American History, first woman, friends, History, Ohio, Ohio History, Ohio Women, strength, suffragists, wisdom, Women
Victoria Woodhull was shunned by women, in her time period, for being a free thinker. She was shunned for having views that weren’t proper for women at that time. Even though she was a suffrage and worked tirelessly to get us the right to vote, even speaking before the House of Representatives (House Judiciary Committee back then), and almost succeeding – she did not because of her views that differed from other women. While they shared the same suffrage values, they did not share her other values. They made sure SHE was not given credit for giving them the right to vote. Kind of stupid don’t you think? Most women’s arguments are like this: baseless, judgmental, hurtful, insecure and disrespectful. Today, you are expected to appreciate THEIR boundaries, but it doesn’t matter what yours are. Phyllis Chessler, has written an excellent book, that I share all the time. It is called “Women’s Inhumanity to Women.” So, What did Victoria do? How did she cope with constantly being shunned by her own peers. How do we handle in today’s modern society?
First, I want to say that if Victoria were alive today, we would most likely not be best friends. I don’t agree with all her opinions back then either. However, I admire her because she is a lot like me. We are both very strong, opinionated women, who have been shunned by women in our life, for our looks, our wisdom, setting our boundaries and for just being ourselves. Neither of us walked away from women directly, they pushed us out of their lives. I admire her for her courage to withstand all this pressure in the face of that animosity, at that time. I admire the fact that she made all those firsts – president, lawyer, Wall Street stock trader, standing in front of the House of Representatives.
At the same time, if she were alive today, what would she be like? She was the victim of sexual abuse. She might get treatment for this and she might not. If she received treatment, how would she have felt about certain issues? She wanted people to have freedoms to love. Rather than, as a victim, have it forced on you. She had this idea of having a commune, which a group of them started, but it fell apart. Again, trying to take control of her life – determining rules with people and living as they wished. We do have the freedom to love in this society. We don’t need to live in a commune but a woman has the power to run her household as she wants – provided she is with a strong and healthy partner. We also have the power to be a president, lawyers, stock traders, and so forth. She would not have had to resort to silly antics that she began with her sister Tennessee, such as being a psychic to raise money to do what she wanted. We have scholarships now to go to college. So, who she would be, if she were here right now. I really couldn’t say.
Having said all this, I go back to how did she handle being shunned by women all the time? How was it for her to not be able to talk to a therapist? To have to do it all on her own. What was it like being taunted in the media all the time? Being locked up in jail after announcing your bid for presidency? She made lots of mistakes, but didn’t deserve all the bad press she got – as bad as it was. It could have just been a small blip in the paper. But, instead, she was Victoria. She spoke out about a suffrage Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother cheating on his wife. This was Henry Ward Beecher, a preacher, who proselytized about Christianity at the pulpit but was a hypocrite. Harriet was bigger than Victoria in the suffrage association and had more clout. She did not appreciate the family skeleton coming out of the closet.
I can’t recall from the book I read “Notorious Victoria,” many years ago, in the early 90’s, whether it included excerpts from her diary (if she had one) about dealing with this. I can imagine though, it must have gotten tiresome. She coped with sex, I do know this. She was an attractive woman, and while she was a very outspoken and intelligent woman, (which ordinarily would have kept men at bay) the fact that she was open sexually, did not keep her alone at nights. She was also smart enough, to connect with a very wealthy man, as an aged woman. She spent his final years with him, very well off, and well taken care of. This is how she coped with life. At her end, widowed with money, she lived very long, just two years shy of her ninth decade in merry olde England. She was away from all the gossipers, those full-hardy women, doing what she wanted, when she wanted. This was reforming education in England, with her sister and her daughter, using her late husband’s money wisely.
This is also what I love about Victoria. She ended her life giving value to others, with the money she had inherited from her final husband. No one taunted or ridiculed her and in the end, she gained praise for her efforts. Now she is a heroine to a lot of women who love women’s history. We love Harriett Beecher Stowe for her work with women’s suffrage, but she is not quite as excitable to talk about. She wrote a great book and is noteworthy for this and has a house in Cincinnati but deals with more controversy dead, then she did alive, the opposite of Victoria. And, I don’t agree with this controversy, by the way, just pointing out the irony.
What can we do as women, to not behave like these women I mentioned above? Take responsibility for your actions. If someone doesn’t agree with you, and they tell you they didn’t like how you said something to them – admit it. Don’t shun them or abandon your friendship. Validating a friend goes much further than punishment. It also keeps your karma in check as well. It makes you a good person, who has a high degree of integrity. If someone sets a boundary, except it. Even if it is uncomfortable. If you don’t understand something a friend said, get them to clarify. By ignoring or blaming, you are the one with the problem, not them.
If those women had not gone against Victoria after she wrote her scathing article about Henry, we might have had the right to vote about fifty years prior to the 19th Amendment of 1920. It was all about power and control then, and power and control now. Nothing has changed but we can.
Her final home in England:
Jeannine Vegh said:
Reblogged this on Jeannine Vegh and commented:
How friends can learn about building friendships in the face of what Victoria went through.
Bette Lou Higgins said:
Great article, Jeannine! Thanks for helping keep all these women’s memories alive.
Bette Lou Higgins Artistic Director Eden Valley Enterprises http://www.edenvalleyenterprises.org https://www.facebook.com/EdenValleyEnterprises
Jeannine Vegh said:
Your welcome! And thank you for all the work your agency does for Emma and Victoria!!