|Born||Victoria California Claflin
September 23, 1838
Homer, Licking County, Ohio
|Died||June 9, 1927
Bredon's Norton, England
|Spouse(s)||Canning Woodhull (m.1853-?)
Colonel James Blood (m. c. 1865-1876)
John Biddulph Martin (m. 1883-1901)
|Children||Byron and Zula Maude Woodhull|
|Parents||Reuben Buckman Claflin, Roxanna Hummel Claflin|
|Relatives||Tennessee Claflin, sister
Caleb Smith Woodhull, cousin
Woodhull was an advocate of "free love", by which she meant the freedom to marry, divorce, and bear children without government interference. She was the first woman to start a weekly newspaper; an activist for women's rights and labor reforms. In 1872, she was the first female candidate for President of the United States.
Woodhull went from rags to riches twice, her first fortune being made on the road as a highly successful magnetic healer before she joined the spiritualist movement in the 1870s. While authorship of many of her articles is disputed (many of her speeches on these topics were collaborations between Woodhull, her backers and her second husband Colonel James Blood), her role as a representative of these movements was powerful. Together with her sister, she was the first woman to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street, and they were the first women to found a newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly.
At her peak of political activity in the early 1870s, Woodhull is best known as the first woman candidate for the United States presidency, which she ran for in 1872 from the Equal Rights Party, supporting women's suffrage and equal rights. Her arrest on obscenity charges a few days before the election, for publishing an account of the alleged adulterous affair between the prominent minister Henry Ward Beecher and Elizabeth Tilton, added to the sensational coverage of her candidacy. She did not receive any electoral votes, and there is conflicting evidence about popular votes.
Many of the reforms and ideals which Woodhull espoused for the working class, against what she saw as the corrupt capitalist elite, were extremely controversial in her time. Generations later many of these reforms have been implemented and are now taken for granted. Other of her ideas and suggested reforms are still debated today.
Early life and education 
She was born Victoria California Claflin, the seventh of ten children (six of whom survived to maturity), in the rural frontier town of Homer, Licking County, Ohio. Her mother, Roxanna "Roxy" Hummel Claflin, was illiterate and was illegitimate. She had become a follower of the Austrian mystic Franz Mesmer and the new spiritualist movement. Her father, Reuben "Old Buck" Buckman Claflin, was a con man and snake oil salesman. He came from an impoverished branch of the Massachusetts-based Scots-American Claflin family, semi-distant cousins to Governor William Claflin. Victoria became close to her sister, Tennessee Celeste Claflin (called Tennie), seven years her junior and the last child born to the family. As adults they collaborated in founding a stock brokerage and newspaper in New York City.
By age 11, Woodhull had only three years of formal education, but her teachers found her to be extremely intelligent. She was forced to leave school and Homer with her family after her father, after having "insured it heavily,"  burned the family's rotting gristmill. When he tried to get compensated by insurance, his arson and fraud were discovered; he was run off by a group of town vigilantes. The town held a "benefit" to raise funds to pay for the rest of the family's departure for Ohio.
First marriage and family 
When she was 14, Victoria met 28-year-old Canning Woodhull (listed as "Channing" in some records), a doctor from a town outside Rochester, New York. Her family had consulted him to treat the girl for a chronic illness. Woodhull practiced medicine in Ohio at a time when the state did not require formal medical education and licensing. By some accounts, Woodhull claimed to be the nephew of Caleb Smith Woodhull, mayor of New York City from 1849 to 1851; in fact he was a distant cousin.
Their marriage certificate was recorded in Cleveland on November 23, 1853, when Victoria was two months past her 15th birthday. She soon learned that her new husband was an alcoholic and a womanizer. She often had to work outside the home to support the family. She and Canning had two children, Byron and Zulu (later Zula) Maude. According to one account[which?], Byron was born with an intellectual disability in 1854, a condition Victoria believed was caused by her husband's alcoholism. Another version[which?] said his disability resulted from a fall from a window. Woodhull divorced her husband after bearing him two children, and kept his surname.
