Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina
The first woman running for president is a tale filled with intrigue, scandal, enemies and lurid newspaper accounts, sexual innuendoes, financial scandals and marital woes.
Biographical accounts are often brutal and vindictive.
You might think I am writing about Hillary Clinton but, in fact, she was not the first woman to run for President. Victoria Woodhull ran for the office in 1872 on the Equal
Rights Party, supporting women’s and workers rights. Writing about her run for president, Woodhull noted, “The truth is that I am too many years ahead of this age…and the unenlightened mind of the average man.”
Nicole Evelina brings us a vivid portrait of Woodhull in her historical novel. She told me, “My portrayal of her comes from how I think she saw herself… I think she believed the ends justified the means.” A constant headline maker in her own time, because of later conflicts with suffragettes, Woodhull became a footnote, mostly written out of their accounts of the decades’ efforts to gain the right to vote for women. Yet Woodhull’s accomplishments were many: with only 3 years of formal education before 11, Woodhull published a newspaper, co-owned the first woman owned Wall Street brokerage firm with her sister, addressed Congress, gave speeches at rallies nation wide and was one of the charismatic leaders of the suffrage movement.
Oval picture is of Victoria Woodhull by the famous phtographer Matthew Brady, cerca 1870's.
Like many politicians of her time and ours, Woodhull had affairs, used scandal to her advantage and made lots of money during
her political career. Eventually, Woodhull and her sister moved to England, married there and worked for women’s suffrage, albeit with a lower profile.
Wonderful portraits of historical figures with whom Woodhull interacted give a true feel for the era—a few are Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, President Ulysses Grant, Walt Whitman, Henry Ward Beecher, Horace Greely and Cornelius Vanderbilt.
A real rags to riches story, Woodhull was raised by abusive, emotionally unstable and thieving parents. Married at 15, she escaped one abusive home only to enter another. Taking her destiny into her own hands, Woodhull escaped, struggled and despite a scandal-ridden life, succeeded in many ways few women could have. “I think the abuse Victoria suffered from her father and first husband could have been an obstacle and could have turned her into a meek woman, more like Lib Tilton. But instead, Victoria allowed her negative experiences to turn her blood to iron and to feed her determination to overcome them and ensure other women didn't have to endure the same thing. It's one of the things I admire most about her.”
Now, a time when American laws give woman equal rights, including the hard fought woman’s suffrage, we can look back at a time when despite few rights, Victoria Woodhull, among others, fought for equal rights legislation, which we often take for granted today. Woodhull has many obstacles placed in front of her. “Then there was the fact that she was a woman in a man's world. This affected everything…. That is part of what made her so controversial in her own time and I think it is one of the things we can related to in our time now.”
Despite the claim on their website that Delmonico’s was one of the first restaurants to allow women to dine without a male escort, Victoria Woodhull was asked to leave when she and her sister Tennie went to dine there, as they did frequently. The story goes that Tennie brought in their chauffeur, much to the discomfort of the owner, who was forced to allow them to stay. Woodhull ordered Tomato Soup for Three, Pheasant and Custard Pie. We have come up with our own Tomato Soup here. No escorts required!