May 10th 1872: Victoria Woodhull nominated for President
On this day in 1872, Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to be nominated for the Presidency of the United States. Born to a poor family in Ohio in 1838, she married at age 15, but later divorced her loutish husband and married a colonel. After moving to New York, Victoria and her sister Tennessee - with whom she had worked as a clairvoyant - established the first woman-run stock brokerage company and created a radical weekly publication. In the magazine, the sisters articulated their vision for social reform embracing female suffrage, birth control rights, and ‘free love’. Their journal also advocated workers’ rights, calling for
the 8 hour work day and graduated income tax, and publishing the first English translation of Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto. Victoria became such a prominent figure that she was invited to testify before Congress on female suffrage. In 1872, despite women being barred from voting, Woodhull was nominated as the presidential candidate of the Equal Rights Party; she selected famed black abolitionist Frederick Douglass as her running mate. Woodhull’s radical rhetoric alarmed moderate elements of the feminist and reform movements, limiting her electoral appeal. The 1872 campaign - between incumbent Republican Ulysses S. Grant and Democrat Horace Greeley - quickly became acrimonious, and Woodhull’s opponents accused her of adultery. On election day, after retaliating against her critics and publishing accusations of adultery against them, she was in prison for distributing ‘obscene’ literature. Woodhull also did not appear on the ballot, as she was one year under the Constitutionally required age of 35, and won a minute percentage of the vote. Hounded by law enforcement and critics, Woodhull moved to England in 1877, where she continued her activism until her death in 1927. With a major American party poised to nominate a woman for president, it is fitting to remember Victoria Woodhull’s historic campaign.
“I come before you to declare that my sex are entitled to the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”