Little Bits of History

Before Hillary

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 10, 2013
Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull

May 10, 1872: Victoria Woodhull becomes the first woman to be nominated for President of the US. Nominated by the Equal Rights Party, her Vice Presidential running mate was Frederick Douglas. He was nominated without his consent and did not acknowledge the nomination or campaign. Woodhull’s candidacy was ratified on June 6, 1872. There are some historians who question the legality of her run for office. She was not yet 35 years old – maybe. In Ohio, there were no requirements for registering births before 1867. The Licking County, Ohio probate court burned in 1875 and all records were destroyed so there is no extant evidence.

Victoria Claftin married Canning Woodhull when she was 15 and he was 28. He was a practicing doctor but not formally educated. He was also an alcoholic. The couple had two children. Their son was intellectually impaired either at birth or due to a fall. Victoria divorced her husband in spite of society’s disapproval. She moved to New York City with her sister, Tennessee. Victoria became friendly with Cornelius Vanderbilt. With his backing, the two sisters set up the first female Wall Street brokerage firm – another scandalous endeavor that led to harassment by the local tabloids.

With proceeds from the brokerage firm, the sisters began publishing a paper, Woodhull & Claftin’s Weekly. The paper ran for 6 years and the sisters advocated for various causes including: women’s suffrage, short skirts, spiritualism, free love, vegetarianism, and licensed prostitution. The paper printed the first English version of Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto on December 30, 1871. The paper also broke a story revealing Henry Ward Beecher’s alleged infidelity and eventually he was brought to trial for adultery. It was a legal sensation on par with the OJ Simpson murder trial.

Woodhull received no electoral votes in her bid for the Presidency. There are no recorded popular votes (women could not vote in the US until 1920). She had been arrested and held in jail just days prior to the November election stopping her from attempting to vote for herself. Anthony Comstock, a self-appointed moral defender of the country, had brought charges of sending obscene materials through the mail. Victoria was freed six months later. She moved to England in 1876 where she lectured and published The Humanitarian from 1892-1901. She died in 1927.

“King George III, and his Parliament denied our forefathers the right to make their own laws; they rebelled, and being successful, inaugurated this government. But men do not seem to comprehend that they are now pursuing toward women the same despotic course that King George pursued toward the American colonies.”

“I would recall the attention of all objecting egotists, Pharisees and would-be regulators of society to the true functions of government-to protect the complete exercise of individual rights, and what they are no living soul except the individual has any business to determine or to meddle with, in any way whatever, unless his own rights are first infringed.”

“Over the sexual relations, marriages have endeavored to preserve sway and to hold the people in subjection to what has been considered a standard of moral purity.”

“The courts hold if the law solemnly pronounce two married, that they are married, whether love is present or not. But this really such a marriage as this enlightened age should demand? No!” – all from Victoria Woodhull

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Women have served in the US House of Representatives since 1917 when Jeannette Rankin (R-Montana) was elected. There have been over 200 women in the House and there are currently 78 (17.9%) serving. In 1922, Rebecca Felton was allowed to serve in the Senate for one day but the first woman elected to the Upper House was in 1992 when four women Senators were ushered in. There have been 44 women to serve, 20 of them are current. Fourteen were appointed to the post (seven to succeed their deceased husbands). To date, there have been 36 women to serve (or are currently serving) as governors in the US. We have not succeeded in electing a woman to the highest office in the land. 

Also on this day I Think I Can – In 1869 the First US Transcontinental Railroad is completed.
Longest Bridge in the World – In 1969, Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened.
J. Edgar Hoover – In 1924, he became the sixth director of the FBI.

2 Responses

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on May 10, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Hillary Clinton is a playgirl who was busy getting drunk on the night that the US ambassador and 3 other American citizens were killed in Libya. CNN was proud of Hillary partying! Obama and others are covering up her lack of self-responsibility.

    • Sherry said, on February 27, 2014 at 7:43 pm

      Shut up, Bobby. What your ridiculous rant has to do with this piece about Victoria Woodhull I have no idea.

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