The act allows up to five coin designs per year and will feature women who have made significant contributions to U.S. history across a number of fields and categories, including suffrage.
Recommendations are now being accepted through the National Women’s History Museum in partnership with the U.S. Mint, the Smithsonian Institution American Women’s History Initiative, and the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus as consultants for the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020.
Of course, I’m pulling for Virginia Minor and Victoria Woodhull, but you can nominate any woman you want.
Want to help? Copy the following information and fill out this form to nominate Virginia, Victoria or the woman of your choice.
Name: Virginia L. Minor
Year of birth: 1824
Year of death: 1892
Fields: Suffrage, politics
Reason for inclusion: Suffragist, political strategist, and lifelong activist for gender/race race equality, Virginia was the only woman to bring women’s suffrage before the U.S. Supreme Court. She began the world’s first organization dedicated to solely to women’s suffrage two years before Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone created theirs. She also created the New Departure, the official strategy of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association from 1868-1875, which said the 14th Amendment gave women the right to vote.
Name: Victoria Woodhull
Year of birth: 1838
Year of death: 1927
Fields: Suffrage, politics
Reason for inclusion: First woman in U.S. history to run for president in 1872. Suffragist, activist and speaker. First woman (along with her sister) to own and run a stock brokerage on Wall Street, first woman to speak before the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of women’s suffrage. Her run, while not successful, opened the door for dozens of women to run for the presidency.
So by now you likely know that I’m part of a Christmas anthology called Tangled Lights and Silent Nights. I’m really excited because I’ve wanted to be part of an anthology since I was a teenager and read Return to Avalon, an Arthurian anthology. It always felt like it would be such an honor to be asked to write alongside others in your field, and it is! I don’t normally write short, but I challenged myself and managed it – hopefully well. You can be the judge.
There are several cool aspects to this anthology:
All of the stories tie into previously published books by the authors. So, for example, mine is about Victoria Woodhull and crew, who are featured inMadame Presidentess.
It is multi-genre, so there should be something in there for everyone. We have women’s fiction, crime thriller, fantasy (epic, urban and contemporary), historical, romance (contemporary and dark), mystery (cozy and general), humor and LGBT stories.
All proceeds benefit Life After, a charity dedicated to educating about and helping those who suffer from suicide, substance abuse, and domestic violence.
My Story: A Vanderbilt Christmas Victoria Woodhull may seem like an odd choice for a Christmas story, and I agree. Actually, she wasn’t my first choice. I had two drafts of stories involving Guinevere from my Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy Arthurian legend novels. But given our strict word limit, I was having problems explaining the Celtic winter solstice rituals and telling my story in the allotted space. Anything winter solstice or even early Christian Christmas is so different from what we know today that I didn’t want to risk not doing the stories justice. (For example, in fifth century Christianity, there was no Advent season yet and the Christmas celebration actually included three different Masses, each with their own symbolism and meaning.)
Then I remembered that one of the scenes I deleted from Madame Presidentess took place at Christmas. (It involved Cornelius Vanderbilt asking Victoria’s sister, Tennie, to marry him, which really did happen. She had to say no because she was already married to a gambler who abandoned her. Seriously, history is stranger than fiction.) This was a much better choice because the Victorian period is when some of our most beloved Christmas traditions became popular: Queen Victoria made Christmas trees a widespread thing, Christmas cards began being sent in the mail, and Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol.
As it turned out, the story I submitted was totally different from the scene I started with, but it got me on the right track. And I had a lot of fun researching what was served at Victorian Christmas dinners, what people wore and what the decor would have looked like. If you want a sneak peek into my brain, check out my Pinterest board on the story. (That hideous plaid dress is what Victoria’s mom wore to the party.)
I ended up placing the story right when Victoria and Tennie were starting to become comfortable in their life working with Cornelius Vanderbilt. Victoria is ambitious as always and she sees her coveted invitation to Christmas Eve dinner at Mr. Vanderbilt’s mansion as a way for her to get a foot in the door with the New York elite, whom she longs to be a part of. But as happened so many times during her life, Victoria’s low-class family comes along and nearly ruins it by inviting themselves to the dinner. You’ll have to read the story to find out how, but it involves a brawl, a fire and some stolen Christmas gifts… (Thank you to Pat Wahler for some of those ideas.)
