Talk:Victoria Woodhull

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using a legal argument Woodhull had conceived
and was at the center of the largest sex scandal of 19th century America

Can someone back these statements up? Until then, I think they should stay out...

I have backed up the second statement
-David Elliott 6:57pm, Saturday 17th September, 2005 a.k.a. Dissembly

Citation 10,

Intercourse (1987). Chapter 7. Occupation/Collaboration. Andrea Dworkin

is not accurate; Dworkin reproduces the quote, but she cites it as: Victoria Claflin Woodhull, The Victoria Woodhull Reader, ed. Madeleine B. Sterm (Weston, Mass.: M&S Press, 1974), p. 40. I don't see why the quote should be cited as Dworkin rather than Woodhull, especially since the contexts (the biographical information in the 'Free Love' section versus Dworkin's commentary in Intercourse) are clearly distinct. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:35, 9 January 2013 (UTC)


There are various biographies on Woodhull out. Try "Notorious Victoria" by Emma Goldman I think, or there's another with a title of "Mrs Satan" or something... Or just follow the link to the suggested site... (it's run by one of the decendents of Woodhull's second husband) or you could look at some history sites on-line. I think for example the feminist site at * (Wendy McElroy) had an article or two covering her, and there's an article by Trish Wilson of Feminista! on her too (*

Various statements about Woodhull are controversial, for example whether she was ever a prostitute, but those two are not controversial. The scandal involved the Beecher clan and came down to one of the most famous religious leaders of the time having an affair with the other most famous preacher's wife. Sort of like Billy Graham being caught with Pat Buchanan's wife.... yes it was a VERY big scandal indeed, made worse because the injured party made a lawsuit against the adulterer. It was all over the papers and very public at a time when you didn't talk about that sort of thing. It might even be the biggest sex scandal of both 19th AND 20th centuries on either side of the Atlantic.....

Woodhull wasn't a lawyer and some might argue that it was Captain Blood, her 2nd husband who came up with the idea. But you probably only wanted to know if it wasn't some other feminist. David Byron

Stanton's son said of Woodhull that she was one of the three most important feminists in the movement. Anthony ended up hating her and she was blackballed more or less. The personality conflicts were more important than the policies in the splits of the women's movement in 19th century America. A lot of the diary entries by Stanton that were ripped out later are beleived to be about Woodhull (now THAT would be a more controversial statement!)

Wasn't she the first person arrested under the Comstock Laws as a result of this? That's what "The Elizabeth Cady Stanton - Susan B. Anthony Reader", edited by Ellen Carol Dubois says on pg 106. It's one of my texts for my Culture of Women's Rights class, and it noted that Victoria Woodhull was the first person to be arrested under these laws, for publishing and distributing a newspaper that leaked the scandal of a famous liberal minister, Henry Ward Beecher, and his best friend's wife, Elizabeth Tilton. It was in response to the public harassment she received for a convention she held to create a third political party joining the women's rights activists and the Internationalists...they did things like evict her from her home, publicize "scurrilous stories" about her in NY newspapers, and she lost the funding for her newspaper. Can anyone confirm this? It's kind of an interesting tidbit.

Abortion and "Feminists For Life" - Deliberately Dishonest Bias Alert[edit]

At 11:58 on the 16th September 2005 i corrected a link which read feminist; the word needed is "feminism", but the link is meant to take the reader to the Feminists For Life article, not the feminism article. This is highly innappropriate; Victoria Woodhull would never have heard of "Feminists For Life", and the abortion debate which they take part in is completely different to the issue which Claflin Woodhull would have been familiar with, as her abortion writing comes from the period 1870-1876.

I have not yet checked the the quotes, but there has been an issue with dishonest selective quoting in the Matilda Joslyn Gage article; where selective quoting was employed which effectively REVERSED the point which Joslyn Gage was making. There is no question that the selective quote was deliberate - nobody reading the original source material could have missed Joslyn Gages actual point, as it was embodied in the title of her article (the quote was also not sourced, so the title of her article was also conveniently excluded).

