Collector Q&A

Gita Morena & All Things "Oz"

Dr. Gita Dorothy Morena

Dr. Gita Dorothy Morena is a transpersonal psychotherapist, certified in Jungian Sandplay Therapy, as well as a marriage, family, and child therapist. She is also the great-granddaughter of L. Frank Baum, one of the world’s most beloved authors of children’s books, including the magical and unforgettable The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  A practicing therapist in the San Diego area for more than 40 years, Morena is a collector of all things Oz, and has been the keeper of the family’s treasure trove of her grandfather’s memorabilia.  As a practicing Jungian psychologist, she appreciates many of the enduring themes that run through Baum’s works, including wisdom, compassion, and courage. His writings tell us, she says, that each of us wants to find “home,” but that we don’t often realize that peace and contentment already reside within each of us. We each must take our own journey to find it.

Q: How did you begin collecting Oz-related materials and what are some of the items in your collection?

A: My grandparents, Kenneth and Dorothy Baum, were the recipients of much of the family memorabilia, which was subsequently passed on to me by my mother, Ozma. Some of my holdings include signed first editions of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz, the first and second books in the Oz series, and the 1939 program produced for the inaugural screening of The Wizard of Oz movie at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. I also have first-editions of most of the Oz series books, as well as other children’s series books that my great-grandfather wrote under various pseudonyms.

Q: What can you tell us about the Oz books, and how Baum was inspired to write them, after the wild success of his masterpiece, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?

A: Interestingly enough, my great-grandfather had no intention of writing an Oz series. He stated that if he received 1,000 letters from children asking for a sequel, only then would he write another book.  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first published in 1900. He paid for the color plates himself, as his publisher didn’t want to spend the money, and by 1904, with the encouragement of many readers, The Marvelous Land of Oz became the second in the series. Twelve other Oz books would follow, and are now classics in the field of children’s literature.

Q: While he is known for the Oz books, Baum was actually a pretty prolific writer, producing a number of works in other formats.  Do you have any favorites?

A: He certainly was quite prolific. His output ranged from books and plays to newspaper and magazine articles.  Aside from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I do have a few other favorites. One is The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, which is a clever tale about Santa Claus's origins. In the story, Santa Claus as a young boy is adopted by elves and fairies. When he becomes a man, he experiences a series of adventures in which he is very kind and caring to children. In recognition of his kindness and generosity, the elves grant him immortality. The narrative imparts a plausible explanation for Santa Claus, and how he came to be.

Q: Baum spent many winters writing in San Diego. What stories were produced in that period?

A: Some of my other favorites were inspired by the many winters my great-grandfather spent in San Diego, which gave the stories a regional significance.  The Sea Fairies and Sky Island both took place in a seaside location, reminiscent of the cliffs around Point Loma. Also, the location for Aunt Jane’s Nieces, written under the pen name of Edith Van Dyne, is directly inspired by the Hotel del Coronado.

Q: We all know about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  What can you tell us about the brilliant man who wrote this magnificent novel?  What was he like and what inspired him?

A: Of course, he was a natural story-teller, regaling the local neighborhood children in the evenings. But, he didn’t start writing until he was forty-one years old.  Like many writers, his ideas often came initially from personal life experiences. For example, the idea of Dorothy being swept to Oz by a tornado. He owned a newspaper called The Daily News in Aberdeen, South Dakota, which reported obsessively about a cyclone that flattened a nearby home. He also worked for a time as a window-dresser in Chicago.  Once he assembled a display mannequin using a round drum, tin plates, and a funnel, and other items. The mannequin ended up being very similar to illustrator W. W. Denslow’s first rendering of the Tin Woodman.  Many wonder where the name “Oz” came from.  Apparently, my great-grandfather was sitting in a room with a number of file cabinets, one of which was labelled O through Z. He noted the letters, which he later combined to create the name of Oz.

Q: Baum was an early supporter of women’s rights, and strong women often appear in his works?

A: Yes, that’s true, which is pretty unusual considering the era (early 1900s). His mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was a leader in the women’s suffragist movement. She befriended women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and endorsed independence for women not unlike Dorothy and Ozma in Oz. He was clearly influenced by her.

Exhibits & Events

"That's the Ticket: Voting in the 19th Century."

  • November 4 – December 22, 2014
  • Lobby, Geisel Library.
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

“HLHW lecture: Hitler’s Furies: Ordinary Women?”

  • November 13, 2014 5:00 to 7:00 pm
  • Seuss Room, Geisel Library.
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

“Silent Films of LJ Cinema League.”

  • November 13, 2014 7:00 to 8:30 pm
  • Coast Room, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.
  • 700 Prospect Street, La Jolla
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

“Annual Turkey Calling Show.”

  • November 26, 2014 Noon to 1:00 pm
  • Seuss Room, Geisel Library.
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

"HLHW Lecture: A Childhood in Hiding.”

  • January 21, 2014 5:00 to 7:00 pm
  • Seuss Room, Geisel Library.
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

“National Kazoo Day.”

  • January 28, 2014 Noon to 1:00 pm
  • Seuss Room, Geisel Library.
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

Domain Editor

Dolores Davies

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