As usual, when Victoria’s family is around, trouble is sure to follow.
Pick up your copy of Tangled Lights and Silent Nights today! And please, leave a review when you’re done!
Two years ago when I was in Chicago for BEA and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, I met Neal Katz, a fellow author who is also telling Victoria Woodhull’s story. I knew about him (or rather his name) because I had researched others who have or are writing about her. But I had no idea he’d be so charming and gracious. He’s truly a wonderful man.
Neal is approaching Victoria’s story as a trilogy, so he’s able to go much more in-depth into Victoria and Tennie’s lives than Madame Presidentess does. The first book in the series, Outrageous, won 10 awards. Now he’s now preparing to publish part 2: Scandalous. So if you’re hankering for more on Victoria, go buy his books!
As part of Neal’s pre-publication publicity (say that five times fast), he wrote a great article on how Victoria used her newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly to launch the #MeToo of her time: http://thevictoriawoodhullsaga.com/rise-up/. Go, read, now!
Some people might question why I would promote Neal’s books since they are direct competition with mine. My answer is that we aren’t really competitors; we are allies. As much as I want book sales, that’s not really what this is about. It’s about getting Victoria back into the historical record where she belongs. And the more voices we have out there promoting her, the better. No two writers approach a subject the same way, so even if you’ve read mine, you’re likely to learn something new from his, and vice versa. Plus, the more indie authors (and all authors, for that matter) work together, the better off we all are.
“Lock her up!” is a common refrain in this election, with opponents of Hillary Clinton, the first woman to run for president on a major party ticket, loudly calling for her to spend election day in jail. Ironic then, that the first woman to ever run for President in the U.S., Victoria Woodhull, did just that in 1872.
Days before the November 4, 1872, election, she and her sister, Tennie, published a scandalous issue of their newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, in which Victoria accused Rev. Henry Ward Beecher of having an extramarital affair with one of his parishioners, and Tennie recalled the debauchery of a public party years before. Due to a quote Tennie used (which also appears in the book of Deuteronomy), the sisters were changed by Anthony Comstock, America’s self-appointed moral crusader, of sending obscene material through the mail and arrested.
I present to you my imaginings of what Victoria, Tennie and the other women of the suffrage movement might have posted on Facebook on and around Election Day.
In 2016 we’ve seen Twitter wars between the two major political candidates for president of the United States, one of whom is the first woman running for president on a major party ticket. But she’s not the first woman to ever run for president in the United States. That honor goes to Victoria Woodhull, who ran back in 1872, 48 years before women got the right to vote in the US.
Not long ago, I got bored and imagined what a similar Twitter war may have looked like if such technology existed in 1872. Though Victoria and Catharine Beecher fought over many topics, one of the most bitter recounted in contentious letters swapped between the two and in conversations recalled in biographies of Victoria, was about the Victoria’s espousal of Free Love – the idea that the government shouldn’t have the right to say when marriage begins or ends – and the hypocrisy Rev. Henry Ward Beecher in preaching against adultery while his mistresses sat in the pews.
Here’s how that early Twitter war may have played out, with a bit of a modern twist. (Many of the words in the last four tweets are from an actual fight between the two women.)
Article author Rebecca Now (center) with me and a friend at the re-enactment of the election of 1872.
My friend Rebecca Now recently wrote an article on Victoria Woodhull for a local women’s paper and then posted it on her blog. Yes, it does mention my book. I’m thrilled to be able to reproduce it here with her permission. Rebecca has a kind of connection to Victoria in that she frequently portrays Elizabeth Cady Stanton at historical/educational events. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that Elizabeth and Victoria were dear friends for many years. As such, I find it highly appropriate that she and I became friends this past summer. Take it away, Rebecca!
She was the first woman to run for president of the United States.
