Victoria Woodhull

27 Aug

The woman suffrage movement accomplished the goal of allowing woman the right to vote when the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920. However, if it weren’t for prominent woman role models such as Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull who knows how long it would have took for the Amendment to pass.

Victoria Woodhull made an impact on the woman’s suffrage movement by accomplishing multiple “firsts.” Woodhull was the first woman to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street and the first woman to start a weekly newspaper. Woodhull’s well known for being the first woman to be a Presidential candidate for the United States. Woodhull soapbox for presidency included topics of “free love” and gender equality. Not only are her accomplishments impressive, her story is a true rag to riches tale.

Victoria was born in Ohio in 1838 and lived with ten other siblings. For a woman that was famous for her intelligence, surprisingly her schooling was limited, with only three years of formal education she was removed when her father was being charged for fraud and arson. At age 14 she met 28-year-old Canning Woodhull, a doctor from Rochester, New York who was treating her for a chronic illness. She was married to him a year later but discovered her was a womanizer as well as an alcoholic. She divorced Canning after bearing two children and kept his last name. In 1866 Victoria married for a second time to Colonel James Harvey Blood but divorced ten years later.

Woodhull made a fortunate when her and her sister, Tennessee, became the first women stockbrokers on Wall Street. The sisters invested their money into a weekly paper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, primarily to use it as a tool for Victoria’s race for presidency. The paper would highlight controversial and taboo issues such as sex education, licensed prostitution, and vegetarianism. Woodhull argued that women already had the right to vote due to the 14th and 15th Amendment and needed to know how to use it.

“[W]omen are the equals of men before the law, and are equal in all their rights.”-Victoria Woodhull (Encyclopedia).

Woodhull was nominated for the President of the United States by the Equal Rights Party on May 10,1872. Then they nominated Frederick Douglas for Vice President, but he never acknowledged the nomination, which made her the first woman candidate. She was known for her support of “free love” which was a belief that marriage, divorce and child bearing should not have any government interference.
Only a few days before the election, she published a scandal in her weekly newspaper. Victoria exposed a renowned preacher, Henry Beecher for committing adultery. According to A History of the National Woman’s Rights Movement for Twenty Years Victoria, Victoria was arrested and tried for libel, or obscene information, violating the Comstock Law. She spent election night in jail.

Some historians still debate if Woodhull was truly the first woman to run for presidency. Some factors they emphasize: the government never printed her name on the ballot (the Equal Party printed it, but not the Federal Government), she was younger than 35 (wasn’t as significant in the 19th Century), didn’t receive electoral/popular votes (claim she received popular votes that were not counted), and she was a woman (women couldn’t legally vote until 1920). Regardless of the debate Woodhull made an impact on the woman suffrage movement and remained active until she died in 1927.

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