Second marriage 
About 1866 Woodhull married Colonel James Harvey Blood, who also was marrying for a second time. He had served in the Union Army in Missouri during the American Civil War, and had been elected as city auditor of St. Louis, Missouri. In 1872 Victoria Woodhull started a relationship with the anarchist Benjamin Tucker, which lasted for three years. The Woodhulls were divorced in October 1876.
Free love 
Woodhull's support of free love probably originated as she discovered the failings of her first husband. Women who married in the United States during the 19th century were bound into the unions, whether loveless or not, with few options to escape. Divorce, where possible, was scandalous, and women who divorced were stigmatized and often ostracized by society. Victoria Woodhull concluded women should have the choice to leave unbearable marriages. She railed against the hypocrisy of society's tolerating married men who had mistresses and engaged in other sexual dalliances. Woodhull believed in monogamous relationships, although she did state she had the right also to love someone else "exclusively" if she desired. She said:
|“||To woman, by nature, belongs the right of sexual determination. When the instinct is aroused in her, then and then only should commerce follow. 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 . . .||”|
In a speech she delivered on Monday, Nov. 20, 1871 in Steinway Hall, New York City, Woodhull stated her opinion on free love quite clearly:
|“||"Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere.||”|
Prostitution rumors and stance 
In the 19th century and since then, rumors have circulated that Woodhull was a prostitute, but no primary evidence exists to support them. Allegedly, these rumors originated in articles published by the Chicago Mail, but no such articles have resurfaced. Woodhull personally spoke out against prostitution, and even considered marriage for material gain a form of it, yet her journal, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, voiced support for the legalization of prostitution. A personal account from a friend of Colonel Blood's suggests that Woodhull's sister Tennie was held against her will in a brothel until Woodhull rescued her, but this story remains unconfirmed.
Female stockbroker 
Woodhull and her sister Tennessee (Tennie) Claflin became the first women stockbrokers and in 1870 opened a brokerage firm on Wall Street. She made a fortune on the New York Stock Exchange. Woodhull, Claflin & Company opened in 1870 with the assistance of the wealthy Cornelius Vanderbilt, an admirer of Woodhull's skills as a medium; he is rumored to have been her sister Tennie's lover, and to have seriously considered marrying her. Newspapers such as the New York Herald hailed Woodhull and Claflin as "the Queens of Finance" and "the Bewitching Brokers." Many contemporary men's journals (e.g., The Days' Doings) published sexualized images of the pair running their firm (although they did not participate in the day-to-day business of the firm), linking the concept of publicly minded, un-chaperoned women with ideas of "sexual immorality" and prostitution.
Newspaper editor 
On the date of May 14, 1870, Woodhull and Claflin used the money they had made from their brokerage to found a paper, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, its primary purpose to support Victoria Claflin Woodhull for President of the Unitied States, and which published for the next six years. Feminism was the Weekly's primary interest, but it became notorious for publishing controversial opinions on taboo topics, advocating among other things sex education, free love, women's suffrage, short skirts, spiritualism, vegetarianism, and licensed prostitution. Histories often state the paper advocated birth control, but some historians disagree. The paper is now known for printing the first English version of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto in its December 30, 1871 edition, and the paper "argued the cause of labor with eloquence and skill. James Blood and Stephen Pearl Andrews wrote the majority of the articles, as well as other able contributors.
In 1872 the Weekly published a story that set off a national scandal and preoccupied the public for months. Henry Ward Beecher, a renowned preacher of Brooklyn's Plymouth Church, had condemned Woodhull's free love philosophy in his sermons. But a member of his church, Theodore Tilton, disclosed to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a colleague of Woodhull, that his wife had confessed Beecher was committing adultery with her. Provoked by such hypocrisy, Woodhull decided to expose Beecher. He ended up standing trial in 1875 for adultery in a proceeding that proved to be one of the most sensational legal episodes of the era, holding the attention of hundreds of thousands of Americans. The trial ended with a hung jury.
