How did the The Wizard of Oz reflect the ideas and values of the Progressive Era in the early 1900's?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In developing the idea of speaking out for others and authentication of individual voice through inclusion, I think that Baum's work speaks to the Progressivist ideals of the early portion of the 20th Century.  The Progressives sought to bring more people into the political and social process of the time period.  The inclusion of women, people of color, and workers were examples of this.  When Jacob Riis photographs "the other half," he does so with the idea of being able to bring another aspect of social reality into focus.  In much the same way, Dorothy does not exclude anyone.  The Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow are all excluded from society.  When they are encountered, they are not the wielders of social and political power, and yet, Dorothy validates their voice and hears their plight.  In doing so, she represents a Progressivist ideal.  In addition to this, Dorothy sets out to destroy evil.   While she wishes to get home, she understands through her quest that destroying the Wicked Witch of the East is the only way this is possible.  She is aware of what power the witch holds.  While Dorothy is far from secure as to how this will play out, she embraces the challenge for she understands that the destruction of unequal distribution of power is vitally important to both herself and the social order of Oz.  In this, Dorothy is a Progressivist for the Progressive thinkers understood that there was something wrong in remaining silent when there was such a unequal distribution of wealth and power in American society.

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