Was your first thought about the candidate running in 2016? Wrong. The first American woman to run for President was Victoria C. Woodhull, in 1872.
This little-known figure was but a footnote in the history books, but she was certainly ahead of her time, had great courage and conviction, and changed the trajectory of the women’s suffrage movement.
Many history books on the 72 year-long movement for American women’s suffrage leave Woodhull out entirely, and yet, she was the first women to address a joint committee of congress in 1871, arguing that women, as citizens of the nation, had a right to vote based on the 14th amendment to the constitution.
Born in Ohio in a poor and abusive family of n’ere do wells that would make the Beverly Hillbillies look like aristocrats, her family was once run out of town with a collection taken up by the townsfolk.
She married at 15 to escape her family life, only to find her charming husband become a drunk who visited brothels. Woodhull was a “spiritualist” who could communicate with spirits for guidance. She advised numerous women in post Civil War society who had suffered from abuse and violence from men.
Woodhull felt the spirits were calling her to a “become a ruler of her people.”
Now, a fascinating historical fiction novel about Victoria Woodhull has been published, Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina.
Evelina credits a post on social media as inspiring her to write the book. She saw a black and white photo of a woman from the 19th century, and the caption read “Known by her detractors as “Mrs. Satan,” Victoria Claflin Woodhull, born in 1838, married at age 15 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.”
The book is a powerful good read. It opens a window into the disparity in social freedom between men and women in late 19th century America. Woodhull, as the heroine of the novel, is not really a sympathetic character, yet she is without doubt a most unique and colorful character, and clearly a ‘self-made’ woman who blazed new trails. The book has already won recognition. The 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction gave the book first place in the Women’s US History category for 2015, even before the book was formally published.
The twelve pages of author notes at the end of the book are fascinating, and clearly layout what is fiction and what really happened, according to written records. After doing her research, remarked Evelina, “So much of her family’s antics and Victoria’s own actions are more grandiose than I could ever invent.”
History books, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony – A Friendship that Changed the World by Penny Colman paint Victoria C. Woodhull as a scandal that tainted the woman’s suffrage movement by the association with a “Free Love” doctrine.
Susan B Anthony first learned of Woodhull when she read a newspaper announcement that Woodhull would be addressing a joint committee of congress, on the same day that the National Woman Suffrage Convention was to convene in Washington, D.C. Both Cady-Stanton and Anthony attended the session and were impressed by Woodhull. They asked her to speak at the convention that evening. As Colman relates in her book,
“Thrilled by Victoria’s fiery rhetoric, Elizabeth declared that she was ‘a grand, brave woman, radical alike in political, religious, and social principles.’ Susan, however, was becoming wary of Victoria. She suspected that Victoria had attached herself to the suffrage movement in order to advance a personal ambition that she had recently revealed – to run for president of the United States.”
Woodhull did run for president, and lost. She later was accused of sending obscene materials in the mail, and spent time in prison before being acquitted. She moved to England, and married her third husband, a wealthy banker.
While Elizabeth Cady Stanton was visiting her daughter in London in 1891, she met with Woodhull.
Victoria had endured “great suffering,” Elizabeth wrote in her diary. “May the good angels watch and guard her.”
Let’s Celebrate Our History!
My thanks to Rebecca for being my guest and for providing those interesting tidbits about Victoria’s association with these historic women. And if you ever need someone to portray Elizabeth Cady Stanton, you know who to call!
As Americans watch the end of the craziest political season to date, it seems like a good time to look back at the bold/stupid (depending on how you look at it) move that led to Victoria Woodhull’s campaign downfall.
The summer of 1872 was very hard for Victoria. She was ill with a mysterious aliment that couldn’t be diagnosed and that recurred several times over three months. Her beloved newspaper shut down due to lack of funds. She had already been forced to sell her Murray Hill mansion, and then was kicked out of several hotels, while others wouldn’t rent a room to her (no one wanted to be associated with her or the controversy that surrounded her). She and her family (husband, kids, parents, brothers and sisters) lived for while in the Woodhull & Claflin brokerage offices, but when the landlord found out, he raised her rent so high they were forced to abandon even that location, so that they were homeless for a few days. In desperation, she sent a note to Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, asking for his help to get one of the hotels to let them stay there. He curtly refused.