George Francis Train once defended her. Other feminists of her time, including Susan B. Anthony, disagreed with her tactics in pushing for women's equality. Some characterized her as opportunistic and unpredictable; in one notable incident, she had a run-in with Anthony during a meeting of the National Women's Suffrage Association (NWSA). (The radical NWSA later merged with the conservative American Women's Suffrage Association (AWSA) to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association).
Women's rights advocate 
Woodhull learned how to penetrate the all-male domain of national politics and arranged to testify on women's suffrage before the House Judiciary Committee. Woodhull argued that women already had the right to vote — all they had to do was use it — since the 14th and 15th Amendments guaranteed the protection of that right for all citizens. The simple but powerful logic of her argument impressed some committee members. Learning of Woodhull's planned address, suffrage leaders postponed the opening of the 1871 National Woman Suffrage Association's third annual convention in Washington in order to attend the committee hearing. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Isabella Beecher Hooker, saw Woodhull as the newest champion of their cause. They applauded her statement: "[W]omen are the equals of men before the law, and are equal in all their rights."
With the power of her first public appearance as a woman's rights advocate, Woodhull moved to the leadership circle of the suffrage movement. Although her Constitutional argument was not original, she focused unprecedented public attention on suffrage. Following Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Woodhull was the second woman ever to petition Congress in person. Numerous newspapers reported her appearance before Congress. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper printed a full-page engraving of Woodhull, surrounded by prominent suffragists, delivering her argument.
First International 
Woodhull joined the International Workingmen's Association, also known as the First International. She supported its goals by articles in her newspaper. In the United States, many Yankee radicals: former abolitionists and other progressive activists, became involved in the organization, which had been founded in England. German-American and ethnic Irish nearly lost control of the organization, and feared its goals were going to be lost in the broad-based, democratic egalitarianism promoted by the Americans. In 1871 the Germans expelled most of the English-speaking members of the First International's U.S. sections, leading to the quick decline of the organization, as it failed to attract the ethnic working class in America. Karl Marx commented disparagingly on Woodhull in 1872, and expressed approval of the expulsions.
Presidential candidate 
Woodhull was nominated for President of the United States by the newly formed Equal Rights Party on May 10, 1872, at Apollo Hall, New York City. A year earlier, she had announced her intention to run. Also in 1871, she spoke publicly against the government being composed only of men; she proposed developing a new constitution and a new government a year thence. Her nomination was ratified at the convention on June 6, 1872. They nominated the former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass for Vice President. He did not attend the convention and never acknowledged the nomination. He served as a presidential elector in the United States Electoral College for the State of New York.This made her the first woman candidate.
While many historians and authors agree that Woodhull was the first woman to run for President of the United States, some have questioned that priority given issues with the legality of her run. They disagree with classifying it as a true candidacy because she was younger than the constitutionally mandated age of 35. However, election coverage by contemporary newspapers does not suggest age was a significant issue. Biographer Mary L. Shearer, a descendant of Colonel Blood and researcher of Woodhull's life, has not found one article that discusses her age as an issue in the election. The presidential inauguration was in March 1873. Woodhull's 35th birthday was in September 1873.
Woodhull's campaign was also notable for the nomination of Frederick Douglass, although he did not take part in it. His nomination stirred up controversy about the mixing of whites and blacks in public life and fears of miscegenation (especially as he had married a much younger white woman after his first wife died.) The Equal Rights Party hoped to use the nominations to reunite suffragists with African-American civil rights activists, as the exclusion of female suffrage from the Fifteenth Amendment two years earlier had caused a substantial rift between the groups.
Having been vilified in the media for her support of free love, Woodhull devoted an issue of Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly (November 2, 1872) to an alleged adulterous affair between Elizabeth Tilton and Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, a prominent Protestant minister in New York (he supported female suffrage but had lectured against free love in his sermons). Woodhull published the article to highlight what she saw as a sexual double-standard between men and women.
