Get More Victoria Woodhull in The Tangled Lights and Silent Nights Holiday Anthology

Surprise! I’ve got a short story (the first one I’ve ever successfully completed) in an anthology, which is a dream come true for this writer.

Here’s all the official info:

Tangled Lights and Silent Nights: A Holiday Anthology

Publication Date: November 4

Wonder
This holiday season, twenty talented, award-winning, and bestselling authors have crafted never before released Yuletide-themed tales about their most beloved characters.

Magic
From murder to magic, love to loss, the past and the future, this multi-genre collection of poems and stories has something for everyone.

Charity
In the spirit of giving, the authors have generously opted to donate all profits to The LifeAfter—Visions of Hope Project, whose passion is to shatter the stigma and spread awareness to three taboo topics that underscore society today: Suicide, Substance Abuse, and Domestic Violence.

Nicole Evelina’s story:

A Vanderbilt Christmas 
A companion story to the award-winning novel Madame Presidentess.

In 1872, Victoria Woodhull made history by becoming the first woman to run for president of the United States. But four years earlier she was still struggling to overcome her shameful past and establish herself in New York’s high society. She has finally secured an entre into that glittering world by way of an invitation to Christmas Eve dinner at the home of railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. But when her uncouth family crashes the party and threatens to send her social status spiraling, it will take a Christmas miracle to recover her reputation and keep her dreams on track.

Pre-order now
Some pre-order links are still going live, and paperback is yet to come, but you can pre-order the ebook here: https://www.books2read.com/tangledlights/.

Don’t forget – All proceeds go to charity!

Want a sneak peak? Since the story is so short, all I can give you is the first few paragraphs…

December 1868

If anyone had told me a year ago that I would be spending Christmas Eve at the home of Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the richest men in the country, I would have booked them a room at Blackwell’s Island with the other lunatics. Me? The guttersnipe daughter of a confidence man and a religious zealot whose favorite hobby was blackmailing people? Even with my gift of clairvoyance, it would have been too much to believe.

But then again, much had changed over the last year. When my sister Tennie and I moved to New York at the direction of my spirit guide, Demosthenes, we had no idea the good fortune that awaited us. Our Pa, no doubt sensing a way to make a quick buck, had arranged an introduction to Commodore Vanderbilt in the hopes he would employ us as mediums and magnetic healers. But the tycoon did him one better. After I successfully channeled the spirit of his long-dead mother and gave an accurate prediction of the stock market, he took us in as his assistants. Although, this may have had more to do with my sister’s beauty than our skill.

No matter. We were here now. An invitation to Christmas Eve dinner was a rare honor, one much coveted by New York society. Ma and Pa would be fit-to-be-tied when they found out we were invited but they were not; but I thanked God their troublesome selves were back in the slums of Five Points where they belonged.

No matter. We were here now. An invitation to Christmas Eve dinner was a rare honor, one much coveted by New York society. Ma and Pa would be fit-to-be-tied when they found out we were invited but they were not; but I thanked God their troublesome selves were back in the slums of Five Points where they belonged.

My husband, James, Tennie, and I, on the other hand, were seated along one side of a massive dining table that could easily seat twenty and was laden with china, crystal, and silver. The other chairs were occupied by a handful of the Commodore’s close friends and business associates – including his rival Mr. Fisk – plus several generations of his family. Around us, wreaths of evergreen and holly decorated the damask covered walls and pine boughs dripped from an elegant gold chandelier, while wreaths of orange, bay, and cinnamon perfumed the air.

Across the table, the eldest Vanderbilt son, William, shot daggers at me and Tennie. Clearly his disposition toward us hadn’t warmed any with time, nor had he grown in trust of us.

“Tell me, what will be your parlor trick tonight?” He picked at one of the starched white lace napkins. “Will you channel the angel who announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds, or perhaps even the baby Jesus himself?”

“If you are so certain you know, perhaps you should place a bet on it,” I shot back, referencing William’s secret vice of gambling.

—–

You can also check out the Pinterest board I created while writing it.

The Bewitching Brokers Shatter Wall Street’s Male-Only Tradition

Bewitching BrokersCombine a Kardashian store opening with a Justin Beiber concert and throw in a visiting foreign dignitary, and you may begin to get the idea of how much chaos the opening of Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin’s stock brokerage on February 5, 1870, created.

