Hillary Isn’t the 1st: Meet Victoria Woodhull, America’s 1st Female Presidential Candidate

Victoria C. Woodhull, first American to run for President. Ran against Grant and Greeley, 1872.

Victoria C. Woodhull, first American woman to run for President. Ran against Grant and Greeley, 1872.

After keeping this under my hat for almost a year, I’m very excited to announce the main character of my next historical fiction novel is none other than Victoria C. Woodhull, the first woman to run for president, in 1872. I chose today to finally reveal who I was writing about since Hillary Clinton made her candidacy announcement yesterday and my book is out in the world (not published, but it’s circulating, trying to get published).

Over the next several weeks, I’ll share information with you on this fascinating woman, who was born the dirt-poor daughter of a con-man and an insane Spiritualist, but by the age of 33, was a self-made millionaire and had racked up an impressive list of “firsts:”

  • First woman to run a stock brokerage on Wall Street
  • First woman to testify before Congress
  • One of the first women to run a weekly newspaper
  • First female presidential candidate

She is quite a character, and so is her family. Seriously, they could have been on Jerry Springer. Maybe next week I’ll introduce you to the whole cast of characters in  Victoria’s life – they made for interesting writing. She is one of those cases that proves you couldn’t make up a story as juicy as the truth history gives you. Like Hillary, she had her fair share of detractors, and also her fair share of qualities we wouldn’t think would make the ideal Presidential candidate. But on the balance, I think she was a good person who really did want to change the country for the better.

Why haven’t you heard of her? Good question. I hadn’t either until one day my friend Liv Raincourt pinned a picture of her on Pinterest. The caption, “Known by her detractors as ‘Mrs. Satan,’ Victoria Claflin Woodhull, born in 1838, married at age fifteen to an alcoholic and womanizer. She became the first woman to establish a brokerage firm on Wall Street and played an active role in the woman’s suffrage movement. She became the first woman to run for President of the United States in 1872. Her name is largely lost in history. Few recognize her name and accomplishments.” captured my imagination, and as I began to research this fascinating woman, I knew I had the subject of my next book.

No one knows for certain why she has been lost to the pages of history. But two things are likely to blame: 1) the first “biography” published about her shortly after her death in 1927 painted her as a brazen, manipulative whore, so no one wanted her held up as an example of feminine capabilities and 2) she really pissed off Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the ladies who literally wrote the 900+ page book on the history of the suffrage movement. In revenge, they relegated her to a literal footnote. What did she do to make them so angry? The short answer is what didn’t she do, but that’s the subject of another week’s post…

Are you interested in learning more about her? Have you heard of Victoria Woodhull before now? If so, how/where? If not, what do you want to know about her? Let me know and I’ll make sure to answer you over the next few weeks as we dive deeper into this fascinating woman’s story.

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3 thoughts on “Hillary Isn’t the 1st: Meet Victoria Woodhull, America’s 1st Female Presidential Candidate

  1. I am sure this will be a fascinating book, and I bet it will seem quite timely in the coming months, too. I imagine you had a wonderful time doing research about Victoria Woodhull and her times, not to mention actually writing about her. I *had* heard of her before. I dimly recalled that she had run for president but associated her more with being a proponent of “free love,” which I have just learned didn’t mean exactly what I thought it meant. (Thanks, Wikipedia.) I’m sure I’ll learn far more from your blog posts, not to mention the novel!

    • Thanks, Suzanne! Yes for Victoria, Free Love was about the government not being involved in marriage. She wanted marriage to automatically dissolve when the couple was no longer in love. She did take lovers during her lifetime (at least one, possibly up to four, depending on your source), but she was not a proponent of the wanton sexuality we associate with the term thanks to the Hippies of the 1960s.

  2. Pingback: Meet Victoria Woodhull’s Family | Through the Mists of Time

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