That same day, a few days before the presidential election, U.S. Federal Marshals arrested Woodhull, her second husband Colonel James Blood, and her sister Tennie C. Claflin on charges of "publishing an obscene newspaper" because of the content of this issue. The sisters were held in the Ludlow Street Jail for the next month, a place normally reserved for civil offenses, but which contained more hardened criminals as well. The arrest was arranged by Anthony Comstock, the self-appointed moral defender of the nation at the time. Opponents raised questions about censorship and government persecution. The three were acquitted on a technicality six months later, but the arrest prevented Woodhull from attempting to vote during the 1872 presidential election. With the publication of the scandal, Theodore Tilton, the husband of Elizabeth, sued Beecher for "alienation of affection." The trial in 1875 was sensationalized across the nation, and eventually resulted in a hung jury.
Woodhull again tried to gain nominations for the presidency in 1884 and 1892. Newspapers reported that her 1892 attempt culminated in her nomination by the "National Woman Suffragists' Nominating Convention" on September 21st of that year. Mary L. Stowe of California was nominated as the candidate for vice president. The convention was held at Willard's Hotel in Boonville, New York, and Anna M. Parker was its president. Some woman's suffrage organizations repudiated the nominations, however, claiming that the nominating committee was unauthorized. Woodhull was quoted as saying that she was "destined" by "prophecy" to be elected President of the United States in the upcoming election.
Life in England and third marriage 
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In October 1876, Woodhull divorced her second husband, Colonel Blood. Less than a year later, exhausted and possibly depressed, she left for England to start a new life. She made her first public appearance as a lecturer at St. James's Hall in London on December 4, 1877. Her lecture was called "The Human Body, the Temple of God," a lecture which she had previously presented in the United States. Present at one of her lectures was the banker John Biddulph Martin. They began to see each other and married on October 31, 1883. (His family disapproved of his marriage.)
From then on, she was known as Victoria Woodhull Martin. Under that name, she published the magazine, The Humanitarian, from 1892 to 1901, with help from her daughter Zula Woodhull. After her husband died in 1901, Martin gave up publishing and retired to the country, establishing residence at Bredon's Norton.
Legacy and honors 
A cenotaph of Victoria Woodhull-Martin is located at Tewkesbury Abbey.
The Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance  is a human rights/sexual freedom advocacy organization named in honor of Victoria Woodhull.
See also 
- List of civil rights leaders
- List of suffragists and suffragettes
- List of women's rights activists
- Claflin family
- Ezra Heywood
- Swami Laura Horos
- Onward Victoria
- Timeline of women's rights (other than voting)
- Timeline of women's suffrage
- Johnson, 1956, p. 46
- Johnson, 1956, p. 46-47
- Johnson, 1956, p. 86, p. 87
- Johnson, 1956, p. 45
- 1850 federal census, Licking, Ohio; Series M432, Roll 703, Page 437; father listed as Buckman, brothers incorrectly transcribed as Hubern (Hubert) and Malven (Melvin).
- Wight, Charles Henry, Genealogy of the Claflin Family, 1661–1898. New York: Press of William Green. 1903. passim (use index)
- Underhill, Lois Beachy (1996). The Woman Who Ran for President: The Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull. Penguin Books. p. 24. ISBN 0-14-025638-5.
- "Woodhull, Zula Maude". Who's Who 59: 1930. 1907.
- Johnson, 1956, p. 47
- Intercourse (1987). Chapter 7. Occupation/Collaboration. Andrea Dworkin
- Shearer, Mary L. "Abandoned Woman? A Review of the Evidence." http://www.victoria-woodhull.com/prostitute.htm
- Shearer, Mary L. "Frequently Asked Questions about Victoria Woodhull." http://www.victoria-woodhull.com/faq.htm#who
- Johnson, 1956, p. 86
- Johnson, 1956, p. 87
- Constitutional equality. To the Hon. the Judiciary committee of the Senate and the House of representatives of the Congress of the United States ... Most respectfully submitted. Victoria C. Woodhull. Dated New York, January 2, 1871
- Susan Kullmann, "Legal Contender... Victoria C. Woodhull, First Woman to Run for President". Accessed 2009.05.29.
