On another significant day, 139 years ago today, in fact, the first woman was nominated for President of the United States. That’s right, she couldn’t even vote, but she got votes!
Her name was Victoria California Woodhull and she was 34 years old. Her extraordinary nomination was by no means her first foray into controversial territory. She married her first husband when she was just fifteen years old. A nominal doctor, he was really a drunkard and womanizer who often left Victoria to fend for herself. She had two children, Byron and Zulu.
In 1870, Victoria and her sister, Tennessee, became the first female brokers on Wall Street when they opened the brokerage firm of Woodhull, Claflin and Company. Not content to rest on their laurels, just a few months later this dynamic duo opened their own newspaper.
Victoria's articles were nothing if not striking. She had ideas that would be considered liberal today. In her time they were downright radical. And she wasn’t the least bit afraid to share her thoughts on everything from short skirts (she was in favor), to birth control, and vegetarianism. She even published Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.
In 1871 she electrified the National Women’s Suffrage Association convention in Washington DC where she argued that women already had the right to vote due to the 14th and 15th amendments. They just had to claim what was already theirs.
On May 10, 1872 at Apollo Hall in New York City, she was nominated by the Equal Right’s Party as their candidate for the presidency. Her running mate, was Frederick Douglass. Although he never acknowledged the nomination.
Just days before the election, Victoria's newspaper broke word of an affair between the prominent preacher, Henry Ward Beecher (brother to the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and a member of his parish, Elizabeth Tilton, a married woman.
On November, 2 1872 US Federal Marshals arrested Victoria, her second husband, and her sister on charges of publishing an obscene newspaper. They were held for a month in a city jail. Long enough for the election to have become just a memory. The incident sparked a firestorm of debate about governmental persecution.
Victoria ran for the presidency again in 1884 and in 1892, both times for different political groups. Shortly after her last campaign she visited England where she met and married her third husband, a British banker. She lived into the 1920's. And though her opinions changed, you can be sure she always had one.
I certainly wouldn’t agree with all of Victoria Woodhull’s politics or morals, but she was a flamboyant, unpredictable, mass of contradictions. And like the USA network, in my imagination, characters are welcome.
Have you run across any fascinating characters lately?
Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. It took her awhile to figure out why grandma thought it was unrealistic for boys and girls to share a room. Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, entitled Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in May, 2012.