Contemporary accounts place the crowds at as many as 4,000, with people (mostly men) pushing and shoving to catch sight of the audacious women.  A hundred policemen were called out to keep the peace. That didn’t stop the yelling and jeers of protesters who were ready to physically carry the women back home where they belonged. Men peered in the windows all day long, lifting one another up and calling out if they caught sight of Victoria or Tennie.

030570mWhen it opened for business that morning, Woodhull, Claflin and Co., became the first female-owned American company that bought and sold stocks. The press quickly crowned its owners “The Queens of Finance,” the “Sensation of New York,” and “The Bewitching Brokers.”

The office, located on Broad Street (at Wall Street), was just down the street from the New York Stock Exchange and only four doors up from rival broker, Jim Fisk. The interior was described in the papers as more like an elegant parlor than a business office, with oil paintings on the wall, statues in the corners, a piano, and ample upholstered sofas and chairs. A small framed cross-stitch on one wall declared “simply to the cross I cling,” next to a photo of Mr. Vanderbilt. The sisters did business at solid wood desks inlaid with gold (left by the previous owners, who were criminals and had to flee in a hurry – seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up) and had a ticker-tape machine at the ready.

A unique aspect of the building was that it had a back entrance for women who might not feel comfortable doing business with men. It was separated from the rest of the office by a walnut partition decorated with glass. In the women’s-only area, Victoria and Tennie served champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to their clients, who passed on business gossip as well as bought and sold stocks. Unsurprisingly, given the sisters’ previous healing and medium work at brothels, many of their early female clients were madams and their girls. But eventually independently wealthy women, suffragists, and the wives of businessmen became clients as well.

TennieTheir clients that first day were a combination of well known business figures such as Peter Cooper, Jay Cooke, and Daniel Drew – even poet Walt Whitman paid them a visit – and curiosity seekers. Among the questionably sane who dropped by were two men, Edward Van Schalck and Hugh Hastings, who returned several times throughout the day, dressed differently each time, though no one knows why. Sometimes it was one or both of them, other times they returned with a group of friends to heckle Victoria and Tennie. After one of their disruptions, a sign was affixed to the front door, stating, “Gentlemen will state their business and then retire at once.”

The firm did brisk business, with some sources citing an unverified claim supposedly made by Victoria that they made $700,000 in two years. It appears the business began to falter in 1871, a time when Victoria was focused on the paper and her political campaign, leaving her husband, James – the firm’s silent partner – and Tennie to deal with clients who were disgruntled over the sisters’ misguided speculation in gold. Over the next two years, as Victoria became more outspoken and brazen in airing her views on women and worker’s rights as part of her Presidential campaign, the firm slowly lost clients. By summer 1873, Victoria and Tennie were out of money and the firm existed in name only.

It would be another 94 years before there was another woman on Wall Street. (Muriel Siebert was the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, on December 28, 1967)

How much did you know about Victoria and Tennie’s role on Wall Street? What do you think of them? What questions do you have?

Sources:

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

Gabriel, Mary. Notorious Victoria.

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

Havelin, Kate. Victoria Woodhull.

MacPherson, Myra. The Scarlet Sisters.

Underhill, Lois Beachey. The Woman Who Ran for President.

An Unlikely Partnership: Victoria Woodhull and Cornelius Vanderbilt

Victoria and Tennie with a client, possibly Vanderbilt

Victoria and Tennie with a client, possibly Vanderbilt

In 1868 when Victoria Woodhull moved to New York at the urging of her spirit guide, she had no idea that within a short time, she’d end up being friends with the wealthiest man in the country. That man was Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad and shipping tycoon.

No one knows exactly how Victoria and Vanderbilt met. Some biographies skim over it, while others speculate it may have been through her father or even simply general social mingling. It was well known that 73 year old Vanderbilt had a penchant for psychics and mediums, so he may have sought them out or vice versa.

One way or another, Victoria and Tennie called on him as clairvoyants who could make stock market predictions. Or if he preferred, they were also healers who could restore his health and happiness.

