Our Landlady

Synopsis

From January 1890 to February 1891 Baum wrote a column entitled "Our Landlady" that ran regularly in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. In all, he wrote forty-eight installments, each treating with practiced naivete the problems facing the brand-new state of South Dakota. Through his fictional landlady, Sairy Ann Bilkins, Baum commented on drought, railroads, suffrage, prairie populism, the Ghost Dance Movement, prohibition, and dozens of other matters. Together, the "Our Landlady" columns constitute a satirical history of South Dakota's troubled first year. Baum's genius as a fiction writer can be clearly seen in four of his recurring characters. Mrs. Bilkins runs for mayor, alternately feeds and starves her boarders, and keeps track of everybody else's business. She harbors a secret passion for one of her boarders, the cigar-smoking Colonel. She nags Tom, the clerk who habitually fails to pay his rent. She chides the Doctor about the flimflammery of American medicine.