Photo courtesy of EHistory
The first woman to run for president was also among the first to advocate for women’s sexual liberation.
Victoria Woodhull was a product of the 70s–the 1870s, amazingly enough, as this author, publisher, woman’s suffragist and politician also qualifies as the nation’s first female sexpert!
A “free love” advocate, Woodhull was among the first and boldest proponents of sex-positive feminism.
“Governments,” said Woodhull, “might just as well assume to determine how people shall exercise their right to think…as to assume to determine that they shall not love, or how they may love, or that they shall love.”
She also spoke out loudly in defense of her own sexual agency.
“Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may… ; to change that love every day if I please,” she declared, “and…neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere.”
Get it, Girl.
Woodhull’s very existence stands as a sterling record of firsts. She ran for president in 1872, representing the Equal Rights Party. She made headlines as the inaugural Wall Street broker of the female persuasion, and literally made headlines in the role of the first woman newspaper publisher.
Oh, and another thing: Nobody messed with our Vicki. When Rev. Henry Ward Beecher publicly protested her free love philosophy, she exposed his adulterous affair (and with one of his parishioners) in a Nov. 2, 1872, issue of Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly newspaper.
Ultimately, Woodhull was denied the right to vote that she had fought so hard to attain; the reason being that she spent Election Day 1872 in jail, charged with the publication of an obscene newspaper. I would have happily subscribed to that there publication. And in a related fun fact, the Feminist Sexpert is actually a distant relation to the man elected president that year: Ulysses S. Grant. The fact that she is related to a hard-fighting general likely comes as a surprise to no one.
They could imprison her body, but there was clearly no stopping the mind, cause and raw dedication of Victoria Woodhull. Throughout the remainder of her life, she continued to fight valiantly for the rights of a woman to get an education, to make her own health decisions, to vote, to earn equal work for equal pay, and to live as she pleased. This is why we love, honor and remember Victoria Woodhull.