Victoria C. Woodhull

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Victoria Claflin Woodhull.jpg
Reproduction of a portrait depicting Victoria Claflin Woodhull from Homer, Ohio. She was the first woman

to run for President of the United States in 1872.

Victoria Claflin was born on September 23, 1838, in Homer, Ohio. Her family belonged to the working class and tried to earn a living by selling home-concocted medicines and by telling fortunes. Before Claflin turned sixteen, she married Dr. Channing Woodhull. The couple remained married approximately ten years, before divorcing.

In 1868, Victoria Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Claflin, moved to New York City. Upon their arrival, they continued to tell fortunes and sell medicines. One of their customers was Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the wealthiest citizens in the United States. Vanderbilt provided the two sisters capital to start Woodhull, Claflin and Company, a stockbrokerage firm. The company quickly prospered and allowed the two women to begin their own magazine, Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly. This journal called for equal rights for women with men. It also called for free love.

Thanks to Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, Woodhull emerged as a prominent spokesperson for the women's rights movement during the 1870s. In 1872, Woodhull sought election as President of the United States. Her running mate was noted-abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Woodhull lost the election to Ulysses S. Grant.

Woodhull seemed to attract controversy. Her candidacy for president and her stance on free love dismayed many Americans. She also published inflammatory stories in Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, including an article that attacked Henry Ward Beecher, who sued the two women. A court of law found the women innocent of libel. The two sisters also published a copy of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto. Woodhull and Claflin were supporters of socialism, and their publication of Marx's work illustrates this point.

In 1877, Woodhull moved to England, purportedly using money that she had inherited from Cornelius Vanderbilt. She spent the remainder of her life in England, although she returned to the United States on several occasions. Woodhull continued to author numerous books. She also published the Humanitarian, a magazine, with her daughter from 1892 to 1910. Woodhull died on June 10, 1927.

See Also


  1. Frisken, Amanda. Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution: Political Theater and the Popular Press in Nineteenth-Century America. N.p.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
  2. Gabriel, Mary. Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored. N.p.: Algonquin Books, 1998.
  3. Goldsmith, Barbara. Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull. N.p.: Harper Perennial, 1999.