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Presidential Candidates

Victoria Claflin Woodhull (1872) – The first woman to run for United States President, Woodhull was the candidate of the Equal Rights Party. Her opponents were Ulysses S. Grant (R) and Horace Greeley (D). Woodhull, born in Homer, Ohio on September 23, 1838, traveled with her parents practicing spiritualist activities.

She fought for women’s rights and founded her own newspaper. She became the first woman to own a WallStreet investment firm. Died 1927.

In the decade that it took to write my book, I came to know Victoria Woodhull well, and she taught me a great many lessons — not the least of which was that the common wisdom on most subjects is frequently wrong. She made me realize that people must always think for themselves and never accept circumstances that seem unfair, unkind or uncomfortable.Of course, Victoria’s time was a much more difficult one for women, who then had almost no rights to property or person. If a married woman worked, her wages were given directly to her husband. She could not dispose of her property upon death. If she divorced, she automatically forfeited custody of her children. Women could not enter universities, law schools or medical schools. They could not serve on juries, and they could not vote. From childhood, Victoria maintained that she was guided and protected by the spirits, who occasionally let her visit a utopian world in heaven unlike the chaotic, miserable world in which she


Victoria Claflin Woodhull,
Photo courtesy of William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Recently, when I mentioned to a friend that the title of my book was Other Powers–The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull, she asked: “Just who was Victoria Woodhull anyway?” It seems a simple question, but Victoria was not a simple person. She was conceived in 1837, during the frenzy of a religious revival in Homer, Ohio. Her father was an itinerant con man and a thief; her mother was illegitimate, illiterate and a religious fanatic. As a child, Victoria was raised in filth and squalor, beaten and starved, given little education and exploited in her father’s traveling carnival show as a clairvoyant and fortune-teller. Unexpectedly, she demonstrated such powers as accurately recalling past events and predicting future ones, finding missing objects and people, and affecting cures. She also relayed messages from loved ones who had “passed over.”

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