Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Victoria Woodhull: First Female Candidate for President

I apologize for the embarrassingly long delay in posting, but as you all know... c'est la vie.

As November approaches here in American so does the oncoming juggernaut of the presidential election. This election in particular has been one of the most unique America has ever seen, not least because a woman is one of the remaining candidates for the job. And while many say this is a 'first' they would mistaken.

Victoria Clafin, more widely known to history as Victoria Woodhull, was born in 1836 and was the first woman to run for the American presidency. Woodhull's early life in Ohio was marked by poverty and abuse at the hands of her father, who made what little money he did through illegal means. Her mother was a spiritualist, which may have been the reason a young Victoria believed she could communicate with spirits. Victoria and her younger sister Tennessee worked for a time as travelling clairvoyants telling fortunes and contacting spirits for questioning clients.

Victoria Woodhull
At age 15 Victoria married Canning Woodhull, a doctor from New York, whom she met while travelling. Canning was an alcoholic and a womanizer, making the marriage unhappy for his new bride. The two divorced sometime after the birth of their second child. Her second marriage was no more successful than the first but it is likely that at this time she began to support 'free love' as there was no other escape for women trapped in loveless marriages at this point in the nineteenth century.
"Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere."
-Victoria Woodull
It was also during this time that Victoria and her sister Tennessee moved to New York City and became the hired clairvoyants for tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. The two sisters took advantage of the stock tips gained from that relationship and netter $700,000 during the panic of 1869. The following year Victoria and Tennessee opened a firm, becoming the first women stockbrokers.
With a place in New York society Woodhull became an early supporter of the Women's Rights Movement. She used her position to become the first woman to address Congress, stating that under the recently passed 14th and 15th amendments women already had been granted the right vote-- she was merely lobbying for the use of that right. Such icons as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were very impressed with Woodhull's work on the movement.
Just two months after the opening of the brokerage firm, Victoria Woodhull announced that she was running for president by writing a letter to be published in The New York Herald. As part of her platform she advocated for women's rights, abolition of the death penalty, and welfare for the poor. As her running mate, she chose notable abolitionist Fredrick Douglas, though he never acknowledged it. She was nominated under the newly formed, Equal Rights Party. It is clear that her name did at least appear on the ballot in some states, but the number of votes she received is unknown. Quite unglamorously, Woodhull spent Election Day in jail, after having been arrested for libel.
After her failed attempt at the Presidency, Woodhull spent time travelling the country speaking for both women's rights and the free love movement. There was a falling out between Woodhull and the leaders of the feminist movement, as they did not support her notions on the sanctity (or lack thereof) of marriage.
In the remaining years of her life, Victoria Woodhull would marry again for the third time, to a wealthy British banker and spend her time living in England. She died in 1927, getting to see the fruition of something she was passionate for, women being granted the right to vote.
What an interesting life!!!


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