Both these incidents are unquestionably deliberately dishonest deceptions, so this is just a warning to anyone else involved in expanding the first-wave feminists article; there is somebody going around using dishonest quoting and dishonest linking techniques in order to promote the 21st century group "Feminist For Life" by bastardizing articles about 19th century feminists!

So, everybody working with the 19th century suffragists, please:

  • Source (and check the context of) all quotations,
  • double-check links to ensure they aren't dishonestly coded (e.g. "feminist")
  • possibly work on lodging complaints against, and checking the actions of, the users responsible. The selective quoter is from IP address , and appears to be active on anything to do with abortion ( ). It might be worth keeping an eye on their Wiki edits.

-David Elliott 6:57pm, Saturday 17th September, 2005 a.k.a. Dissembly

Views on abortion[edit]

Regarding "In an 1875 edition of the Wheeling, West Virginia Evening Standard she attacked the practice of abortion: 'Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for child, nor think of murdering one before its birth.'" This would seem also to indicate that she believed free women if they become pregnant will always wish for their child, or that free women if they don't wish for a child use contraception. If Woodhull supported contraception, and I would guess she did, that should be added, I think.Schizombie 16:38, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

It occurs to me (coming onto this article as a comparative Wiki-newbie) that this would be an excellent topic for its own article, to which it would be appropriate to link up feminism, feminists for life, history of contraception, history of feminism, first-wave feminism, second-wave feminism, etc etc - each article lending substance to the others. It also occurs to me that a) it's highly likely someone's already considered this and therefore b) there's probably already a Wikiproject:feminism or women's issues in existence ;-) - if there is, could someone perhaps put an entry below or in my talk page to better inform me? Longshot14 06:26, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

The first paragraph of the section on Woodhull's views on abortion was misleading. If she believed that "the rights of children as individuals begin while yet they remain the fetus," then her opposition to abortion was more than just an attempt to attain sexual liberation for women. It reflects more on the modern abortion debate than the article lets on, since modern opposers of abortion often cite the rights of the unborn. I edited the paragraph to make it more NPOV. MamaGeek Joy 12:05, 7 April 2006 (UTC)

MamaGeek, that isn't correct. Her opposition to abortion was actually much, much less than "just an attempt to attain sexual liberation for women", not more! - and it reflects nothing about the modern abortion debate, which did not exist in 1875. It was part of the argument in favour of women's rights - if women are more free to choose (and refuse) their own sexual partners, they're less likely to end up using a clothes hanger on their unborn feotus. This is completely different from the modern abortion debate - it doesn't relate at all, and no historian worth their salt would say so. The quotes are chosen deliberately out of context by groups such as one calling itself "Feminists for Life",. The reason the quote looks so compelling to you is that it has been picked out of it's context specifically for that purpose. It's similar to the way creationists will quote evolutionary biologists such as Steven Jay Gould in such a way as to make it seem that they don't beleive in evolution. It's not true. Many of the early feminists have been slandered in this way on Wikipedia (see my note about Matilda Joslyn Gage), and we just don't have enough time (or enough material studied) to correct this crap; because unfortunately, Wikipedia's rules only work properly if everyone is being honest, and these revisionist pro-choice groups are distinctly dishonest. I'm sure if Woodhull were alive today, she would be pro-choice, based on the rest of her stated philosophies both on abortion and other issues - but the fact is, she's not alive today, she never engaged in the "modern abortion debate" (it didn't EXIST!), and it is wholly innapropriate to suggest anything else in a Wikipedia article.
Dissembly (talk) 06:08, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

I propose to change the heading of "Views on abortion and eugenics" to "Contemporary Criticisms" or some other heading that reflects that the section is written with modern hindsight. I have a couple reasons for this.

