Selected Writings of Victoria Woodhull: Suffrage, Free Love, and Eugenics

Selected Writings of Victoria Woodhull: Suffrage, Free Love, and Eugenics

Selected Writings of Victoria Woodhull: Suffrage, Free Love, and Eugenics

Selected Writings of Victoria Woodhull: Suffrage, Free Love, and Eugenics

Synopsis

Suffragist, lecturer, eugenicist, businesswoman, free lover, and the first woman to run for president of the United States, Victoria C. Woodhull (1838–1927) has been all but forgotten as a leading nineteenth-century feminist writer and radical. Selected Writings of Victoria Woodhullis the first multigenre, multisubject collection of her materials, giving contemporary audiences a glimpse into the radical views of this nineteenth-century woman who advocated free love between consensual adults and who was labeled "Mrs. Satan" by cartoonist Thomas Nast. Woodhull's texts reveal the multiple conflicting aspects of this influential woman, who has been portrayed in the past as either a disreputable figure or a brave pioneer. This collection of letters, speeches, essays, and articles elucidate some of the lesser-known movements and ideas of the nineteenth century. It also highlights, through Woodhull's correspondence with fellow suffragist Lucretia Mott, tensions within the suffragist movement and demonstrates the changing political atmosphere and role of women in business and politics in the late nineteenth century. With a comprehensive introduction contextualizing Woodhull's most important writing, this collection provides a clear lens through which to view late nineteenth-century suffragism, labor reform, reproductive rights, sexual politics, and spiritualism.

Excerpt

To the extent that anyone’s life reflects the time in which she lives, Victoria Claflin Woodhull embodied hers. Born shortly after Samuel Morse developed the electric telegraph in the United States, she died not long after promising five thousand dollars to the first person to fly across the Atlantic. Like the inventions her life witnessed, she crossed what others deemed uncrossable. First and foremost a performer, her most extravagant crossovers occurred on stage, as she delivered speeches perhaps even more shocking by today’s standards: speeches that espoused free love, a more equal distribution of wealth, and women’s legal rights. In Amanda Frisken’s words, Victoria Woodhull was “one of the most powerful speakers of the time. Her contribution was to act out the period’s most extreme positions on a public stage” (5).

This collection offers a glimpse into the life of this complicated figure, affording us a sense not only of Woodhull’s circumstances and accomplishments but of how they inform late nineteenth-century suffragism, reproductive rights, sexual politics, and spiritualism. While scholars tend to divide her life into two distinct phases—her early, progressive commitment to free love and her later conservative eugenics—I hope to show that the two are more connected than previously imagined, and that they need to be refigured in order to understand both her and her context.

Woodhull tends to be a marginal figure in many accounts of nineteenth-century women’s rights, in part because of the disdain most suffragists ultimately felt toward her. Reformers like Susan B. Anthony, after a brief fascination with Woodhull, came to view her radicalism as a threat to the movement. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s voluminous record of the women’s movement only mentions Woodhull’s memorial to Congress, and an early biography of Anthony ignores . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.