Pretty much everyone agrees that Vanderbilt was immediately taken with beautiful, charming Tennie, whom he called his “little sparrow.” He asked her to marry him in 1868, not long after his wife died. Tennie’s reasons for declining are debated, as is if he was serious. Some say she couldn’t have married him either way because she never divorced her first husband, gambler John Bartels, with whom she had no contact. It’s widely believed Tennie and Vanderbilt had an affair that lasted at least five years, and continued when he married again.

Tennie’s affair may have influenced Vanderbilt’s admiration for the sisters, but he was equally impressed with Victoria. While in a trance, she would relay messages from his deceased mother and children and also tell him what stocks would go up.  While she may have had extraordinary powers (who can prove she didn’t?), her stock tips really came from her friend Josie Mansfield, a former actress turned prostitute whom she met while acting in San Francisco. Josie was mistress to Vanderbilt’s business rival, Jim Fisk.

This relationship set Victoria up to become a very rich woman, as Vanderbilt split the profits with her if her tips were right. Then on September 24, 1869, the stock market crashed, the very first Black Friday.  Women were not allowed on the trading floor, so Victoria sat outside in her carriage, sending men in with orders to buy. Both she and Vanderbilt came out on top, thanks to a warning from Josie, and avoided the calamity that drove many to poverty and suicide. When asked how he was so successful, Vanderbilt reportedly said, “Do as I do. Consult the spirits.”

This one historic day of trading enabled Victoria and Tennie to afford to open their own firm (more on this next week), becoming the first female stock brokers ever on Wall Street. How they were qualified to trade stocks is up to debate. Their father may have taught them a little about finance and law, or they may have learned from Vanderbilt. One thing is certain, they weren’t afraid to enter a man’s world.

Their firm, Woodhull, Claflin and Co., opened on February 5, 1870. Tennie told reporters that day that Vanderbilt “inspired the new undertaking.” He never publicly admitted to financially backing their business, but he likely did. At the very least it was his connections that enabled them to open the firm in the first place. Victoria and Tennie encouraged public association of their names with his by keeping his picture on their office wall. He was also likely the silent backer of their newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly.

It appears Vanderbilt, Victoria and Tennie maintained a strong relationship until 1872, when an increasingly bold and erratic Victoria began calling out the rich and powerful who depend on the labor of the poor, including Vanderbilt, in her paper and in her speeches.  In February 1872, she gave a speech entitled “The Impending Revolution,” in New York, in which she called Vanderbilt out by name, saying,

“A Vanderbilt may sit in his office and manipulate stocks or make dividends, by which in a few years, he amasses fifty million dollars from the industries of the country, and he is one of the remarkable men of the age. But if a poor, half-starved child were to take a loaf of bread from his cupboard to prevent starvation, she would be sent first to the Tombs, and thence to Blackwell’s Island.”

Needless to say, having his name used in such a negative way in public angered Vanderbilt. He withdrew his support from the brokerage and the paper. The official story was that his wife caught him canoodling with Tennie, but both sisters knew the real reason why he severed ties with them.

In 1877, Vanderbilt passed away. His son, William, feared Tennie would go after her lover’s money. He was also afraid she and Victoria would be called to testify to his father’s belief in spiritualism – and thus give credence to the idea his father was not of sound mind and the will should be invalidated. To avoid both disasters, William paid the sisters a large sum to relocate to England.

What questions do you have about Victoria and Vanderbilt? Did you know of their association before? If so, where did you hear about it?

Sources:

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

Gabriel, Mary. Notorious Victoria.

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

Havelin, Kate. Victoria Woodhull.

MacPherson, Myra. The Scarlet Sisters.

Underhill, Lois Beachey. The Woman Who Ran for President.

Meet Victoria Woodhull’s Friends and Enemies

Last week I gave you a peek inside Victoria’s family. This week, let’s delve into her friends and enemies. That way when I refer to people in subsequent weeks you’ll know who I’m talking about.

Vanderbilt

Cornelius Vanderbilt

Cornelius Vanderbilt – He was one of the country’s first tycoons and the richest man in America in the mid-to-late 1800s. (If you want a good bio, check out The First Tycoon: the Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T. J. Stiles, though the author is not at all favorable in his portrayal of Victoria and Tennie, nor does he believe they had much of a relationship.) Made his money in shipping, railroads and the stock market. Vanderbilt is said to have been quarrelsome and tyrannical, bullied his sons, and had guilt over a wife he abused and betrayed. Sources say he also believed heartily in the spirits and would support any hack, medium or fortune teller to come his way and had an insatiable sexual appetite, hence his interest in Victoria and Tennie, respectively. Some sources say he was not accepted in society because he acted low class, spitting tobacco onto the carpet and was nearly illiterate, while others claim the exact opposite. It’s possible that he was introduced to the sisters by their father.

