because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Victoria Claflin Woodhull

To say Victoria Claflin Woodhull was ahead of her time is an understatement of fairly substantial proportions. She believed women should be able to marry, divorce, bear children, or even engage in prostitution when and with whom they chose. She made -- and lost -- a fortune as a "magnetic healer," made another fortune by opening a Wall Street brokerage house, and then established a weekly newspaper demanding equal rights for women and supporting union organizing in the U.S. in the late 1800's.

When she published an account of the adulterous affair of another candidate while she was running for the U.S. Presidency in 1872, Woodhull was arrested on obscenity charges since the authorities couldn't legally arrest her just for being an in-your-face woman. She was already twice divorced at the time and currently in a "relationship" with an anarchist (not to mention too young to serve, according to the Constitution), but she didn't see why any of that should keep her out of the White House in a country where men had always been allowed to ignore the traditional norms without repercussion. In a speech in New York City, she boldly announced, "Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can, to change that love every day if I please; and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere."

Other women -- even some other in-your-face women -- didn't immediately support Woodhull's perspectives and actions, considering her (and rightly so) something of a wild card. But when she testified before Congress that women's right to vote should be recognized as already covered by the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, she was just too in-your-face to keep out of the conversation. There's no such thing, apparently, as a woman being too in-your-face.

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