Guinevere’s Tale Book 1

“A new twist on an old tale that gives agency, sympathy, and personality to a woman typically cast as a one-dimensional adulteress. Classic characters find their way into Guinevere’s orbit in unexpected ways, keeping the novel both familiar and fresh.” – Library Journal
  • Chanticleer Reviews 2015 Book of the Year
  • Winner of the North Street Book Prize
  • Best New Voice, (Silver Award), IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards

  

Before queenship and Camelot, Guinevere was a priestess of Avalon. She loved another before Arthur, a warrior who would one day betray her.

In the war-torn world of late fifth century Britain, young Guinevere faces a choice: stay with her family to defend her home at Northgallis from the Irish, or go to Avalon to seek help for the horrific visions that haunt her. The Sight calls her to Avalon, where she meets Morgan, a woman of questionable parentage who is destined to become her rival. As Guinevere matures to womanhood, she gains the powers of a priestess, and falls in love with a man who will be both her deepest love and her greatest mistake.

Just when Guinevere is able to envision a future in Avalon, tragedy forces her back home, into a world she barely recognizes, one in which her pagan faith, outspokenness, and proficiency in the magical and military arts are liabilities. When a chance reunion with her lover leads to disaster, she is cast out of Northgallis and into an uncertain future. As a new High King comes to power, Guinevere must navigate a world of political intrigue where unmarried women are valuable commodities and seemingly innocent actions can have life-altering consequences.

You may think you know the story of Guinevere, but you’ve never heard it like this: in her own words. Listen and you will hear the true story of Camelot and its queen.

Fans of Arthurian legend and the Mists of Avalon will love Daughter of Destiny, the first book in a historical fantasy trilogy that gives Guinevere back her voice and traces her life from an uncertain eleven year old girl to a wise queen in her fifth decade of life.

Preview the book.

Purchase print and ebook:                       Audio book:

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In stores:

Bellingham, WA – Village Books and Paper Dreams

Los Angeles, CA – The Ripped Bodice

St. Louis, MO – The Novel Neighbor

St. Charles, MO – Main Street Books

Other Awards

  • Gold Medal – Midwest Book Awards
  • Gold Medal – Next Generation Indie Book Awards (fantasy)
  • Gold Medal – Readers Favorite Awards (fantasy)
  • First Place, Legacy/legend category – 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romantic Fiction
  • First Place, Fairytale/Folklore category, Colorado Independent Publisher’s Association (CIPA) EVVY Awards

NGIBA Gold MedalShort list – 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction

Selected for Library Journal‘s curated SELF-e Select module

A 5-Star Review from Readers’ Favorites.

Praise

“Evelina’s re-imaginings of this familiar material is unfailingly energetic and innovative, and her version of Guinevere herself is captivating virtually from the first page – no small feat in an overall plot with such well-defined parameters. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to its sequel.” – Historical Novel Society
“Wonderfully gripping. A stunning first novel.” –  The Wishing Shelf Book Awards
“A lyrical, imagistic retelling of the Arthurian legend…The writer’s skill in creating a lushly imagistic fantasy world was a major reason for her first place award. Nicole Evelina has succeeded in creating a novel that is a pleasure for adults as well as teenagers to read. Although I am not normally a reader of fantasy fiction, I loved being immersed in the misty, magical land of Avalon.” – Ellen LaFleche for the North Street Book Prize committee

“If you are an enthusiast of Arthurian and Avalonia, then you will fall in love Guinevere’s story. You may already know it, but Nicole’s words put Camelot and its queen into a new and refreshing light. –SeriousReading (4.5 Star Review)

Daughter of Destiny is an entertaining and well-structured novel…The fate of Nicole Evelina’s Guinevere is worth tracing through the rest of the series.”  – IndieReader

“A gripping read that brings a wonderfully depicted Guinevere tumbling out of the shadows of myth.” – Anna Belfrage, author of The Graham Saga

