Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview

and 1901, with the editorial assistance of her daughter Zula Maud, she wrote regularly on these and other reforms in her newly established monthly, the Humanitarian. She devoted the monthly to examination of the social and scientific questions confronting humanity, proposing that the magazine offer a dialectical forum independent of any sect or party and void of distinctions of race and creed. Tempered by age and perhaps by social position but steadfastly dedicated to woman's rights, she adopted a tone more typical of an idealized quest for knowledge than of an act of defiance. In the foreword to the August 1893 issue she wrote:

The regeneration of humanity will not be complete until the light of knowledge shall have dawned on the darkness of ignorance and superstition. . . . The pioneer of the dawn must be the idealized woman, who through her perfected offspring will guide man in his aspirations to higher aims of life. She will henceforth hold aloft the crown of science, and will lead the nations of the world in their march towards the goal. (ii)

She reprinted many of her earlier speeches, including "A Lecture on Constitutional Equality," "The Principles of Social Freedom," and "The Human Body," in an attempt to circulate her ideas more widely. Between 1895 and 1896, in a series on "The Pharmacy of the Soul," she returned to some of her earlier spiritualist beliefs about the body's magnetism and untapped natural power.

At the turn of the century, after the death of her husband, she retired to the Martins' Cotswold estate where she died in June 1927. Ever the ardent reformer, she spent her last years engaged in bettering the educational and economic conditions of women in the surrounding countryside. She founded a coeducational village school, established the International Agricultural Club to train young women in horticulture and animal husbandry, and opened a lyceum for the discussion of English-American relations.


CONCLUSION

Throughout her life, Victoria Claflin Woodhull advocated political, social, and economic reforms with revolutionary zeal. Ostracized by a society more Victorian than farsighted, she persevered amid public persecution. Her words, radical by every nineteenth-century measure, urged the creation of a society based on political equality and social justice and economically beneficial to all. Because of her stridency and perceived impropriety, she was victimized and shunned by a society almost entirely unwilling to condone her advocacy of radical change.


SOURCES

The Victoria C. Woodhull Papers, Southern Illinois University, Morris Library Archives, and the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe, hold speeches and writings. Pamphlets,

-96-

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