By Susan Wilson
Guest Columnist
Oak Bluffs, MA, USA

She’s persistent. She’s polite. She’s not to be dissuaded from her goal. She is open to learning a lesson. She has leadership skills along with a knack for encouraging other people. She speaks her mind when necessary. She has a small dog to whom she is devoted. She’s Dorothy.

Dorothy Gale, as portrayed by the inimitable Judy Garland, has been a fixture in our collective conscience since the movie, The Wizard of Oz, was released back in August of 1939. Prewar, but much of the world was already on the way to the defining conflict of the 20th century. The nation was just coming out of the Depression. Much of the Midwest was enduring the ravages of the Dust Bowl when years of drought and excessive tilling caused the cataclysmic erosion of topsoil and choking dust storms. Along comes Dorothy and her restless dissatisfaction with Kansas, with a hardscrabble life, with the likes of mean-hearted Miss Gulch. She wishes she was elsewhere, somewhere, as we know, over the rainbow. She gets her wish. The grim black and white with the menace of the tornado over the flatlands of Kansas bursts into Technicolor and the world is new. 

The last year or so has been an interesting (for lack of a better word) time for women. We’ve come this close to electing the first woman president of the United States. We’ve seen a march on Washington that no one can dispute was a powerful message sent by the women—and men—who gathered on the Mall to protest the election of a…no, I won’t go there. But, I was there, in Washington and it was an uplifting and empowering few hours of my life. If I felt, in my cynical way, that the impetus would fade, I was wrong. We saw the downfall of so many predatory and just plain sophomoric men as women finally stood up and said: No more! We are seeing more and more women throw their pussy hats into the elective office arena. My own local hospital has hired a woman CEO! 

Susan and husband David Wilson, Women's March on Washington, D.C. (Jan. 21, 2017)

This past New Year’s Eve my husband and I thought it was time for the grandkids to see The Wizard of Oz. Growing up, it had been as much a tradition around Christmas for us as the tree and presents. Of course, with only a black and white set, we had to imagine the Technicolor. Today, we have three grandkids, Claire, age eight, Will six, and Rocco, three and a half. Perfect for the song and dance routines, the Munchkins, and a story of four unlikely friends on an adventure. Plus, we have a nice flat screen television, so the Technicolor really pops. 

It wasn’t just the new television, this time, I watched it with new eyes, eyes that had been opened by the new dynamic of our country, and I saw something else, something maybe even a little bit profound. Dorothy is a role model. She’s not a victim. She’s confused, and lost, and desirous of going home, but she wears those ruby slippers and forges on, taking her salvation into her own hands. She is the undisputed leader of the quartet, even though Scarecrow does offer his shy advice from time to time. She is at once their mother and their boss. She’s messed with and thwarted and yet never loses her cool, except during that one moving scene where she gives into tears of frustration and the palace guard takes pity on her. She is mid-western polite even when defending herself against the Wizard’s reneging on his promises. She even saves the day when she throws the water to save her burning friend, and takes the Wicked Witch down with all of her beautiful wickedness. The ultimate battle between good and evil. Good doesn’t wish ill on anyone and is remorseful. Evil mourns wickedness. But Dorothy has moved from Innocence to, as William Blake writes, Experience. And when the Wizard is exposed as the fake he is, the blustering, bombastic, creation of his own mind, she takes him to task. He hasn’t outwitted her, hasn’t broken her spirit. He hasn’t shaken her off. She wants what he promised, not just to her, but to her companions. She won’t be silenced. She isn’t shrill, she simply expects fair play. 

Dorothy never looks at the ruby slippers as a fashion statement. She wears them because Glinda told her they were hers by right. She has no vanity, only a perfect desire to go home. She has a lesson to learn, say it with me now: There’s no place like home. But, at the same time she’s grown up, she’s gone from child to woman. I have no doubt that the Dorothy Gale who awakens in her little farmhouse bed, is not the same girl who was caught in a storm. She knows what she has, family, fond farmhands, but I don’t think that she goes backwards. I think that her eyes have been opened and she now knows what she’s made of. What she’s capable of. 

What did my grandchildren see? 



Susan Wilson is a New York Times bestselling author. Her latest novel, Two Good Dogs, was published in March 2017.

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.