“Written in lyrical prose and deposits you right in the middle of medieval times. The writing is fast paced, historically correct for the era, and a page turner. I sympathized with the character whom fictional history buffs branded a lustful harlot because of circumstances…Great twist at the end. Evelina’s 15 years of research are a powerful addition to a fantastic read. Can’t wait for Book Two. Prepare to embrace Guinevere. I feel privileged to have read this outstanding novel by a great writer.” – Sandra Masters for Readers’ Favorite

“Colorful and exciting…love all the characters. You will have a ball with this book.” – Serena Scott Thomas, actress and audio book narrator

“Nicole Evelina shows a deep and passionate love for the Arthurian world, and her re-weaving of the story of Guinevere and Arthur makes for enjoyable reading. With more volumes to come, if you like stories of Camelot, ancient priesthoods, magical Avalonian dreams and embattled romance, this is for you.” – John Matthews, author of ‘Arthur of Albion’ and ‘The Camelot Oracle’

This book is also listed on:

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Formats: ebook, paperback, audio
Publisher: Lawson Gartner publishing
ISBN: 

  • 978-0-9967631-0-3 (print)
  • 978-0-9967631-1-0 (ebook)
  • 978-0-9967631-2-7 (audio)
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Guinevere’s Tale Book 2

“What a refreshing twist to a historical fiction nearly as old as time! Author Nicole Evelina not only spins a refreshing new thread told from Guinevere’s POV, she weaves an entire tapestry rich in color, depth, and scope…With larger than life characters, a gamut of emotions, mystical forces and hate-worthy villains this is historical fantasy at its finest! – InD’tale Magazine

Winner:

  • Fiction Book of the Year – Author’s Circle
  • Best Second Book – Next Generation Indie Book Awards

History remembers Guinevere’s sin, but it was Arthur who transgressed first.

Forced into a marriage she neither anticipated nor desired, Guinevere
finds herself High Queen, ruling and fighting alongside Arthur as they
try to subdue the Saxons, Irish and Picts who threaten Britain from every direction. Though her heart still longs for her lost love, Guinevere slowly grows to care for her husband as they join together to defeat their enemies.

Meanwhile, within the walls of Camelot their closest allies plot against them. One schemes to make Guinevere his own, another seeks revenge for past transgressions, while a third fixes her eyes on the throne. When the unthinkable happens and Guinevere is feared dead, Arthur installs a new woman in her place, one who will poison his affections toward her, threatening Guinevere’s fragile sanity and eventually driving her into the arms of her champion.

Amid this tension a new challenge arises for the king and queen of Camelot: finding the Holy Grail, a sacred relic that promises lasting unity. But peace, as they will soon learn, can be just as dangerous as war. As the court begins to turn on itself, it becomes clear that the quest that was to be Arthur’s lasting legacy may end in the burning fires of condemnation. 

This highly anticipated sequel to Daughter of Destiny proves there is much more to Guinevere’s story than her marriage and an affair. See the legend you think you know through her eyes and live the adventure of Camelot’s golden days yourself – but prepared to suffer its downfall as well.

Preview the book.

Purchase print and ebook:                        Audio book:

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In stores:

Bellingham, WA – Village Books and Paper Dreams

Los Angeles, CA – The Ripped Bodice

St. Louis, MO – The Novel Neighbor

St. Charles, MO – Main Street Books

Other Awards

  • Gold Medal, Next Generation Indie Book Awards (fantasy)
  • First Place, Ozma Awards for Fantasy Fiction (mythological fantasy)

Finalist – Midwest Book Awards (fantasy)
Short-list – Forward Indies Book of the Year (fantasy)
Long List – RONE Awards (historical: ancient through 16th century)

Selected – Library Journal‘s curated SELF-e Select module
Named a Discovered Diamond for independent historical fiction

“What a refreshing twist to a historical fiction nearly as old as time…Author Nicole Evelina not only spins a refreshing new thread told from Guinevere’s POV, she weaves an entire tapestry rich in color, depth, and scope…With larger than life characters, a gamut of emotions, mystical forces and hate-worthy villains this is historical fantasy at its finest!” – InD’Tale Magazine (4.5 star, Crowned-heart review)