- Messer-Kruse, Timothy (1998). The Yankee International: Marxism and the American Reform Tradition, 1848-1876. pp. 2–4.
- "Notes on the "American split"". May 28, 1872. Retrieved 2010-08-05.
- A Lecture on Constitutional Equality, also known as The Great Secession Speech, speech to Woman's Suffrage Convention, New York, May 11, 1871, excerpt quoted in Gabriel, Mary, Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored (Chapel Hill, N.Car.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1st ed. 1998 (ISBN 1-56512-132-5)), pp. 86–87 & n.  (author Mary Gabriel journalist, Reuters News Service). Also excerpted, differently, in Underhill, Lois Beachy, The Woman Who Ran for President: The Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull (Bridgehampton, N.Y.: Bridge Works, 1st ed. 1995 (ISBN 1-882593-10-3)), pp. 125–126 & unnumbered n.
- "Arrest of Victoria Woodhull, Tennie C. Claflin and Col. Blood. They are Charged with Publishing an Obscene Newspaper.". New York Times. November 3, 1872. Retrieved 2008-06-27. "The agent of the Society for the Suppression of Obscene Literature, yesterday morning, appeared before United States Commissioner Osborn and asked for a warrant for the arrest of Mrs. Victoria C. Woodhull and Miss Tennie ..."
- "Victoria Martin, Suffragist, Dies. Nominated for President of the United States as Mrs. Woodhull in 1872. Leader of Many Causes. Had Fostered Anglo-American Friendship Since She Became Wife of a Britisher ...". New York Times. June 11, 1927. Retrieved 2008-06-27.
- Photo taken by RobertFrost1960 on September 21, 2010, accessed June 9, 2011.
- Woodhull Institute; Retrieved 3 April 2013
- "Women's Rights, Historic Sites Location List". Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer.
- The Performing Arts: A Guide to the Reference Literature. Libraries Unlimited.
- Dunham, Mike. "ANCHORAGE: Review: Opera about first woman to run for president debuts in Anchorage | Arts and Culture". ADN.com. Retrieved 2013-02-17.
- "National Womens Hall of Fame". Greatwomen.org. Retrieved 2013-02-17.
Further reading 
- Brough, James. The Vixens. Simon & Schuster, 1980. ISBN 0-671-22688-6
- Carpenter, Cari M. Selected Writings of Victoria Woodhull: Suffrage, Free Love, and Eugenics, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010
- Frisken, Amanda. Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8122-3798-6
- Gabriel, Mary. Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull Uncensored, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1998, 372 pages. ISBN 1-56512-132-5
- Goldsmith, Barbara. Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull, New York: Harper Perennial, 1998, 531 pages. ISBN 0-06-095332-2
- Johnson, Gerald W. 1956. "Dynamic Victoria Woodhull". American Heritage Volume 7, No. 4, June 1956
- Marberry, M.M. Vicky. Funk & Wagnills, New York. 1967
- Meade, Marion. Free Woman, Alfred A. Knopf, Harper & Brothers, 1976
- Sachs, Emanie. The Terrible Siren, Harper & Brothers, 1928
- The Staff of the Historian's Office and National Portrait Gallery. 'If Elected...' Unsuccessful candidates for the presidency 1796-1968. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Offices, 1972
- Stern, Madeleine B., ed., The Victoria Woodhull Reader, Weston, Mass.: M&S Press, 1974
- Underhill, Lois Beachy, The Woman Who Ran for President: The Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull (Bridgehampton, N.Y.: Bridge Works, 1st ed. 1995 (ISBN 1-882593-10-3))
- Weston, Victoria. *America's Victoria, Remembering Victoria Woodhull features Gloria Steinem and actress Kate Capshaw. Zoie Films Productions (1998). PBS and Canadian Broadcasts.
- Antje Schrupp, Das Aufsehen erregende Leben der Victoria Woodhull (2002: Helmer).