Vanderbilt liked Victoria and Tennie’s boldness and intelligence. Victoria transmitted messages to him from his mother, Phoebe Hand Van der Bilt, who died 15 year earlier. Tennie’s magnetic healing, upbeat attitude and sexual prowess attracted him and she liked that he swore and played whist, drank gin and smoked cigars. He was smitten with Tennie, whom he called his “little sparrow.”  She called him “old boy” and “old goat.” After only a few months, he asked her to marry him. Her reasons for declining are debated, as is if he was serious. Some say she couldn’t have married him either way because she never divorced her first husband, gambler John Bartels, whom she married in 1865. It’s possible she and Vanderbilt had an affair after he remarried, but that is the subject of debate.

He is described as having a Roman nose, blue or black eyes, and white hair. He always wore black with a while cravat tied at the throat. He swore a lot, couldn’t spell, had bad grammar and used spittoons, but he was an honest man, though not above occasional exploits.

StephenPearlAndrews

Stephen Pearl Andrews

Stephen Pearl Andrews – He was a friend of Victoria’s whom she met through Horace Greeley at one of the parties she and Tennie hosted at Vanderbilt’s hotel suite. He was twice her age, but Victoria was dazzled by his intellect. He taught social theory and reform, reading, writing and individual rights, Free Love, and equitable commerce. He was a big proponent of the idea of utopian society, and by the time he met her, had already established and disbanded two utopian colonies. Victoria backed him financially and allowed her rooms to be used my his utopian group, Pantarchy. He was the Pantarch. She became good friends with his second wife, Ester Andrews, a herbalist and magnetic healer. Ester participated in séances with the two.

Stephen also helped Victoria be precise in her calls for prison reform, relief for the poor and improvement of management of foreign policy. He may have been the one to poison her against Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, as the two men had a personal feud. He also was a member of the International Workingman’s Association, Section 12, and a contributor to her paper.

He is described as 6’2”, with bright blue eyes, disorderly hair and a full beard he wore in two points.

Theodore Tilton

Theodore Tilton

Theodore Tilton – He was a well known reformer, friends with President Lincoln – whom Tilton didn’t think was progressive enough on slavery – well known for his support of abolition and led the impeachment of President Andrew Jackson. He was also friends with Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Fredrick Douglass. In his off time, he wrote poetry and lectured. He was a big proponent of the women’s suffrage movement.

His wife, Elizabeth (Lib) Tilton, had an affair with well-known preacher Henry Ward Beecher. Tilton was said to not be kind to her, asking her to stay away from him at suffrage conventions.

He may have met Victoria at one of the suffrage conventions, but it is certain they met after she ran an article in her newspaper speaking of Beecher’s affair with Lib in veiled terms. Of all her possible lovers, he is the most likely. He wrote her biography, which even contemporaries said was grossly exaggerated, and was panned by critics in all circles except for Spiritualists, at which it was aimed.

He stood by Victoria for a long time, even introducing her infamous Free Love speech, but eventually he turned against her in favor of Horace Greeley, whom he campaigned for in the election of 1872, hoping to replace him as editor of the New York Tribune, when Greeley became President.

Theodore Tilton went on to sue Henry Ward Beecher for willful alienation of his wife’s affections on January 11, 1875. That trial, which was the O.J. Simpson case of its time, lasted six months, riveting the nation with its tale of sex and scandal. The trial ended in a hung jury and Beecher was never convicted.

Tilton is described as a handsome blond who shaved, which was unusual for the time and usually associated with the Free Love set. He was tall, at 6′ 3″, and known for his good looks, sparkling conversation and many extramarital affairs.

Henry Ward Beecher. Does anyone else see a resemblance between him and Jon Stewart?

Henry Ward Beecher. Does anyone else see a resemblance between him and Jon Stewart?