“An enthralling saga.” – The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

“Evelina writes [the court intrigues] with terrific energy and page after page of vivid dialogue. She very adroitly exploits the known quantities of the core Arthurian story; readers know to expect the division of Guinevere’s affections, and the sensitive emotional variations Evelina works into the story are expertly done. This is a fine, gripping series.” – Historical Novel Society

 “The book is full of high political intrigue and lots of action as the reader easily becomes immersed in the life of the medieval court of King Arthur. A thrilling addition to the chronicles of Arthur’s fated Guinevere.” – Readers’ Favorite 5-Star review
“Captivating. I couldn’t put it down. Guinevere’s story for a new generation.” – Bookalicious

“In Queen of Camelot, Guinevere steps forth as a woman of strength and passion. A woman to admire – and to love!” – Anna Belfrage, author of The Graham Saga

This book is also listed on:

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Formats: ebook, paperback, audio
Publisher: Lawson Gartner publishing
ISBN: 

  • 978-0-9967631-3-4 (print)
  • 978-0-9967631-4-1 (ebook)
  • 978-0-9967631-5-8 (audio)

Biographical historical fiction of Victoria Woodhull

“A fascinating story of meteoric rise from rags to riches, from subservience to achievement – based on a true story. A highly entertaining and informative read.” – Chanticleer Reviews
  • First place, Women’s US History category, 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction
  • Awarded the Indie B.R.A.G Medallion
  • Honorable Mention – Reader’s Favorite Book Awards, Fiction – Historical Personage category
  • Selected for Library Journal‘s curated SELF-e Select module

Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books.

Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to “become ruler of her people.”

But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.

Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it’s not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they’ve so long fought to protect.

Those who support her laud “Notorious Victoria” as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, “Mrs. Satan’s” radical views on women’s rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.

This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time – a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century – but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.

Preview the book.

Purchase paperback and ebook:             Audio book:

amazon-logo-icon nook-icon-150x150 KoboIconWeb ibooks_icon book-button-smashwords-icon          

In stores:

Bellingham, WA – Village Books and Paper Dreams

Los Angeles, CA – The Ripped Bodice

St. Louis, MO – The Novel Neighbor

St. Charles, MO – Main Street Books

Additional praise:

“Evelina’s intriguing account of Victoria Woodhull—spiritualist, suffragette, stockbroker, and politician—deftly extols the many “firsts” of this 19th-century feminist trailblazer…Evelina moves assuredly through the many layers of Victoria’s colorful life; such potent issues as family torment, marital abuse, and female subjugation all are linked in this dramatic story of struggle.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Evelina does a remarkable job of using letters and articles from Victoria’s lifetime to create an engaging story. Victoria was not always easy to relate to with regard to some of her choices, but Evelina does a great job fleshing out the reasoning behind Victoria’s motivations, which made her someone easy to sympathize with. This is a well-plotted and revealing look into the life of the first woman to run for president, and a book that stays with you.” – Historical Novel Society

“Riveting… Nicole Evelina presents a realistic and fascinating account of a woman who should be recognized in the history books…Ms. Evelina is certainly a skilled storyteller and writer…This excellent book is required reading for anyone trying to understand the roots of the fight for women’s equal rights.” – Deborah Lloyd for Readers’ Favorite

“Fascinating. Victoria Woodhull was certainly a powerhouse, who for some reason was written out of the history books. If you’re looking for an engaging and fast-paced historical fiction novel about subject not often explored in the genre, be sure to check out Madame Presidentess.” – Books & Tea

“An engaging read…author Nicole Evelina’s fascinating account doesn’t spare the more sordid side of Woodhull’s life and is punctuated with events and figures from the era (e.g., Walt Whitman, Susan B. Anthony, the suffragists, et al.).” – IndieReader

“Nicole Evelina beautifully illustrates in her historical novel Madame Presidentess the major events, philosophical influences, and relationship dynamics at play in the extraordinary life of Victoria Woodhull as a significant forerunner for our generation’s feminist movement. This highly engaging story of Woodhull’s 1872 Presidential run is so timely and relevant!” -Cindy Safronoff, author of Crossing Swords: Mary Baker Eddy vs. Victoria Claflin Woodhull and the Battle for the Soul of Marriage

