The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored
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 A remarkable biography (the second, after Lois Beachy Underhill's The Woman Who Ran for President, 1995) of one of America's most controversial (and neglected) suffragists. Victoria Claflin Woodhull (18381927) was a clairvoyant, a spiritualist, a stockbroker, a newspaper editor, a women's rights crusader, a presidential candidate, and a sometime prison inmate. Yet shortly before her death, she noted that she wanted to be remembered by a line from Kant: ``You cannot understand a man's work by what he has accomplished but by what he has overcome in accomplishing it.'' A more apt epitaph could not have been chosen for her. Born impoverished to a forger father and an emotionally unstable mother, Woodhull and her sister soon were the sole breadwinners of the very extended Claflin clan, earning a living as spiritualists and healers. But the sisters wanted to get more done. After using their so-called healing powers to aid business tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, he reciprocated with financial assistance in their venture to become Wall Street's first female brokers. Not long after this, Woodhull--who was driven to social reform in part by her experiences in marrying an alcoholic at age 14 and bearing an imbecile son--declared herself a candidate for president of the US, the first woman ever to do so. She was also the first woman to address a congressional committee about women's right to vote. A vibrant, highly opinionated person who espoused free love, Woodhull alienated more than a few of her suffrage contemporaries, notably movement leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. They tried to write her out of feminist history, censoring so many of her reform actions that Gabriel, a Reuters journalist, had to play Sherlock Holmes to piece Woodhull's life together. Well written and researched, this book warrants a spot on every serious American history student's bookshelf. (19 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: Jan. 16th, 1998
ISBN: 1-56512-132-5
Page count: 357pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1997


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