  • 1) Marriage and divorce, prostitution, female suffrage--all of these topics were historically much more closely associated with Woodhull than abortion. But this biography seems to have more on abortion and eugenics than her other pet topics. I think the reason for this is the obsession that today's American society has with the topic of abortion. People on both sides of the political spectrum try to use Woodhull's views to support their views for or against abortion. This makes the topic of abortion more contemporary than historical.
  • 2) The mention of "Buck vs. Bell" is pulled exclusively from Michael Perry's book, Lady Eugenist, published in 2005. (Perry's source was one New York Times article.) Perry, I believe, publishes a pro-life newsletter, and he calls Woodhull a "racist," a view that's not shared by Woodhull's biographers. It seems to me that he uses eugenics to try to discredit progressives and liberals by taking eugenics out of historical context. While Woodhull was probably widely known for her views on eugenics while she was living in England, society didn't have the negative view of it as we do now. Back then, scientists and the general public seemed to have accepted the theory of eugenics. Acceptance of the theory wasn't limited to "racists" or "progressives." It's today's people who have a problem with Woodhull's views on eugenics. Eugenics to Woodhull's contemporaries was probably as natural to their society as pre-employment drug screening is to today's American society.-Woodhull 18:19, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

I removed the quote from the 23 September 1871 issue of Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly (vol. 3 no. 19, p. 9), since the article was written "By Tennie C. Claflin" and not by Victoria Woodhull. Alicekate 01:37, 14 April 2007 (UTC)


I would love to know how she came to die in England after having had such a thouroughly American life. There are 40 years of history missing here!--Jaibe 10:02, 5 March 2006 (UTC)


I added a section "Life in England." It's not much, but perhaps others will expand upon it. -Woodhull 07:43, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

Edits made by Woodhull[edit]

I removed the description of Victoria Woodhull being an "early leader" of women's suffrage. My reasoning was that the Seneca Falls convention is widely regarded as the foundation of the movement. Victoria Woodhull was only 9 years then and not present at the convention. She wasn't an early leader in the same sense as Stanton. Woodhull wasn't associated with the movement until 1869. I specifically chose the words "was publicized in Gilded Age newspapers as a leader of the American woman's suffrage movement" because there was disagreement among suffragists as to whether or not she actually belonged to the movement. I've read several letters by suffragists, and they don't seem to agree about her status in the movement. Some indications are that she belonged to the movement and left in disgust. Others suggest she was forced out. Others say she never belonged at all; it was the press that represented her as the leader of their movement.

I also removed the word "figurehead" and replaced it with "representative" because I think figurehead describes someone like a Queen, who has a title and no power. She didn't hold any title in the woman's suffrage movement. Maybe others disagree with me?

I added that the authorship of her writings is in dispute, because biographers don't seem to know who really wrote them. Some say Colonel Blood wrote them, others say Stephen Pearl Andrews. Some say Blood and Andrews.

There are two towns named Homer in Ohio. Victoria was from the one in Licking County. I changed the statement "The only person in her family Victoria really felt close to was her sister" because it seems unveriable. While she was closer to her sister Tennessee than her other sisters, I can't recall anything that says she was the "only person" she "felt close to." I figure it's more factual to say they were "closely associated." That seems to me to be verifiable.

I also changed the sentence that she was a "highly successful spiritualist." When she was elected President of the American Society of Spiritualists the first time, she said she was unknown to the Spiritualists and they to her. She didn't advertise herself as a Spiritualist in her early career. She referred to herself as a magnetic physician or clairvoyant physician.

I got rid of the "claimed he was a medical doctor," because the requirements for being a doctor in Ohio were not as stringent as today. I removed the statement that claimed that Canning lied about his father being a judge. I've heard that evidence exists that his father was a justice of the peace and maybe a judge. Further research needs to be done about the career of his father before it can be stated that Canning lied about his father. There were also two stories about how Byron became mentally retarded; I added the second one.

I didn't touch the statement: "Even in loveless marriages, women in United States in the 19th century were bound into unions with few options to escape." I think, though, that a listing of the limited grounds for divorce in the country at that time would be enlightening.

I also didn't change the statement that "they did not participate in the day-to-day business of the firm themselves." What is the source for that? Certainly, they couldn't do trades on the floor, and they had employees, but it seems to me they both were involved to some extent in the business when they weren't out lecturing.

