March 20, 2009
Victoria Claflin Woodhull was born in 1838 in Homer, Ohio. She began early on as a trail-blazer, becoming the first woman to reach many different plateaus.
In 1868 Victoria moved to New York City with her husband and children. Her sister Tennessee Claflin also made the journey. The two sisters decided to go into business. They soon became advisers and friends of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad tycoon. Vanderbuilt helped them start working in the financial industry. In 1870, the sisters became so successful they opened their own brokerage firm. In her first of many feats, Victoria became the first female broker on Wall Street.
Around this time, Victoria and her sister Tennessee decided to start publishing their own women’s newspaper, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly. The newspaper was known for publishing “radical” ideas, like women’s equality within society and within marriage.
Victoria and Tennessee believed human rights began at conception. In their magazine the often wrote on abortion. One article, “The Slaughter of the Innocents,” called abortion a,“morbid condition of mind regarding children which, if not speedily checked, will prove fatal to civilization itself.” They continued to describe the value of each life:
“A human life is a human life and equally to be held sacred whether it be a day old or a century old…many women attempt to excuse themselves for procuring abortions, upon the ground that it is not murder…is it not equally destroying the would-be future oak, to crush the sprout before it pushes its head above the sod, as it is to cute down the sapling, or cut down the tree?
Their writings on equality inspired Victoria to take a giant step for women’s rights, and in 1872, Victoria announced her newest ambition – the White House. As the Equality Party’s Candidate, she became the first female presidential candidate.
Her campaign, however, was riddled with controversy and attacks from her opponents. After publishing scandalizing information about rival political figures, Victoria was arrested and spent Election Day in jail. After her campaign, Victoria eventually moved to England where she continued to fight for women’s rights until her death in 1927.
Victoria Woodhull, and her sister Tennessee, worked to open-up new possibilities for the women who followed them. Their tenacity inspired contemporaries and modern women alike.
Source: Victoria Woodhull, Harvard University