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Victoria Woodhull - American suffragist: 1838 – 1927

Victoria married her first husband, aged 15, in November 1853, but soon learned that her new husband was an alcoholic and a womanizer. Her support of free love probably originated at the time of this marriage. Like many of Woodhull's protests, this was first and foremost a media performance, designed to shake up the prejudices of the day. ossible, was scandalous, and women who divorced were stigmatized and often ostracized by society. Victoria concluded that women should have the choice to leave unbearable marriages, and she railed against the hypocrisy of tacitly tolerating married men who had mistresses and engaged in other sexual dalliances.

She was the first woman along with her sister to operate a brokerage firm in Wall Street and they made a fortune on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1870, they used the money they had made in their brokerage days to found a paper, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, which stayed in publication for the next six years. The journal was used to promote women's suffrage and other radical causes such as the 8 hour work day, graduated income tax, and profit sharing. It also published exposés on stock swindles, insurance frauds and corrupt Congressional land deals and became notorious for publishing controversial opinions on taboo topics, advocating among other things sex education, free love, women's suffrage, short skirts, spiritualism, vegetarianism, and licensed prostitution.

She is most famous for her declaration and campaign to run as the first woman for the United States Presidency in 1872. Although laws prohibited women from voting, there was nothing stopping women from running for office. She was nominated for President of the United States by the newly formed Equal Rights Party on May 10, 1872, at Apollo Hall, New York City. Like many of Woodhull's protests, this was first and foremost a media performance, designed to shake up the prejudices of the day. During the campaign Woodhull called for the reform of political and social abuses; the emancipation of labor, and the enfranchisement of women. Woodhull also argued in favour of improved civil rights and the abolition of capital punishment. She earned support from trade unionists, women's suffragists, and socialists, although conservative suffragists rejected her more radical political stance and her defense of "free love."

After divorcing her second husband, the now bankrupt Woodhull moved to England with her children in 1878 where she married John Biddulph Martin, a wealthy banker. She remained active in the women's suffrage movement and various charities, giving lectures and founding the Humanitarian newspaper in 1895. She died in 1927 in London.



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