Victoria Woodhull

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Victoria Woodhull: The first woman to run for the US presidency.

Her father was a con-man and an arsonist. He mother was illegitimate and illiterate. But that didn’t stop Victoria Woodhull from deciding that she wanted to be the president of the United States.

She only went to school for three years. She was enchanted by clairvoyants and spiritualists. She was married when she was fifteen, had two children then was quickly divorced. Divorce was seen as being scandalous in those days. She worked on the stage (hardly respectable for women in those days) and as a spiritual healer. She married again to a man who was also entering the state of matrimony for the second time, then shortly embarked on a lengthy affair with a well-known anarchist. It’s said that at one time she lived with both husbands and her lover at the same time. Needless to say, her second marriage also ended in a scandalous divorce.

As you can imagine, she was an advocate of women’s rights. This applied particularly in the areas of marriage, love and sex. She spoke freely about the injustice of the fact that it was accepted that married men could have mistresses and yet women were not allowed the same sexual freedom. She saw no reason at all why divorce was seen as a scandal and believed, reasonably, that women should not be trapped in unhappy marriages.

And she decided to run for president so that she could put the country to rights.

This was in 1872 – before women even had the right to vote. She was perfectly happy to denounce men of power who were having affairs – she spoke her mind on all matters, especially those of a feminist nature. She published her own newspaper expounding her views. These sometimes contradicted her speeches. In public she spoke out against prostitution but in her publication, wanted it to be legalised.

She said:

When woman rises from sexual slavery to sexual freedom, into the ownership and control of her sexual organs, and man is obliged to respect this freedom, then will this instinct become pure and holy; then will woman be raised from the iniquity and morbidness in which she now wallows for existence, and the intensity and glory of her creative functions be increased a hundred-fold.

Needless to say, she was pilloried in the newspapers of the day. There were even persistent rumours that she was a prostitute. She was vilified and disgraced.

Tired out by the whole proceedings, Victoria gave up on the States. She made her way to England where she lived for the rest of her life, marrying once again, naturally. But it does make me wonder.

What would the United States be like today if Victoria Woodhull had been president?



Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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  1. That’s fascinating Kathryn, thank you. She was certainly a remarkable woman and many years before her time. What strikes me is that she had no fear of speaking her mind. She championed women’s rights knowing that she would be decried for doing so but she persevered.

  2. When I saw this article title in my feed this morning, my little heart jumped a beat. Victoria Woodhull has long been a personal hero. Not only did she run for president, she made speeches in Congress, nearly unheard of for a woman of that time, and championed the rights of women wherever she went.

    But the story that really endeared her to me was learning that, upon discovering one of her ex-husbands was terminally ill and unable to care for himself, she took him in and cared for him until his death, thus honoring her marriage vow, despite the divorce.

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