Formats: ebook, paperback,
Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing
ISBN: 

  • 978-0-9967632-0-2 (print)
  • 978-0-9967631-9-6 (ebook)
  • 978-0-9967632-7-1 (audio)

Feminism: One Movement in Four Waves (Part 4)

This is the final installment of this series. Here are the other parts: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Wave Four: 2017 – Present – Women Resist
Key Figures: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris, celebrities such as Rose McGowan, Reese Witherspoon and Emma Watson, and women of the general public who demonstrated.

By Elvert Barnes from Baltimore, Maryland, USA via Wikimedia Commons

In 2005, Pythia Peay became the first women to argue, at least publicly, that the country had slipped into a fourth wave of feminism, one she believed combined justice with spirituality. Jennifer Baumgardner points to 2008 as the date the fourth wave began because of the sanctioning of Take Our Daughters to Work Days and the broadening of feminist agendas to include transgender women, acceptance of sex-positivism and sex workers, support for plus-sized women and other issues.

But I personally believe the change came in 2017. Regardless of who you voted for, it’s hard to deny that the Trump election changed everything for women in the United States. You could argue that this wave began with Hilary Clinton’s campaign, but I believe the stunning blow many women felt when she lost, combined with Trump’s public distain for women, is really what set us into a new wave.

Within days of his election, women were planning ways to protest the rise of a culture in which a political leader with pending lawsuits for sexual misconduct and widely-seen video/audio footage of him bragging about kissing/groping women without their consent is given a pass by fellow lawmakers and voters. They also used it as a chance to advocate for legislation and policies regarding human rights, women’s rights, immigration reform, health care reform, reproductive rights, the environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality and freedom of religion. The resulting January 21, 2017, Women’s March in Washington was the largest single-day protest in American history. It and 673 others around the world drew 2.6 million people in all 50 states and 32 countries. (In 2018, more than 1 million women turned out for a second Women’s March in cities across the country, with an emphasis on resistance and creating change through voting in the midterm elections to be held later in the year.)

By Rob Kall from Bucks County, PA, USA via Wikimedia Commons

2017 also saw the ideas of men habitually interrupting women or “mansplaining” ideas to them come into mainstream media when California Sen. Kamala Harris was cut off by two male colleagues during an Intelligence Committee hearing, not once, but twice in a week, without censure.  This event led to former Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller branding Harris with the age-old female label of “hysterical.” During the same hearings, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren objected to the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Senate voted to silence her in the middle of a speech, citing  Senate Rule XIX, which prohibits ascribing “to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” In defending this action, Sen. Mitch McConnell said, “Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Thus was born the fourth wave feminist slogan “Nevertheless She Persisted.”

Perhaps the most visible movement within the reenergized feminist fourth wave began in October 2017 with a tweet from actress Rose McGowan in which she revealed she had been raped by a man she called HW (who would later be identified as media mogul Harvey Weinstein). Her Charmed co-star Alyssa Milano responded to her tweet by urging women to use the hastag  #MeToo to show how widespread sexual harassment and sexual assault are. A movement was born, resulting in hundreds of thousands of women (both famous and not) around the world sharing their stories, as well as accusations against more than 50 Hollywood heavyweight actors, producers, directors, and other public figures. Time magazine later named the #MeToo silence breakers the Person of the Year for 2017.

A high-profile offshoot of #MeToo is #TimesUp, a movement involving more than 300 women in the film industry who are supporting one another in the fight against sexual harassment and violence through lobbying and providing funds for victims who can’t afford legal counsel.

Given all this fiery activity, it is little surprise that feminism was Merriam-Webster’s 2017 Word of the Year – a move many saw as confirming the rise of feminism from near-death.

