Victoria Woodhull was a spiritualist, activist, politician and author who was the first woman to run for the presidency of the United States.
Victoria Woodhull was born on September 23, 1838, in Homer, Ohio. In 1870, Woodhull created Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, a radical publication, in which she expressed her ideas on a variety of activist topics. The journal also published the first English translation of Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto. She ran for the U.S. presidency on the Equal Rights Party ticket in 1872. Woodhull later moved to England and wrote more activist works. She died in England in 1927.
Early Life and Career
Born Victoria Claflin on September 23, 1838, in Homer, Ohio, Victoria Woodhull was a radical in many ways during her lifetime, and made history in 1872 as the first woman to run for the presidency of the United States. She and her sister, Tennessee Celeste Claflin, became involved in the spiritualist movement of the 1800s. Woodhull became a popular medium, traveling around with her sister to entertain audiences.
At the age of 15, Victoria married Canning Woodhull. The couple divorced in 1864, and Woodhull later reportedly wed Colonel James H. Blood, who introduced her to several reform movements.
In 1868, Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee, traveled to New York City, where they met Cornelius Vanderbilt. The wealthy Vanderbilt had recently become a widower, and he appreciated the psychological solace that Victoria Woodhull was able to provide him so much that he set the sisters up in business. The sisters started the first woman-run stock brokerage company.
Women's Rights Activism and Run for the Presidency
A free thinker, Victoria Woodhull created Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, a radical publication, in 1870 with her sister, Tennessee. The publication gave the sisters a place to express their ideas on social reforms, including women's suffrage, birth control and free love. The journal also published the first English translation of Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto.
A strong supporter of women's rights, Woodhull often spoke publicly on behalf of women's suffrage, and even addressed Congress on the issue. Seeking to be more politically active, establishing the Equal Rights Party, and shortly thereafter, for the U.S. presidency on the political group's ticket in 1872. There is some evidence that abolitionist Frederick Douglass ran as her running mate, but it is unclear how involved he really was in the campaign. No matter the case, the election turned sour, with Woodhull publicly fighting with her critics in her publication.
Woodhull became a target for public scrutiny because of her many relationships and radical ideas. She was first married at 15 to Canning Woodhull with whom she had two children. The couple later divorced, and Woodhull married twice more and was reported to have numerous relationships. Her public remarks about sexuality and social reforms were also held against her. And her support of socialism—a political and economic philosophy that was considered radical at the time—may have alienated some, as well.
Divorcing James H. Blood in 1876, Woodhull went on to marry a wealthy banker from England, John Biddulph Martin, in 1883.
In 1877, Woodhull and her sister moved to England, perhaps to make a fresh start. She spent much of her time writing; her works from this time include Human Body: The Temple of God (1890). Woodhull also published a magazine with her daughter, The Humanitarian, for nine years, beginning in 1892.
Victoria Claflin Woodhull Martin died on June 9, 1927, in Bredon's Norton, Worcestershire, England. She stands as an example of a woman who chose to speak out for what she believed in.