Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mary Louise and the Liberty Girls

On to book four!

This was actually the first of the Mary Louise books I picked up. I'd gotten an Amazon gift card for Christmas last year and as I was collecting the Aunt Jane's Nieces series at the time, I decided to see if I could find any of the books I still needed on Amazon. I saw this one available for a nice low price, so I bought it. This prompted me to look for the rest of the series.

This one was published in 1918, the same year the last Aunt Jane's Nieces book was revised and reissued. Both that ending and this book at hand give us a big look into Baum's patriotism.

Mary Louise and Grandpa Jim are urging people to buy war bonds to help fund the United States' war efforts. People are reluctant, so Mary Louise suggests she and her girl friends go about soliciting door-to-door, organizing as "The Liberty Girls."

While the Liberty Girls are successful in raising their goal, Mary Louise finds circulars denouncing America's involvement in the war and discouraging buying bonds. Who printed these circulars and why are they doing this? Are they German spies and sympathizers?

The Liberty Girls decide to start a thrift shop, all profits going to buy encouraging gifts for the troops (treats, games, cigarettes, etc.), and during this endeavor, Josie O' Gorman arrives in town and begins investigating the mysterious circulars. Her investigation takes her through several suspects, and at one point, she even has to feign a quarrel with Mary Louise.

Soon, Josie has decided she has picked out the entire spy ring, and when she finally apprehends the suspects, it turns out most of them were innocent of the scheme. While the troublemaker is finished off, Josie feels quite distraught over her error.

The final chapter, one of Baum's most obvious anticlimaxes (even the trip south in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz can even be read as further developing the characters after their visit with the Wizard), reveals how the Liberty Girls find new avenues to support the war effort.

Mary Louise gets to shine when it comes to patriotism, and to her credit, she is the one to form the Liberty Girls, though it is Irene who comes up with the new enterprises. Alora's in the Liberty Girls as well, and the airplane factory (though no mention of Stephen Kane is made) reappears and plays a role in the plot as well.

The most disturbing thing is how quick our protagonists demonize people of any German origin. It must be noted that Baum had some German ancestry himself. While these spurious suspicions seem dated, it's not like we're very different these days. Not too long ago we were quick to suspect people from the Middle East or who were obviously Muslim. We no longer demonize Gemany, but it's not because we advanced, we just don't fear them any more. Thus, in many ways, a big part of the book is dated, a product of its time.

And as it is, Baum makes it clear that not every German related person is anti-American. Not only are some of Josie's suspects innocent, but a suspect of Mary Louise, while he hates the idea of people having to go to war, is actually very patriotic. When his son is injured in the war, he takes it as a badge of honor. He explains it as that he hates the war, but loves the country.

Next up is Mary Louise Adopts A Soldier. This is considered Baum's last Mary Louise book, but I have heard that some say that only some of it was by Baum and the rest was finished by an editor at Reilly & Lee, or possibly Emma Speed Sampson. I'll give you my opinion then. That will also conclude these blogs about the last series that L. Frank Baum created.

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