From NBC news

One positive outcome of this fledgling wave of feminism is that more women than ever are running for political office, seeking to change trends that threaten to normalize sexual harassment and overall disregard for women’s rights and feelings. Currently, women occupy just 19.1% of House seats, 21% of Senate seats, and only four current U.S. governors are women, according to Catalyst.org, but this may well change with 2018 mid-term elections leaving several seats up for grabs. According to the Washington Post, a record number of women are running for governor: 79 women — 49 Democrats and 30 Republicans — are considering runs for the 2018 campaign. That’s more than double than four years ago. In Michigan, it appears that women will be nominees for every statewide office and more than 110 women have signed up to run for the Texas legislature.

Only time will tell what else this new wave will bring or what permanent changes it will usher in. I, for one, am grateful to be living “in interesting times” where history is made each and every day. If previous waves are any indication, persistence, loud voices and bold action will win the day and hopefully, finally, bring to an end the need for feminism to exist after nearly 200 years. It’s a tall order, but as Rosie the Riveter reminds us “we can do it!”

 

On Women, Strength and Competition

This is my monthly Spellbound Scribes blog post.

Spellbound Scribes

Last week on International Women’s Day, I was exposed to the most wonderful poet: Fleassy Malay from Melbourne, Australia, and her incredible poem, “Witches.” It’s actually not about witchcraft, but strong women. Please take a moment to watch it.

If you liked it, you can buy a print of the text on Etsy. Until March 18, 50% of the proceeds will be donated to The Global Women’s Project.

I seriously have a girl crush on Fleassy now and immediately followed her on Facebook. The other night she posted a Facebook Live to explain why she wrote the poem, which isn’t necessarily why you might think. Among other things, she said something like “we’re really good as women at calling each other out on our shit, but we don’t really have a system for celebrating one another.”

That really stuck with me. I’m a highly competitive person, so I naturally…

View original post 584 more words

TOAFQ is a Contest Finalist & Other Fun Stuff

The Once and Future Queen has been shortlisted in its first contest: The Chanticleer Reviews 2017 Instruction and Insight Non-Fiction Book Awards. We’ll find out if it takes home the Grand Prize in its category on April 21, or maybe even Book of the Year! (Hey, it can’t hurt to hope!)

I’ve also had some really fun things happen lately and if you don’t follow me on social media, you might have missed them:

  1. A blogger told me that she’ll be using The Once and Future Queen as part of her sources for presentation she’s giving at her local library and that she has asked them to purchase my books for the library. This is proof that targeted blog tours can result in sales!
  2. My audio book narrator for Been Searching for You, Ashley Clements gave the book a shout out on Instagram Live.
  3. Susan Weintrob did this really cool review of Madame Presidentess where she added in a recipe for the tomato sup Victoria is said to have ordered at Delmonico’s.
  4. Here’s my first moment of having someone fangirl over my books (and on video, no less):

If you can help out Kelly’s literacy project, please do!

Also, I have several books in free giveaways on BookFunnel this month:

  1. NonfictionThe Once and Future Queen
  2. Mythological March Madness Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen

Please tell all your friends if they want free books!

Big Announcement: Another Major Win for Daughter of Destiny!!!

Today is a big day…one I’ve been dying to talk about this for months. Well, now I officially can!

DAUGHTER OF DESTINY HAS WON THE NORTH STREET BOOK PRIZE!

It is one of only three winners: nonfiction/memoir, general fiction and YA. They put it in the YA category. It’s not a YA book, but given Guinevere’s age and the fact that it is the “coming of age” part of her story, I can see why it landed there. But, I don’t care what you call it, as long as you like it, and the judges obviously did. Here are a few quotes from the official critique:

“Nicole Evelina’s Young Adult novel Daughter of Destiny is a lyrical, imagistic retelling of the Arthurian legend…The writer’s skill in creating a lushly imagistic fantasy world was a major reason for her first place award. Nicole Evelina has suceeded in creating a YA novel that is a pleasure for adults as well as teenagers to read. Although I am not normally a reader of fantasy fiction, I loved being immersed in the misty, magical land of Avalon.”

Here’s the whole critique, in case you are interested. And here’s the official press release.

