This Week’s Wonder Woman: Victoria Claflin Woodhull

Victoria Claflin Woodhull, (September 23, 1838 – June 9, 1927), was an American leader of the women’s suffrage movement.  Even though it would be almost fifty years before women gained the right to vote, Victoria was the first woman to run for President of the United States. She was the candidate in 1872 from the Equal Rights Party, supporting women’s suffrage and equal rights; her running mate was black abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. Some historians quibble about the legality of her run because she was younger than the constitutionally mandated age of 35. Election coverage by contemporary newspapers does not suggest age was a significant issue.

As well as an activist for women’s rights Victoria championed labor reforms, and was a voice for “free love“– the freedom to marry, divorce, and bear children without social restriction or government interference.  Together with her sister, Tennessee Claflin, she was the first woman to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street, and the two were among the first women to found a newspaper in the United States, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, which began publication in 1870. The Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership was founded by Naomi Wolf and Margot Magowan in 1997, and in 2001, Victoria Woodhull was inducted posthumously into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.