madame president: Victoria woodhull was the first woman presidential candidate

On November 7, 2020 Kamala Harris was announced the first woman Vice President as Joe Biden is set to become the 46th president of the United States. But Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton are not the only women that were running for presidency, in 1872 Victoria Woodhull was nominated for President of the United States with the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass for Vice President.

The cover of the book A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull © Kathleen Krull

Victoria Woodhull was born September 23, 1838 and was best known as the first American woman nominee for President of the United States. In 1872 Woodhull was nominated by the newly formed Equals Rights Party in New York City. She was the seventh of tenth children who lived poorly in a wooden shack in a small town in Ohio. From an early age Woodhull travelled with her father and worked as a fortune teller; She and her youngest sister Tennessee collaborated together as « faith healers » and pretended that they speak to the dead.

Victoria wasn’t lucky with men, she married three times with the first one at the age of 15 forced by her parents. Having a divorce at those years was a social suicide but Victoria did not care less, she became a single mother raising her two children. Some years later she married her second husband Col. James Blood who was a civil war hero and introduced her to spirituality as he described himself a « free lover », he was also the reason that she became interested in women’s rights. In 1868 Blood insisted that her sister Tennessee should move with them in New York and start working together as spiritualists. In 1870 the millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt helped them to open their business and became the first women stockbrokers on Wall Street.

Cornelius Vanderbilt ©Business Insider

With the money that she earned from the brokerage she later published a radical newspaper « Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly », for almost six years Victoria was passionately working alongside her sister and they successfully published the English version of the « Communist Manifesto »by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly New York: 8 Feb. 1873–10 June 1876. 40 newspapers (42 x 29.6 cm).

After that success she announced her presidential candidate, she wanted to fight for the rights of every man or woman, black or white and also believed that every woman should be free to love with or without marriage. In the elections of 1872 she did not receive any electoral votes and in 1884 and 1892 she tried again with null results.

Victoria Woodhull tried to create a legacy but unfortunately America wasn’t ready yet, currently we celebrate the win of Kamala Harris the first Indian-origin, woman vice president of United States and as she said in victory speech :

« All the women who worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century: 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act, and now, in 2020, with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continued the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard. Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision — to see what can be unburdened by what has been — I stand on their shoulders. »

Kamala Harris at one of her first campaigns in Los Angeles.

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