Henry Ward Beecher – Rev. Beecher was one of the most famous and highly regarded preachers of the late 19th century in America. Despite this, he was widely rumored to “preach to as many as 20 of his mistresses on any given Sunday.” Though he never spoke publicly about Victoria’s accusation of his affair with Lib Tilton, he never sued her for libel, either. As mentioned above, Beecher was never convicted in Titon’s trial against him. In fact, he came out of the matter more popular and richer than ever, with his church members paying for the cost of the trial.

His sister, Isabella, was a great friend of Victoria’s, but his other sisters, Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe (yes, of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) hated Victoria and did everything they could to discredit her.

He is described as melodramatic and is known to have cried a lot. He was around 60 when he met Victoria. He had stringy, graying hair, pensive eyes and flaccid jowls. He weighed over 200 pounds. He loved precious stones, especially opals, which he carried in his pocket and jingled in his hand like most men did with change.

Benjamin Butler -I think he looks like Dennis Franz.

Benjamin Butler -I think he looks like Dennis Franz.

Representative Benjamin Butler – The most powerful man in the House of Representatives – he even had the ear of President Grant – this Republican from Massachusetts was a dear friend of Victoria’s and the reason she was able to become the first woman to testify before Congress about suffrage. He was a strong proponent of the women’s suffrage movement and encouraged the idea that the Constitution already provided women the right to vote, and idea begun by Virginia Minor and carried on by Victoria.

He was a strong advocate of Victoria’s from the beginning. Due to the long hours the two spent together, rumor circulated that the two were having an affair. Supposedly he offered to help her get in front of Congress in exchange “for the opportunity to feast his eyes on her naked person.” When rumors to this effect were brought to his attention, he responded with the enigmatic, “Half truths kill.”

I personally don’t think they had an affair. Benjamin Butler is described as toad-like, short and plump with an overly large head and sunken eyes engulfed in flesh. One of his eyelids drooped and he wattled when he walked. Yet, his vitality and power is said to have attracted many women.

Josie Mansfield

Josie Mansfield

Josie Mansfield – Josie is an interesting person. She and Victoria met when they were both actresses in San Francisco. Later, they reunited in New York, when Josie was a prostitute at a brothel at which Victoria worked as a healer. The story goes that Josie married an actor and moved East. They divorced and she tried to make it in the theatre, but failed, turning to prostitution.

That was how she met Vanderbilt’s business rival, Jim Frisk. Josie began to entertain him in November 1867, withholding her affections for three months. He paid her overdue rent at a room on Lexington and installed her at the American Club hotel in a suite. He bought her a room full of dresses, gave her $50,000 in cash and five times that in emeralds. A year later her bought her a house in her own name at 359 West 23rd and supplied her with servants. Despite this apparent infatuation, he once said she was more temperamental than an opera diva.

He sent messengers to Josie several times a day outlining his plans, so she knew all his business ventures. Eventually, she became Victoria’s informant, giving Victoria the stock tips she got from “the spirits” and fed to Vanderbilt. This continued until early 1872, when Jim Fisk was murdered and Josie fled to Paris under a cloud of suspicion.

Josie is described as buxom and photographs show a woman who would be considered curvy by today’s standards, with long, curly dark hair.

This is by no means a complete list. Victoria was also friends/enemies with suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Paulina Wright Davis and Laura Cuppy Smith. Other supporters included Jesse Grant and his son, President Ulysses S. Grant, and Frederick Douglass.

Among her enemies: Catharine Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Horace Greeley and Anthony Comstock (of the Comstock anti-obscenity laws).

What do you think about Victoria’s friends and enemies? Did you know about any of them before? What else do you want to know?

Sources:

Brody, Miriam. Victoria Woodhull, Free Spirit for Women’s Rights.
Fox, Richard Wightman. Trials of Intimacy: Love and Loss in the Beecher-Tilton Scandal .
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.
“Hand and Vanderbilt: A Sketch of Grandmother Vanderbilt’s Early Life”  http://longislandgenealogy.com/Surname_Pages/vanderbilt.htm
Havelin, Kate. Victoria Woodhull.
Krull, Kathleen. A Woman for President – The Story of Victoria Woodhull.
MacPherson, Myra. The Scarlet Sisters.
Stiles, T.J. The First Tycoon : the Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
Tilton, Theodore. The Golden Age Tract No. 3 “Victoria C. Woodhull, a Biographical Sketch.”
Underhill, Lois Beachey. The Woman Who Ran for President.