Regarding the newspaper, I'm wondering if it should be made clear that the six years of publication were not uninterrupted. I also changed the information on birth control, because some historical research contradicts the biographers who claim that. If someone can find a quote from the weekly promoting birth control, it could clear up the subject.

I removed the word "aggressive" in characterizing her tactics, because it seems to be a value judgment. Some may have characterized it as so, but not others, so I modified the sentences. I also thought it was inaccurate to say she "seized" the podium. Stanton and Hooker wanted her at the convention, but Anthony didn't, and it wasn't the Populist Party. It was the Equal Rights Party. I removed the reference to Stanton, because I'm not sure she attended the Equal Rights Party convention. I recall reading that even though she disagreed with Anthony, Stanton didn't abandon her and went to the NWSA meeting instead. I also removed the reference to the "increasingly conservative" NAWSA. It didn't become the NAWSA until much later. In 1872 it was the radical NWSA and conservative AWSA.

I'm not sure about the statement that Frederick Douglass rejected the nomination because he saw it as "an attempt to get 'the colored vote.'" The accounts I've read said that his female suffragist friends recommended he not accept.

I corrected the misconception that Victoria wasn't on the ballot. I didn't change, "Like many of Woodhull's protests, this was first and foremost a media performance," but I think the sentence should be modified because it suggests that she was simply interested in publicity. While that is one interpretation of her life, it's not the only one.

I added the word "rumored" in deference to Beecher, because the allegation of adultery was not sufficiently proved in a court of law. To this day, people disagree whether or not he had the affair. It's safer to say it was "rumored" because it doesn't indicate whether it was true or not. I also did not agree with the characterization of Beecher as "conservative." I think most historians would not call him "conservative" either. He was a liberal protestant.

I rewrote the section on abortion and eugenics in an attempt to more accurately describe her views. I think it's misleading to say she was opposed to abortion without adding that she thought the answer to it was freedom and not repression by the law. I also thought it was inaccurate to describe eugenics as "the practice of sterilizing those (primarily women) considered unfit to breed," although that was a practice that was advocated by some eugenists. It's like describing medicine as "the practice of cutting people up to remove disease." I have a book from the 1930's on eugenics, and for the most part, it seems no more dangerous than a Doctor Spock manual. My own impression of Woodhull's writings on eugenics is that she emphasized education above everything. If women were educated about physiology, they would improve the human race.

I just would like to say thank you for taking the time to make such excellent contributions to the article. Bravo! MamaGeek (Talk/Contrib) 11:40, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

I removed the claim that Victoria's father appeared in the 1860 census in Anderson, Madison, Indiana; Roll: M653_277; Page: 243; Image: 245. The reason is that several members of Victoria Woodhull's family, including her father Buckman Claflin, appear in the census record for 1860 in Ohio on the exact same day that the Indiana census record was made. The family in Indiana consisted of Buckmer, Anna, and Theresa. There was no Theresa in the family. The only way the Indiana Buckmer Claflin could be Buckman Claflin is if they appeared in the census twice when he and Anna were on a road trip with Tennessee, and her name was inaccurately transcribed as Theresa. Indiana was not not the Claflin's permanent residence in 1860. Also, "Image: 245" refers to images on, and I don't believe it should be used to reference a census record. Until someone can come up with an ad advertising Tennessee's clairvoyance in that Indiana town in 1860, that census record should be left off. Woodhull 17:30, 6 April 2007 (UTC)

Someone keeps changing the page to say that Woodhull was engaged at age 15. Woodhull was engaged (or more correctly was proposed to) at the age of 14 in July 1853. She was married at the age of 15 on November 20, 1853. Woodhull 18:45, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

Ran for President?[edit]

I have often heard that she ran for President in 1872, but David Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections doesn't have her as being on the ballot in any state. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you have to be on the ballot someplace to be a presidential candidate? --Craverguy 05:44, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

I just added extensive information about votes cast for Woodhull and the issues surrounding it. It should answer most of your questions. --Woodhull 03:34, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

Addition of documentary to article by creator of article[edit]

