abolition, abortion, commune, eugenics, first woman, History, Ohio, Ohio Women, Ohio Womens History, polyamorous, president, spiritualist, suffragettes, Victoria Woodhull, Women
Victoria Woodhull – September 23, 1838 – June 9, 1927 (Libra and Aphrodite archetype)
A woman who was seen as a controversial figure in her time, was of course way ahead of her peers. She began her start in life with a family who had less than good intentions or you could spin the story by saying their way of surviving wasn’t exactly ethical or legal. She was a spiritualist, polyamorous, started a commune, in fact lived a pretty wild life. You can imagine that as a women’s suffragist, she would eventually be ostracized by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s world. Today, she would have just been a normal modern day woman.
What is significant about Victoria Woodhull is that she was the first woman to run for President announcing her candidacy in 1870. Her party was known as the Equal Right’s Party and she was accepted by them as a candidate in 1872. Frederick Douglass, a former slave and abolitionist leader, was her candidate for Vice President. What is also significant is that Victoria Woodhull spoke before the House Judiciary Committee and argued that women had the right to vote, under the demand that the constitution did not say women were excluded. There was nothing new to write, they just needed to realize this. Of course by this point she had already been ostracized by the suffragist’s who certainly did not want her going down in history for something they had worked so hard for. As a result of this, while the men were in favor of Victoria’s speech and thought her argument made perfect sense to them, they were deluged with an onslaught of wives and sisters who were telling them that she was nuts and they should not listen to what she had to say. Before too long they were laughing at her instead.
This last fact is the most difficult to fathom, in this time period, as it would be 47 years, from when she spoke, before women actually did get the right to vote. It also shows how women can be vindictive and ruthless toward other women and certainly are not the “better” sex for any position of authority as they are no better than men. What you can also see is that the suffragists had developed quite a large ego. What difference would it have made who got us the right to vote, as long as we had it?
Other amazing feats are that Victoria and her sister Tennessee were the first women stockbrokers to open shop on Wall Street. She ran a newspaper, which was how the suffragists ended up going against her. Victoria ran an expose on the brother of Harriett Beecher Stowe about his infidelity. She focused on him because he was a minister preaching to his flock against her beliefs on free love. What she was doing was showing the hypocrisy of his lifestyle, no different than say a Jim and Tammy Faye Baker story (or plenty of other ministers, priests, and other spiritual men you can think of in history).
Interestingly, while she had these fiercely liberal attitudes, she did no believe in abortion. However, she felt people needed to be responsible which is not something you can really disagree with. She believed in sex education and like Margaret Sanger, in this same time period, were both talking about family planning. Also like Margaret Sanger, believed in eugenics which has to do with improving the quality of human beings. Many people will fault both of these women for this thought process however, it is not wrong to believe in something that was popular in your era. From an intellectual standpoint it makes sense and for these brilliant women, who had good intentions to feel this way, you really want to know more about why they felt this was a good idea.
My introduction to Victoria Woodhull came in my Women’s History class in the early 1990’s. I was so fascinated by her because she had accomplished so much in her time period, yet was scorned by many women for her beliefs. I could relate to her story and wrote her name down so that I would remember it while out shopping for books. The book I read was Notorious Victoria by Mary Gabriel. Of course I was quite fascinated to learn that her life began right here in Ohio, not too far from where I myself grew up and went to High School. There is a non-profit organization now that is set up to continue her beliefs for family planning, education and other topics she might have been interested in called Woodhull Freedom Foundation.
**A new documentary is being made that has come to my attention via Twitter. Check out this website Clarinet Marmalade.
7/20/16 Guardian article: Notorious Victoria: The First Woman to Run for President