This huge for me, as big of a deal as my two Book of Year designations.  In light of this win, I have point out one irony. The very first rejection Daughter of Destiny received was from an agent (who shall remain nameless) who said it “read like a bad YA novel.” I kid you not. And here it won in the YA category. 🙂 Just goes to show that you shouldn’t listen to the nay-sayers!

I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am that my debut novel continues to receive accolades more than two years after it was published. Thank you to everyone who has read it, reviewed it and supported it!!

PS – Mistress of Legend is shaping up nicely. It finally feels complex enough to stand beside the previous two books in the series.

Meet Me at the Metaphysical Fair in May!

I know not all of you live in the St. Louis area, but if you do (or are up for a visit), I’m excited to announce that I’ll be selling books at the Crossroads Metaphysical Fair, May 12 and 13 at the Holiday Inn St. Louis SW Route 66. The fair runs from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, so there is plenty of time to drop by and say hi.

Why am I so excited about this? These are my people! I LOVE crystals, tarot and books on Wicca/New Age spirituality so even if sales are slow, I’ll be in heaven. Plus, with two books where Guinevere is an Avalonian priestess and one on Victoria Woodhull the Spiritualist, I can’t go wrong with the type of people who will be attracted to this event. And if that wasn’t enough, my friend and fellow writer Mia Silverton will have a booth there, too.

Now we just have to hope I don’t spend more than I make that weekend… I make no promises! 🙂

Victoria Woodhull and the Victorian Antecedent of #MeToo

By Bradley & Rulofson, San Francisco ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

(This article is being posted concurrently on The Huffington Post)

The #MeToo movement began in 2006 as a way to empower survivors of sexual violence and then in late 2017 became a rallying cry against sexual harassment for all women. It occurred to me yesterday that the roots of the #MeToo movement reach back much farther in time than when Tarana Burke began using the phrase on MySpace. The original feminists, who were also the first suffragists, often took up issues of sex and sexuality. Victoria Woodhull, woman of so many firsts, was at the vanguard.

A little background on Victoria, in case you are unfamiliar with her:

Despite being born in 1864 as the dirt-poor daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot and having very little formal education, Victoria raised herself up to become a self-made millionaire by the age of 30, as well as the first woman to:

  • Speak before a House Committee of Congress (the Judiciary Committee, where she spoke in favor of female suffrage)
  • Run a stock brokerage on Wall Street (which she ran with the help of her sister, Tennessee, who was also called Tennie)
  • Run a weekly newspaper (Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, which she also ran with Tennie)
  • Run for United States president (in 1872, 48 years before women were granted the right to vote)

Advocate of Prostitutes and Free Love
Having suffered physical (and according to some biographers, sexual) abuse at the hands of her father, and having endured marital rape by her first husband, Canning Woodhull, Victoria was an outspoken advocate of female sexual rights. In 1871, she declared publicly, “Sexual freedom means the abolition of prostitution both in and out of marriage, means the emancipation of woman from sexual slavery and her coming into ownership and control of her own body” (Sterns).

Victoria was a member of a Spiritualist splinter movement called the sex radicals, who believed, among other things, that “hypocrisy tainted the social order and made class and gender equality inaccessible to women” (Frisken 27). Like many others of this group, Victoria was known to be a supporter of the rights of prostitutes. (Some posit that she worked as one for a time, which I don’t believe, but it is known that her sister Tennie, was a prostitute, thanks to her father who forced several of the Woodhull girls into the sex trade.) Victoria was known to have heard the plights of prostitutes during her work as a clairvoyant healer and to have been deeply touched by their plight. Indeed, when she and Tennie opened their brokerage in 1870, Victoria ensured it had a special back room with its own separate entrance for women. Many have speculated that in addition to rich magnates’ wives, heiresses and honest businesswomen, the prostitutes and madams Victoria once helped came to try their luck in the stock market and so Victoria made sure they had a private, protected place to do their legitimate business (Goldsmith 191). Editorials in Victoria’s newspaper (possibly penned by her, but also equally possibly penned by her husband Col. James Blood or her close friend Stephen Pearl Andrews) stated “Remove the causes and the effects will cease. Give woman employment and you remove her from the need of self-destruction…We hope all our girls will soon be educated up to the standard of preferring the glorious freedom of self support, even as washerwomen or ragpickers, to holding legal or illegal sexual relations undictated by attraction. She who marries for support, and not for love, is a lazy pauper, coward and prostitute” (Frisken 27).

