VICTORIA WOODHULL

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By Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Victoria Woodhull.

Born in Ohio in 1838, when a doctor came to treat her for a chronic illness when she was 14, it was somehow acceptable for him to basically abduct and marry her. You’ll be surprised to learn that this charmer was an abusive drunk, who Victoria managed to escape and divorce a few years later.

She moved with her sister, Tennessee Claflin, to New York City, and after convincing Cornelius Vanderbilt to invest in them, together they opened a brokerage firm, becoming the first female stockbrokers on Wall Street. Scandalizing the city, they managed to quickly make a fortune through their shrewd business sense.

The sisters used their new fortune to launch a newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, which gained national notoriety. In the paper, they expressed support for women’s suffrage, sex education, and what Victoria called “free love”: a woman’s inherent right to decide her own fate with regards to marriage, divorce, and childbirth. The paper was the first to print Marx’s Communist Manifesto in the English language.

Not done scandalizing the nation, Victoria testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee with strong arguments in favor of women’s suffrage before becoming the first woman to run for President in 1872. She and Tennessee were arrested the day prior to the election on obscenity charges for their newspaper’s radical writings. They were acquitted due to a technicality.

In 1877, Victoria divorced her second husband and moved to England, where she founded a magazine called The Humanitarian. She was a fierce advocate for education reform of British public schools. She died in England in 1927 at the age of 88.

“I now announce myself as candidate for the Presidency. I anticipate criticism; but however unfavorable I trust that my sincerity will not be called into question.”

“Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere.”

“While others prayed for the good time coming, I worked for it.”

“I come before you to declare that my sex are entitled to the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

“When woman rises from sexual slavery to sexual freedom, into the ownership and control of her sexual organs, and man is obliged to respect this freedom, then will this instinct become pure and holy; then will woman be raised from the iniquity and morbidness in which she now wallows for existence, and the intensity and glory of her creative functions be increased a hundred-fold.”

“Women have the right of suffrage. Logically, it cannot be escaped.”

“Why is a woman to be treated differently? Woman suffrage will succeed, despite this miserable guerilla opposition.”

“Denounce me for advocating freedom if you can, and I will bear your curse with a better resignation.”

“I shall not change my course because those who assume to be better than I desire it.”

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