Victoria Woodhull was one of the first trailblazing women in U.S. politics

By Ethan Pryor

It’s primary season, and women have been a big part of the Democraic primary proicess. Being on the cusp of Women’s History Month and having Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Tulsi Gabbard carving new pathways for women we would be remiss to not look back on one of the first trailblazing women in politics in the United States.

Victoria Woodhull, born in 1838 in Homer, Ohio, was known by many in her lifetime as an activist and a radical. A part of the spiritualist movement Woodhull became a popular clairvoyant and psychic medium. Traveling with this career, Woodhull met many different people and saw a whole variety of things that would later influence her political career.

In her 30s she created the publication Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, a radical publication where she would convey many of her activist points and radical movement ideas. In 1870 she even opened the first brokerage on Wall Street owned by a woman. But the political bell kept ringing. Being a strong supporter in the early stages of the women’s rights movement Woodhull wanted to take her thoughts off the paper and into the public political stage.    

In 1872 Victoria Woodhull became the first woman United States of America in history to run for president. Choosing Frederick Douglass, a social reformer and abolisitionist who escaped slavery as her running mate, Woodhull continued to fight for what she believed in. Her campaign was run on the movements of women’s suffrage and abolition of the death penalty. A supporter of socialism Woodhull fought for extremely taboo topics of the time such as legalized prostitution, birth control and free love.

These topics that defined radicalism of the time and made Victoria Woodhull a trailblazer for women are some of the same topics we see Warren, Klobuchar, and Gabbard, the top women of today’s political atmosphere fighting for in their campaigns. In the words of the trailblazer she is, do not change you course because those who assume to be better than you desire it.

Ethan Pryor is a student in a Media and Democracy class at St. Bonaventure University.

Categories: Jandoli Institute, Politics

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