Victoria not only spoke about women’s rights, she lived her beliefs. She was famously a supporter of Free Love, a movement that the press liked to dress up as the wanton belief that everyone should be able to have sex with anyone, anytime, but which to Victoria meant that the religion and government should not be part of marriage. She believed that when two people fell in love, a marriage should begin, and if they fell out of love, it should end and both parties be free to take other lovers. This was her explanation:

“Two persons, a male and a female, meet and are drawn together by a mutual attraction—a natural feeling unconsciously arising within their natures of which neither has any control—which is denominated love. Suppose after this marriage has continued an indefinite time, the unity between them departs. Could they any more prevent it than they can prevent the love? It came without their bidding; it not also go without their bidding? It is therefore a strictly legitimate conclusion that where there is no love as a basis of marriage, there should be no marriage, and if that which was the basis of a marriage is taken away, that the marriage also ceases from that time, statute laws to the contrary notwithstanding” (Sterns).

While that may sound reasonable to us now, in Victorian America, it was shocking. In those days, divorce was a religious issue, rendering asunder what God hath joined, and laws varied widely by state, resulting in uneven and unfair rules. Wisconsin and Indiana had the two most liberal divorce laws in country, and incompatibility was accepted as grounds, (Goldsmith 204) but in many states, the only grounds for divorce a woman could use were cruelty, the definition of which varied widely, and adultery, which it was hard to prove, so divorce was difficult for a woman.

Add to this the economic and cultural dependencies of women upon men and there were many unhappy marriages in which women were required to sexually submit to husbands they did not love. In that same 1871 speech, Victoria said, “Sanctioned and defended by marriage, night after night, thousands of rapes are committed under the cover of this accursed license. I know whereof I speak. Millions of poor, heartbroken, suffering wives are compelled to minister to the lechery of insatiable husbands when every instinct of body and sentiment of soul revolt in loathing and disgust. Prate of the abolition of slavery, there was never servitude in the world like this one of marriage” (Sterns). This is what she was fighting against with her very public ideals of Free Love.

Like many women who speak out today, Victoria was punished for her radical ideas. In 1872, Harper’s Weekly published a cartoon dubbing Victoria as “Mrs. Satan” because she urged women to fight back against sexual slavery and mistreatment within marriage, an image and a name that would dog her throughout the end of her presidential run and even hang on for decades after her death.

The Beecher-Tilton Scandal, The Original #MeToo
If that wasn’t enough, Victoria famously called out the most famous and beloved preacher of her day – Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, a Victorian Harvey Weinstein, who was said to “preach to at least twenty of his mistresses every Sunday” (Goldsmith, xiv).

The first time, in May 1871, she simply alluded to him in her newspaper, writing that many of the men who judged her “preach against ‘free love’ openly and practice it secretly. I know of one man, a public teacher of eminence, who lives in concubinage with the wife of another public teacher of almost equal eminence. All three concur in denouncing offenses against morality” (Brody 83).

But by October 1872, Victoria had had enough and took steps that eerily foreshadowed Rose McGowan’s 2017 public social media declaration against Harvey Weinstein. Victoria brought back her failed newspaper for one incredibly scandalous issue in which she blew the lid off of one of the biggest sex scandals of the age. Her article, “The Beecher-Tilton Scandal Case: The Detailed Statement of the Whole Matter,” was written in the form of a mock interview in which Victoria, after a brief introduction, answered questions from a fictional reporter about the affair. In the article she revealed her long-held secret knowledge that Rev. Beecher had a sexual affair with Elizabeth “Lib” Tilton, the wife of Victoria’s former lover, Theodore Tilton. The reverend’s scandalous behavior was an open secret in their society, but Victoria’s public account brought it unequivocally into the light where it could no longer be denied, resulting in a court case that was the O.J. Simpson trial of its day.