Her sister, Maggie, eventually managed to rent a place for them to stay under an assumed name. Victoria was tired and still ill, worn out from the whirlwind of her year, which had started off so promising. In September, at a meeting of the National Convention of American Spiritualists in Boston, she decided to finally spill the beans on Rev. Henry Ward Beecher – revealing her long-kept secret that the married preacher was having an affair with Lib Tilton, wife of Theodore Tilton, Victoria’s former lover.
Not satisfied by this small audience – and perhaps in revenge for Rev. Beecher’s refusal to come to her aid in her hour of need – Victoria began plotting on a larger scale. She and Tennie would resurrect Woodhul & Claflin’s Weekly for one more explosive issue (though this didn’t turn out to be its last, only its most famous) that would right two long-hidden wrongs. While Victoria told every detail of the Beecher-Tilton scandal she could recall in a fake interview format, Tennie penned a story about the night a businessman named Luther Challis relieved a young girl of her virginity, likely against her will. Her lead in to the story included this passage:
“We propose to take leading personages from each of the several pursuits of life and lay before the world a record of their private careers so that it may no longer appear that their victims are the only frightful examples of immorality. To that end, I give you the story of Mr. L. C. Challis.”
“I propose aggressive moral warfare on the social question, to begin in this article with ventilating one of the most stupendous scandals which has ever occurred in any community. I refer to the conduct of Reverend Henry Ward Beecher in his relations with the family of Theodore Tilton. I intend that this article shall burst like a bombshell into the ranks of the moralistic social camp…he has, in a word, consented and still consents to be a hypocrite. The fault with which I therefore charge him is not infidelity to the old ideas but unfaithfulness to the new.”
Victoria’s “bombshell” was hidden within a seemingly ordinary issue of the newspaper, but that did not stop people from lapping up the scandal inside. According to my sources, the paper sold for 10 cents but by evening people were paying $2.50. The first run of 10,000 copies sold quickly. Some people rented theirs to read for $1.00 a day. One copy even sold for $40. More than 250,000 copies sold in three days. The distributor, American News Company, refused to replace it on the stands after the first 100,000 copies were sold so newsboys came to their offices to get them in person. Some copies were bought and destroyed by Beecher’s supporters, for the article called in to question the idea of marriage as a bedrock of society.
But in the end, it wasn’t Victoria’s story that landed both sisters in jail on Election Day; it was Tennie’s. In telling her tale of Luther Challis’ lewd behavior, Tennie used a line that, although also quoted in the Bible (Deuteronomy), was considered obscene. “To prove he had seduced a maiden, he carried for days on his finger, exhibiting in triumph, the red trophy of her virginity.” Then, when they were tricked into mailing a copy of the paper to Anthony Comstock, the country’s self-appointed moral guardian, they were arrested for sending obscene material through the mail.
One might logically ask what she was thinking, loosing stories like this right before the election? I know I wanted to shake Victoria for her stupidity when I was researching this part of her life. No one knows for certain why she did it – but signs point to a woman who was at her wits end and no longer cared what happened to her. She had to know that Rev. Beecher was the most beloved, popular preacher in the country and that his followers would be upset, and possibly seek revenge. She had to know releasing these stories would do nothing for her reputation. I honestly don’t think this was a strategic “October surprise” like we’re used to seeing now. I think it was an act of revenge by a woman who was beyond her breaking point and no longer had anything to lose. Only, I’m positive neither she nor Tennie or James or anyone else expected Comstock to react to Tennie’s article the way he did. They likely anticipated libel charges by Beecher (which never happened) and Chalis (which took several days and were ultimately dismissed). I certainly don’t think anyone thought Victoria and Tennie would spend Election Day in jail.
