Spiritualist, blackmailer, newspaper editor, presidential candidate, free love enthusiast: As this terrific tome proves,...


"OTHER POWERS: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull"

Spiritualist, blackmailer, newspaper editor, presidential candidate, free love enthusiast: As this terrific tome proves, history is anything but boring when Victoria Woodhull is the topic. The past six months have seen not one but two excellent books finally giving this woman her historical due. The first, Notorious Victoria by Mary Gabriel (published in January), while offering some pertinent historical background information, doesn't stray far from the events of Woodhull's soap-opera life. Goldsmith (Little Gloria...Happy at Last, 1980; Johnson v. Johnson, 1987) takes a broader approach in her journey through the emotional and financial roller-coaster ride of Woodhull's life. With her keen storytelling skills, she vividly brings to life the time and places in which Woodhull moved: New York City in 1868, when Woodhull arrived--a teeming, bustling, expanding city; the brothels where Woodhull peddled various health elixirs and birth control products. In this way, taking long side trips into events influencing turn-of-the-century America's collective consciousness, Goldsmith produces a powerful, comprehensive analysis of one of history's most fascinating women. Goldsmith's Woodhull is a scrappy woman who usually landed on her feet after adversity, befriending along with her sister the business tycoon Commodore Vanderbilt, launching the first female brokerage house on Wall Street, and becoming the first woman to run for president. She also became one of the most ardent leaders in the suffrage and Spiritualist movements (Goldsmith's account includes such gems as a letter from Elizabeth Cady Stanton asking Woodhull to contact the biblical Rachel, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and other dead women). But when she took on Henry Ward Beecher, a powerful but philandering pastor, Woodhull quickly alienated those who had once revered her and died in England, a forgotten figure in her native land. A meticulously researched, absolutely marvelous rendering of an intriguing era and one of the women who helped make it so.

Pub Date: March 16, 1998


Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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