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Encyclopedia > Aunt Jane's Nieces

Aunt Jane's Nieces is the title of a juvenile novel published by Reilly & Britton in 1906, and written by L. Frank Baum under the pen name "Edith Van Dyne." Since the novel was the first in a series of novels designed for adolescent girls, its title was applied to the entire series of ten books, published between 1906 and 1918.[1] The Reilly and Britton Company, or Reilly & Britton (after 1919, Reilly & Lee) was an American publishing company of the early and middle 20th century, famous as the publisher of the works of L. Frank Baum. ... 1906 (MCMVI) was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... The Laughing Dragon of Oz, see Frank Joslyn Baum . ... Year 1918 (MCMXVIII) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar (see link for calendar) or a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar. ...

The book and the series were designed to appeal to the same audience as Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and Little Men. This was expressly stipulated in Baum's contract for the books with Reilly & Britton, which stated: Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist. ...

Baum shall deliver to the Reilly and Britton Co. on or before March 1, 1906 the manuscript of a
book for young girls on the style of the Louisa M. Alcott stories, but not so good, the authorship
to be ascribed to "Ida May McFarland," or to "Ethel Lynne" or some other mythological female.[2]


The Plot

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Jane Merrick, a wealthy, elderly, difficult woman preparing for death, calls for her three teenaged nieces, Louise, Beth, and Patsy, to determine who will inherit her money. Each of the three is a different type. Louise is a would-be society girl, on the look-out for a rich husband; she and her mother have decided to spend their limited funds on a three-year quest for an acceptable candidate. Beth is a hot-headed small-town beauty; Patsy is a temperamental redhead who resents Aunt Jane's past neglect of her family and determines to have nothing to do with the old woman's money.

Aunt Jane is also visited in her final days by her long-lost brother, the girls' Uncle John. The denoument: upon the old woman's death it is revealed that she had no money after all—though Uncle John is wealthy and rescues all three of the nieces from their material cares.

The rest of the novels in the series feature travel, adventures, accidents, kidnappings and recues, romances, and a marriage for Louise. The final novel, Aunt Jane's Nieces in the Red Cross, was originally published in 1915, when the United States was still neutral in World War I; the nieces treat the wounded of both sides, and express the hope that the War will soon be over. The publisher issued a revised edition in 1918, with a darker treatment of the subject.[3]

Spoilers end here.

In their era, the Aunt Jane's Nieces books were as successful with their target audience as The Oz books were with younger children. In 1911 the six titles then in print sold 22,569 copies.[4] Indeed, toward the end of Baum's life they outsold the Oz books. (The books were popular as grammar-school graduation gifts for girls.) After the 1920s the books were largely forgotten for the rest of the century, except for Baum enthusiasts and a small but gowing coterie of Baum scholars. By the turn of the twenty-first century, however, the growing trend of re-evaluation and re-publication of Baum's works reached the series: eight of the ten books were re-printed in 2005 and 2006. The Oz books form a book series that begins with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and that relates the history of the Land of Oz. ...

The Series

  • Aunt Jane's Nieces, 1906 (2005)
  • Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad, 1907 [5]
  • Aunt Jane's Nieces at Millville, 1908 (2005)
  • Aunt Jane's Nieces at Work, 1909 (2005)
  • Aunt Jane's Nieces in Society,1910 (2005)
  • Aunt Jane's Nieces and Uncle John, 1911 (2005)
  • Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation, 1912 (2005)
  • Aunt Jane's Nieces on the Ranch,1913
  • Aunt Jane's Nieces Out West,1914 (2005)
  • Aunt Jane's Nieces in the Red Cross, 1915/1918 (2006)

[The Edith Van Dyne pseudonym was also used for other Baum works, the two Flying Girl books of 1911-12 and the five Marie Louise stories of 1916-19.]


  1. ^ Angelica Shirley Carpenter and Jean Shirley, pp. 80-2 and ff.
  2. ^ Carpenter and Shirley, p. 80.
  3. ^ Carpenter and Shirley, pp. 115-20.
  4. ^ Rogers, L. Frank Baum, p. 184.
  5. ^ The second book was printed with the mistaken date of "1906," causing confusion in Baum's bibliography. Rogers, pp. 143-4 and 273.


  • Carpenter, Angelina Shirley, and Jean Shirley. L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz. Minneapolis, Lerner Publications, 1992.
  • Mason, Bobbie Ann. The Girl Sleuth. Athens, Ga., University of Georgia Press, 1995.
  • Rogers, Katherine M. L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz. New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002.



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