Victoria Woodhull, 1838-1927

  • Victoria-Woodhull-WWP

Woman Category: Activism & Feminism, Economics & Finance, Media, and Politics & LeadersWoman Tags: 19th Amendment Centennial Anniversary, Journalist, LGBTQ, and Suffragist

  • HerStory

    A suffrage leader and the first woman to run for US presidency.

    Woodhull was born to a family of ten children in Homer, Ohio. She and her sisters worked on a traveling circuit, telling fortune to help the family earn money. When turned 15, she escaped and married Canning Woodhull, with whom she had two children – one with a brain injury for life. After they moved to New York and the couple got divorced, Victoria and her sister worked together as a medium. One of their clients led them to open the first female-owned brokerage house on Wall Street.
    With the fortune that they made, the two sisters invested in promoting the political and social reforms that they believed in. They published “Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly” – an innovative newspaper with the motto: “Progress! Free thought! Untrammeled lives!”
    In 1872, to promote women suffrage, Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to address the House Judiciary Committee and declared her candidacy for the presidency of the United States, when she is not even 35 years old. The election day she spent in arrest, for her newspaper was accused of publishing “obscene materials”. The month in arrest and the legal expenses drained her funds until she relocated to England. There, she married for the third time, and published The Humanitarian magazine, together with her daughter.
    With her actions and words, Victoria challenged many conventions of her time. In addition to women’s right to vote, she advocated for a range of freethinking causes: 8-hour work day, social welfare, free love, sex education, short skirts, vegetarianism, and licensed prostitution. Her opinions are now considered to have been 100-years ahead of her time.

    “I shall not change my course because those who assume to be better than I desire it”

    “I shall not change my course because those who assume to be better than I desire it”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly was the first American publication to reprint the Communist Manifesto in English.
    • Many “firsts” are attributed to her, some of those are unconfirmed, like “the first woman motorist in England” or “the first American to speak publicly about the right to privacy”.
    • She liked to go on walks every day, rode horses, played sports and the piano.
    • While running for the presidency, her campaign song was “Victory for Victoria”.
    • She was posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.
  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books about her

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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Americas Victoria, Remembering Victoria Woodhull

    "If you spliced the genes of Hillary Clinton, Madonna, Heidi Fleiss and Margaret Thatcher, you might have someone like Victoria Woodhull." - Atlanta Journal & Constitution

    AMERICA'S VICTORIA is a wonderful chronicle of the life of one of the most important and unrecognized women in US history. Although she was a radical suffragist, she refused to restrict her Presidential campaign to the issue of women's suffrage.

    Instead, she advocated a single sexual standard for men and women, legalization of prostitution and reform of marriage. AMERICA'S VICTORIA combines rare archival images, Woodhull's own words (ready by KATE CAPSHAW), and illuminating interviews with contemporary feminist, GLORIA STEINEM to present a fascinating portrait of this remarkably brave woman.

    AMERICA'S VICTORIA, REMEMBERING VICTORIA WOODHULL was featured at the annual Montreal/Quebec International Film Festival 2010 - honoring 90th year women got the vote!

    Victoria Woodhull burst onto the stage with America s most radical reformers, reoriented their movements, and was gone. People listened to her. A congressional committee reported on her interpretation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. She was the first woman to run for president of the United States and the first presidential candidate to spend election day in jail. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catherine Beecher used their cultural leverage to label her a tramp. Anthony Comstock declared war on her for distributing obscene materials. She almost brought an end to Henry Ward Beecher s career. America's Victoria is a biography of this enigmatic figure in American history, the daughter of a swindling father and a spiritualist mother, who remade herself several times to become a Wall Street broker, a radical reformer, and, with her third husband, a British lady of the manor. The story is told by a narrator, several commentators, and readings from Woodhull s speeches and contemporary documents. --The American Journal of History

    Victoria Woodhull was a fascinating woman, way ahead of her time, an advocate not only of women's suffrage but of legalized prostitution, equality in marriage, and free love, by which she meant a commitment untrammeled by governmental regulations. She ran for president four times and generally lived a life imagined by most women (and men) of her day. She is described as electrifying, larger than life, and flamboyant. Interviews with Gloria Steinem, Ellen Dubois (a UCLA historian), and others are filled with enthusiasm and admiration. Recommended for Women's Studies collections. --Library Journal

    Buy the DVD on Amazon -

  • Photo credit - Shutterstock.

  • Citations and Additional References:
    Victoria-Woodhull website.
    Ohio History Central website.