- Woodhull, Victoria C., Free Lover: Sex, Marriage and Eugenics in the Early Speeches of Victoria Woodhull (Seattle, 2005). Four of her most important early and radical speeches on sexuality as facsimiles of the original published versions. Includes: "The Principle of Social Freedom" (1872), "The Scare-crows of Sexual Slavery" (1873), "The Elixir of Life" (1873), and "Tried as by Fire" (1873–74). ISBN 1-58742-050-3.
- Woodhull, Victoria C., Lady Eugenist: Feminist Eugenics in the Speeches and Writings of Victoria Woodhull (Seattle, 2005). Seven of her most important speeches and writings on eugenics. Five are facsimiles of the original, published versions. Includes: "Children--Their Rights and Privileges" (1871), "The Garden of Eden" (1875, publ. 1890), "Stirpiculture" (1888), "Humanitarian Government" (1890), "The Rapid Multiplication of the Unfit" (1891), and "The Scientific Propagation of the Human Race" (1893). ISBN 1-58742-040-6.
- Woodhull, Victoria C., Constitutional equality the logical result of the XIV and XV Amendments, which not only declare who are citizens, but also define their rights, one of which is the right to vote without regard to sex. New York: 1870.
- Woodhull, Victoria C., The Origin, Tendencies and Principles of Government, or, A Review of the Rise and Fall of Nations from Early Historic Time to the Present. New York: Woodhull, Claflin & Company, 1871.
- Woodhull, Victoria C., Speech of Victoria C. Woodhull on the great political issue of constitutional equality, delivered in Lincoln Hall, Washington, Cooper Institute, New York Academy of Music, Brooklyn, Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Opera House, Syracuse: together with her secession speech delivered at Apollo Hall. 1871.
- Woodhull, Victoria C. Martin, "The Rapid Multiplication of the Unfit". New York, 1891.
- Davis, Paulina W., ed. A history of the national woman's rights movement for twenty years. New York: Journeymen Printers' Cooperative Association, 1871.
- Riddle, A.G., The Right of women to exercise the elective franchise under the Fourteenth Article of the Constitution: speech of A.G. Riddle in the Suffrage Convention at Washington, January 11, 1871: the argument was made in support of the Woodhull memorial, before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, and reproduced in the Convention. Washington: 1871.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Victoria Woodhull|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Woodhull on harvard.edu
- Biographical timeline
- Horowitz, "Victoria Woodhull, Anthony Comstock, and Conflict over Sex in the United States in the 1870s", The Journal of American History, February 1987
- STEPHANIE ATHEY, "Eugenic Feminisms in Late Nineteenth-Century America: Reading Race in Victoria Woodhull, Frances Willard, Anna Julia Cooper and Ida B. Wells", Genders Journal, 2000
- "Legal Contender... Victoria C. Woodhull: First Woman to Run for President", The Women's Quarterly (Fall 1988)
- "A lecture on constitutional equality," delivered at Lincoln hall, Washington, D.C., Thursday, February 16, 1871, by Victoria C. Woodhul, American Memory, Library of Congress
- A history of the national woman's rights movement, for twenty years, with the proceedings of the decade meeting held at Apollo hall, October 20, 1870, from 1850 to 1870, with an appendix containing the history of the movement during the winter of 1871, in the national capitol, comp. by Paulina W. Davis., American Memory, Library of Congress
- "And the truth shall make you free." A speech on the principles of social freedom, delivered in Steinway hall, Nov. 20, 1871, by Victoria C. Woodhull, American Memory, Library of Congress
- "Tried as by Fire" at the University of South Carolina Library's Digital Collections Page
- "Victoria Claflin Woodhull". Suffragist, Social Reformer. Find a Grave. Apr 09, 2004. Retrieved Aug 17, 2011.
- Movie review: "America's Victoria, Remembering Victoria Woodhull", The American Journal of History
- America's Victoria: Remembering Victoria Woodhull (1998) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database