Thomas Nast [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Accompanying Victoria’s article was one by her sister, Tennie, which detailed the rape of a young virgin (or two, depending on the source) at an annual night of debauchery called the French Ball many years earlier.  It was Tennie’s use of the phrase “…to prove that he seduced a virgin, carried for days on his finger, exhibiting in triumph, the red trophy of her virginity” that landed the sisters in jail a few days later on charges of sending obscene content through the mail. Despite that phrase appearing in Book of Deuteronomy in Bible (and therefore everyone who had ever mailed a Bible being equally guilty), they remained in jail for several months, causing Victoria to miss the Election Day during which her name was on the ballot as the first ever woman to run for president of the United States. Both women were eventually acquitted of all charges against them. (See this article for more on the scandal.)

And on Through the Decades
Unlike the #MeToo movement, the Beecher-Tilton scandal did not result in an outpouring of similar accusations; Victorian society would not stand for that, so women stayed silent. In the end, the lurid headlines did little to change things. After a six-month trial that ended in a hung jury, Rev. Beecher walked away unpunished and his congregation paid his trial costs, leaving him richer than before Victoria spoke up (McMillen 193). He may have been one of the first, but he certainly wasn’t the last. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century, women were routinely abused at home, in their places of worship, and increasingly in the workplace. According to Time magazine, “By the 1920s, working women were advised to simply quit their jobs if they could not handle the inevitable sexual advances” (Cohen). In fact, discrimination against women in the workplace only became illegal with the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In 1970, Lynn Povich and the women of Newsweek sued their employers for sexual harassment and discrimination, citing the withholding of advancement because they were female. (This is the subject of the unfortunately canceled but excellent Amazon series Good Girls Revolt.) According to Time, “the phrase “sexual harassment” was coined in 1975, by a group of women at Cornell University,” after a woman named Carmita Wood “filed a claim for unemployment benefits after she resigned from her job due to unwanted touching from her supervisor.” After the university refused her a transfer and denied her benefits, a group called Working Women United was formed. At the group’s events, “the women spoke of masturbatory displays, threats and pressure to trade sexual favors for promotions” (Cohen) – all things cited 42 years later when Hollywood women spoke out about men in the entertainment industry.

Sexual harassment was a major issue of the Second Wave of Feminism, which took place in the late 1970s and 1980s in the United States. In 1991, Anita Hill famously testified against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, alleging sexual harassment when she worked for him at the Education Department. This moment is said by many to mark the beginning of the Third Wave of feminism. Thousands of cases followed, some picked up my the media, but many not. And of course, in 2017, #MeToo happened.

One hundred and twenty years before Anita, nearly 150 years before #MeToo, Victoria Woodhull uttered words that still hold true today, “Women are entirely unaware of their power.” She continued, “If the very next Congress refuses women all the legitimate results of citizenship, we shall proceed to call another convention expressly to frame a new Constitution and erect a new government” (Sterns). Perhaps such a revolution is exactly what the #MeToo movement will bring about in our own day – not by a literal overthrowing of the government, but by a re-writing of the rules of society that allow sexual harassment and rape to go unspoken about and unpunished. Victoria raised the cry nearly 150 years ago; it is time that women are finally heard.

Nicole Evelina is the author of Madame Presidentess, an award-winning historical fiction account of the life of Victoria Woodhull. She is currently researching a book about the history of feminism in the United States.

Sources

Brody, Miriam. Victoria Woodhull, Free Spirit for Women’s Rights.

Cohen, Sasha. A Brief History of Sexual Harassment in America Before Anita Hill

Frisken, Amanda. Victoria Woodhull’s Sexual Revolution.

Goldsmith, Barbara. Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull.

McMillen, Sally. Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement

Sottile, Alexis. ‘Good Girls Revolt’: Inside Landmark Lawsuit Behind New Feminist Series

Sterns, Madeleine. The Victoria Woodhull Reader. (Source of Victoria’s speeches.)