildren the year before her own death:

“There is one thing I want you to remember first of all: This is that what is called ‘death’ by people is not death. You are more alive than ever you were after what is called death. Death is only a journey, like going to another country. You are alive when you travel to Aberdeen just as much as when you stay in Edgeley (North Dakota), and it is the same with what is called death. After people have been gone for awhile, they come back and live in another body, in another family and have another name.”

When Matilda died, her daughter-in-law, Sophie Gage, was expecting a child. It would be the last of the Gage line, born to Matilda’s only son Clarkson. The baby was born in June 1898 and was given a popular name of the time, one that even her Uncle Frank Baum, a noted author, had previously used in Mother Goose in Prose. Sophie had already lost one baby seven years before, so everyone was worried. Sadly, the child lived for five months and died in November of congestion of the brain. Maud attended the funeral and was so distraught she had to have medical treatment. “Dorothy was a perfectly beautiful baby,” Maud wrote her sister Helen. “I could have taken her for my very own and loved her devotedly.”

Frank was just putting the finishing touches on the story Maud had been urging him to put to paper for a long time. As legend has it, the story evolved as Baum wove it for his children and their friends. It was a fairytale about a magical land and a little girl who wanted to go home. Seeing his wife so distraught after the funeral, and not knowing how to comfort her, he named the heroine after little Dorothy, forever immortalizing the child. When it came out in 1900, he dedicated it to “my good friend and comrade, My Wife.” And in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Frank gave Maud her Dorothy.

Matilda was twelve when her sister Dorothy died, and was inclined to believe that her uncle had come upon the name Dorothy simply because it was a popular girl’s name of the time. However, there is a clear pattern in Baum’s work of using his wife’s family’s names. Dorothy’s aunt and uncle may have been named for Maud’s parents: Matilda, who occasionally signed her work “M” (Em), and Henry. Matilda Joslyn Gage’s maiden name appears as the family name of The Master Key (1901); likewise Joslyn is the name of the little boy in The Yellow Ryl (1906), a short story published in A Child’s Garden (August and September 1925); and appears again as a family name in Mary Louise in the Country (1916), here spelled “Jocelyn.”

Children of Thomas and Sophie Gage:

Matilda Jewell Gage was born 22 Apr 1886 in Aberdeen. Unlike her sisters Dorothy and Alice, Matilda lived a long life, dying three months before her 100th birthday.

Alice Eliza Gage was born abt. 1891 and died that year.

Dorothy Louise Gage was born 11 Jun 1898 in Bloomington, IL and died that year on the 11th of November. For nearly 100 years, a story was handed down through generations of Baums about a niece named Dorothy who died and was immortalized in Frank’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But it wasn’t until the fall of 1996, when Dr. Sally Roesch Wager, doing research on Matilda Electa Joslyn Gage, located her grave at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Bloomington, IL.

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