Happy Birthday, Victoria Woodhull!

On this day in 1838, a woman was born who would change American history forever--Victoria C. Woodhull.  She would become the first woman to run for the U.S. presidency, but that is only one in a long list of "firsts" for this remarkable woman.

Born into poverty in Ohio and given little formal education, she married at fourteen and gave birth a year later to a handicapped son. Her new husband proved to be an alcoholic, incapable of supporting her, so she was forced at the tender age of fifteen to become the primary breadwinner for herself, her child, and even her husband, whenever he managed to be on the scene.

She supported herself as a spiritualist--a popular and lucrative career for a woman in the mid-Nineteenth Century when women's options were few.  Just after the Civil War, she met her future husband, James Blood, in St. Louis.  They fell madly in love, divorced their current spouses and quickly married.

Blood was an intellectual and a social radical. He tutored Victoria in all manner of political discourse of the day and recognized not only her astonishing intellect, but her amazing gift for oratory.  They moved to New York and together with Victoria's younger sister, Tennessee Claflin,  started a radical newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly.  They opened the first women's brokerage house on Wall Street.

Victoria began speaking out on women's issues, particularly suffrage, and was the first to address the Judiciary Committee of Congress on the issue of whether women were "persons" within the meaning of the newly passed Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the constitution. (A topic still inciting controversy to this very day.) She became famous--some would say, notorious-- for her advocacy of the notion of Free Love.  She knew through her own hard experiences in life what many women's rights advocates of her time did not: that women needed much more than the vote to achieve a fair and equal place in American society.  They needed a full bank of rights--liberalized divorce laws, fair property rights, in short--equal protection under all the laws.

Available on Amazon
This is just a short introduction to the life of this amazing woman.  I found her so fascinating, I included her as a character in my next novel, Séance in Sepia (coming in October 2011).  To learn more about Victoria, there are several good biographies available.  My favorite is: Notorious Victoria, by Mary Gabriel.

A comprehensive website to visit is http://www.victoria-woodhull.com/


Tara said...

Fascinating!!! Thanks for sharing this information. Looking forward to your novel that includes her. I came across her once in a book called Sex Wars. The narrative was messed up for me tho.

Michelle Black said...

Hi Tara--So glad you stopped by. I am so crazy about Victoria Woodhull that I love sharing her with everyone. I would love to send you a copy of Seance in Sepia next year when it is released.
I remember reading Sex Wars, but also recall that I enjoyed the fictional character more than the real life ones (can't remember her name but she learned to manufacture condoms.)
I am heading over to visit your blog right now...

Tara said...

Yes, the immigrant. That was a cool touch. LOL I had forgotten about that, but you have refreshed my memory. :)

Kathie said...

I love your blog!! I write historical fiction set in the west also and have been looking for others! This post is awesome and I look forward to sharing my western blog with others once it's up! Thanks for sharing such a great story and I can't wait to get your books! I found you via your article interview posted on facebook! Woohoo it's a good day!

Michelle Black said...

Thanks, Kathie. I love to connect with other writers who are focusing on the Victorian West. Let's stay in touch.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for some quality points there. I am kind of new to online , so I printed this off to put in my file, any better way to go about keeping track of it then printing?

Anonymous said...

Do you people have a facebook fan page? I looked for one on twitter but could not discover one, I would really like to become a fan!