After Victoria divorced her first husband, the spirits guided her to St. Louis, where she set up shop as a medium named Madame Holland in a hotel office downtown. There she met Colonel James Harvey Blood, a Civil War veteran and city administrator. When he walked into her office, Victoria announced, “I see our future’s linked. Our destinies are bound together.” She believed that in that moment, they were betrothed “by the powers of the air.”
The only problem? He was already married and had at least one child. But that didn’t stop them from engaging in a torrid affair with Victoria and leaving his family to tour the Midwest with her as magnetic healers to raise the funds to pay off his debts in St. Louis. In 1866, they both divorced their spouses.
While they were in Chicago for Victoria’s divorce, she and Colonel Blood discovered that Buck Claflin was running a house of prostitution and using four of his daughters, including Tennie, as whores for the men. Tennie must have seen an opportunity to get out of this hellish life, for she found Victoria and James and asked with tears in her eyes, “My God, have I got to live like this always?” They took her in, earning the ire of parents, who saw only the influence James had over her and loss of income.
On July 12, 1866, Victoria and James were married in Dayton, Ohio. But the marriage application was incomplete and never filed by the minister, so there was some lingering question as to whether or not they were legally married. There’s also a persistent rumor that they divorced for a short period in 1868. Some sources say this was a show of political activism (but that sounds too Brad and Angelina modern to me). The juicer rumor is that Victoria’s sister, Polly, tried to blackmail them by alleging the Colonel’s divorce never went through and threatening him with a bigamy charge if he didn’t pay her. Instead, the story goes, he and Victoria divorced until he could verify the legality of his divorce from his first wife.
It was shocking to traditional society that Victoria didn’t change her last name to Colonel Blood’s, but she defiantly noted she was carrying on the tradition of professional women like actresses, singers and other artists who keep their own names (or in her case, her married name from her first marriage).
James as Influence on Victoria’s Future
As future posts will show, Colonel Blood was key to giving Victoria the stability and by all accounts the love that she so desperately needed. He was a supporter of the suffrage movement from way back and likely is the one who got her involved. He supported her desire to become a stock broker, even using his legal and accounting skills to help the firm, and then championed her run for office. In both cases, he served as her personal secretary, and also helped write her speeches.
James also believed in Free Love (the idea that love between two people governed when a marriage occurred and when it ended, rather than a governmental institution or legal piece of paper), a concept which he shared with Victoria. While it’s very likely she had an affair with at least Theodore Tilton, I haven’t found any solid evidence that he ever had one with anyone else. Some sources imply his close friendship with Elizabeth Cady Stanton (with whom it is said he “played chess” late into the night) was more than friendship, but I doubt that to be the case. It’s also rumored that he may have had an affair with Fannie Keziah Fogg, the daughter of the woman he later married after Victoria divorced him. But given that Fannie was born in 1862, and Victoria divorced him in 1876, if the affair occurred, it would have had to have been late into their marriage, as Fannie was only 14 when James was divorced.
Oddly enough, I am from St. Louis and I dated a guy with the last name of Blood in high school, so I can’t help but wonder if he’s a relative. How weird would that be?
Any thoughts or questions about James?
Brody, Miriam. Victoria Woodhull, Free Spirit for Women’s Rights.
Frisken, Amanda. Victoria Woodhull’s Sexual Revolution.
Gabriel, Mary. Notorious Victoria.
Goldsmith, Barbara. Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull.
Havelin, Kate. Victoria Woodhull.
Krull, Kathleen. A Woman for President – The Story of Victoria Woodhull.
MacPherson, Myra. The Scarlet Sisters.
Tilton, Theodore. The Golden Age Tract No. 3 “Victoria C. Woodhull, a Biographical Sketch.”
Underhill, Lois Beachey. The Woman Who Ran for President.
This post was updated on July 31, 21015, to correct confusion about Colonel Blood’s children. My sources vary in their answers. Some day two daughters, some say one. Some simply say “children” or “family.”