Was it a case of ego gone wild? A thirst for justice that backfired? Or was she so blinded by revenge that she couldn’t see the possible outcomes? Or maybe another factor altogether that history has missed. I wish I knew because the line of events breaks my heart. I wish I could go back and say “don’t you see what you’re doing to yourself?” But I can’t. At least I can tell her story.
Why do you think Victoria took such a risk so close to the election? What could possibly have been going on in her mind?
As close to meeting Victoria Woodhull as I will ever get!
As some of you know, last weekend I had a the great privilege of participating in a re-enactment of the election of 1872 (the one Victoria Woodhull ran in) at the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in south St. Louis County. I’ve never done re-enactment before (I’ve been to Renfaires, but only as a spectator), so this was a totally new experience for me. I was stationed at table with a few other women under the banner “Votes for Women.” We stayed in character some of the time as campaigners for Victoria, but the rest of the time was spent answering questions about her and about my book. I even got to do an impromptu Q&A session after Victoria gave her speech on Sunday.
Much to our surprise, Rebecca Rau and her camera man showed up to film part of their documentary about Victoria, The Coming Woman, at the event. Rebecca and I have become friends on Twitter and Facebook and she saw me post about it, hopped on a plane and there she was! I think she got a lot of good footage from the actors playing Victoria, Horace Greeley, Frederick Douglass, Virginia Minor and others. I particularly enjoyed Frederick Douglass – he’s a man I need to learn more about – and Virginia Minor, whose speech was so moving. And of course, they recorded the rest of us. She even interviewed me on-camera, so you may be seeing me in the film!
The park estimates we had 750-800 people come through. Yes, I may have sold some books by talking with people and handing out postcards (I wasn’t allowed to sell on-site), but more important than that is that this was a huge opportunity for me to get Victoria’s name out there and educate people about her. Only a handful of those we talked to had ever heard about her. Spreading the word about this amazing woman is the whole reason why I wrote my book in the first place, so through this event, I know I achieved my goal of helping get her name in the historical record where it belongs!
Oh, and we held a mock election. The men at the booth harassed us females good-naturedly for trying to vote (remember, this was 1872 and women didn’t get the right to vote in the US until August 1920). Although it was all in good fun, it gave me a small sense of what it must have been like for the women like Victoria, Tennie, and Susan B. Anthony who really did try to vote and were turned away due to their sex, and in Susan’s case, even arrested. In the end, Victoria came in second to Grant, beating Greeley by a long shot. While I would have LOVED to have seen her elected, I realize now that wasn’t likely when the event was being held on the grounds of Grant’s former home.
Speaking of, I also got to tour the grounds, which include Grant’s home of White Haven, a barn, a chicken house and several other buildings used by slaves and animals. As a history lover and life-long St. Louisan, I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know that this place existed until about a month ago. It was very interesting to see that such amazing history is right in my own back yard. I’ve been to nearby places like historic St. Charles, old town Florissant, downtown St. Louis and even Cahokia Mounds across the river in Illinois, but this place really struck a chord with me. Maybe it was because I could tie it to a specific small group of people and that made it more personal; maybe I’m just more aware now that I’m older and more educated through my research. Who knows. But I was fascinated by some of the stories told by the staff and on plaques in the houses. There may be a future novel there. But I need to get the other 20 or so written first!
This weekend if you’re in St. Louis and looking for something to do, I encourage you to attend a free unique event: a reenactment of the election of 1872, in which Victoria Woodhull ran for President. The event takes place September 9-11 at the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in south St. Louis County. Here’s the website with all the details.
I will be there in period clothing “campaigning” for Victoria from noon – 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. The event includes a mock election, so make sure to cast your vote for Victoria! It would be really cool if we could get her to win 144 years later! Victoria will be speaking several times throughout the day, as will the other candidates.
And yes, I will post a few pictures after the event, for those who can’t make it.
I wish I could explain how important this event is to me. I fell in love with Victoria through my research and so short of time travel, this is as close to doing her justice as I will ever get. I’m looking forward to sharing the knowledge I gained from my research and hopefully getting her into office, even if only symbolically. I hope you can join me for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live history!