Victoria Claflin Woodhull

Activist / Political Figure

Born: 23 September 1838
Died: 10 June 1927
Birthplace: Homer, Ohio
Best known as: The first woman candidate for U.S. President

Name at birth: Victoria Claflin

Victorial Claflin Woodhull was a controversial activist, socialite, and political figure of the 19th century. Brought up in the family's travelling medicine show, Victoria and her sister Tennessee made their way into New York social circles through fortune-telling and spiritualism; then, with the backing of the wealthy Cornelius Vanderbilt, they opened the first woman-owned brokerage firm on Wall Street in 1870. Victoria Woodhull became a vocal advocate of women's rights, labor reform and free love; she was widely criticized for promiscuity, charges she answered in her own weekly magazine, Woodhull and Claflin. She earned even more criticism when she accused one of the most famous ministers of the day, Henry Ward Beecher, of adultery with a friend's wife. The scandal that followed earned Woodhull some jail time for sending obscene material through the mail, plus the label "Mrs. Satan" from cartoonist Thomas Nast. Victoria's flamboyant ways and radical views kept her out of the mainstream of the suffragist movement, yet in 1872 she was nominated for the U.S. presidency at the New York convention of the minor Equal Rights Party. She was never a serious threat to defeat incumbent Ulysses S. Grant, but Woodhull did become the first woman in history to run for the job. She eventually married the English banker John Biddulph Martin and left the United States for England.

Extra credit: Woodhull was married three times: to Dr. Canning Woodhull (1853), to Colonel James Blood (1866), and to John Biddulph Martin (1883).

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