Please read WP:COI. If your documentary is as important as you claim, another editor will add it to the article. Your insistance on self-promotion isn't helping the case. In any case, the section you are re-adding is too long to be anything but self-promotional. The article for Victoria Woodhull doesn't exist to promote your documentary. At the very least, the length of the section should be reduced until a a concensus can be reached by editors. Right now, I don't think anybody besides you is maintaining that the section should stay. janejellyroll 03:30, 26 January 2007 (UTC)

== Addition of documentary to article by creator of article == It would be great if you did the required research about the documentary addition before boldly deleting the information. You are wrong to suggest it's self promotion and further underscores the fact you have not validated the information. "as important as I claim?" do the research!Vweston3554 04:08, 26 January 2007 (UTC)

Sorry, Victoria, but I have to agree, in part, with janejellyroll. While I enjoyed your documentary, and I personally don't object to the mention of its existence, the description of it is way too long. It's more appropriate for a DVD cover. Wikipedia is not Amazon or the IMDB. It's an encyclopedia. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think your documentary is mentioned in any published encyclopedias. I personally think it would be better to limit the mention of your documentary to a one line link under "External links." If anyone is interested in a documentary about her, they can read your synopsis on the external site. Does anyone else feel otherwise? -Woodhull 07:39, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

By the way, take a look at the documentaries listed on the Frederick Douglass page. Only one of them was too long, IMHO. They listed the documentaries under "Further Reading." -Woodhull 08:07, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

Newspaper Editor[edit]

I'm confused as to why this: "retard named George Cole" is in this paragraph at the end of this section. 'Some characterized her as opportunisitic and unpredictable: in one notable incident, she had a run in with Anthony during a meeting of the NWSA. (The radical NWSA later merged with the convervative AWSA to form the retard named George ColeNational American Woman Suffrage Association' --AB75 20:28, 16 October 2007 (UTC)


Odd, for a large article with many references listed, there are nearly no citations embedded. Perhaps that has been overlooked, but I think it needs attention. EraserGirl (talk) 16:52, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Later presidential runs[edit]

The article makes mention of 1884 and 1892, but has really no information on the former. The documentary America's Victoria, Remembering Victoria Woodhull, if I heard correctly, said that after her initial run, she nominated herself for president in four other elections, so possibly two more are missing. Does anybody have more detail about this? Шизомби (talk) 21:22, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

Lede not supported by article[edit]

The lede notes the following elements which are not supported by content and citations in the article:

  • Woodhull made her first fortune by practicing animal magnetism "on the road".
Gerald W. Johnson: "For some years the Caflins did well...appearing in various Ohio towns, operating as spiritualists and mesmerists, Victoria and Tennessee being the star performers." (p. 46)
  • There is dispute as to whether she wrote her articles; people (scholars?) think her sister and husband Colonel Hood collaborated with her on these.
Johnson: Her husband "[Colonel] Blood and Andrews did the bulk of the writing [for the Weekly], but they had effective assistance from other contributors, some of them exceedingly able people..." (p. 87)
  • She promoted a variety of reforms for the working class (what?), many of which have been adopted (which ones?). If editors do not have support for these assertions, the statements should be removed. Parkwells (talk) 22:45, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
Johnson: Woodhull and Calflin's Weekly "argued the cause of labor with eloquence and skill; it presented some astonishingly acute judgements on economic and fiscal policy..." (p. 87-88) See article for Johnson's essay in American Heritage magazine, 1956.
I agree, does anyone have sources to verify this info? If not it will be deleted.Beefcake6412 (talk) 22:55, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
Fixed. See main article. 36hourblock (talk) 20:34, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

Quote One (Johnson, 1956, p. 46)[edit]

'Woodhull went from rags to riches twice, her first fortune being made on the road as a highly successful magnetic healer[1] before she joined the spiritualist movement in the 1870s.'

I looked at (another version of) the source here and it does not mention magnetic healing specifically. It's probably right, but another source should be used to back that up. Maybe the sentenced was edited in the past. -- (talk) 13:37, 28 September 2012 (UTC)