Woodhull 1st woman to run for president
Victoria Woodhull was a pioneer of the women’s suffrage movement in the late 1800s and made some of her biggest social and cultural waves when she became the first woman to run for president in 1872.
To say she was loved by all who knew her would be a misrepresentation, but Woodhull was determined and years ahead of her time.
Born to an illiterate mother and a petty criminal father, Woodhull only attended three years of school before dropping out, according to history.com.
She became a traveling clairvoyant with her family and eventually she and her sister took the business to New York City. As an independent and charismatic woman in the city, Woodhull’s sister, Tennessee Claflin, met and became the lover of railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt.
They learned the stock market trade from Vanderbilt and started their own firm, Woodhull, Claflin & Co., becoming the first two female stock brokers, history.com recorded.
Woodhull became a believer in the woman’s suffrage cause, and two months after opening her firm, began her bid for president of the United States — a notion unheard of at the time because as a woman she would not have even been able to vote for herself.
Woodhull’s opponent was the then current President Ulysses S. Grant.
She ran for the Equal Rights Party and campaigned on a platform of women’s suffrage, regulation of monopolies, nationalization of railroads, an eight-hour workday, direct taxation, abolition of the death penalty and welfare for the poor.
As an unlikely election winner, Woodhull did manage to get her name on the ballot in a few states, but it is unknown how many votes she actually received, because they never were counted.
Additionally, the fact that she spent Election Day in jail did not help her cause. Woodhull and her sister were arrested on Nov. 2, 1872, after her newspaper ran a story defaming popular preacher Henry Ward Beecher as an adulterous hypocrite. The two women were arrested and spent the next month in jail.
Woodhull’s historic advances did not win her much praise from other women’s rights leaders of the time. Many criticized her love of the limelight, and famed women’s right figure Susan B. Anthony wrote in a letter that “both sisters are regarded as lewd and indecent.”
Regardless, Woodhull always will have a place in history as the first woman to run for president.