Victoria Woodhull for President

Victoria-Woodhull_001_L_smallThe media is trumpeting that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic Party, which makes her America’s first woman candidate for a major political party.

And all I can think about is Victoria Claflin Woodhull.

In 1872, Woodhull ran for president on the Equal Rights ticket. Her platform included equal rights for women (this at a time when votes for women were still nearly 50 years off), improved civil rights, the legalization of birth control, and the abolition of capital punishment.

She didn’t stand a chance. Even the old guard of the suffrage movement — Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony — thought she was too radical, and they did not support her.

Woodhull had the chops for public life. She was a newspaper publisher, a stockbroker, and a medium/healer, but she was also a proponent of Free Love, or the idea that marriage could not contain love, and the heart wants what it wants. She said once:

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.

This, reader, could not stand. These were the days of Queen Victoria. Suffragists were fighting, already, the idea that they were strictly in the game so they could get free and easy divorce, and that they were sexually loose. The right to divorce was part of the plan, yes, but it wasn’t the sole reason women wanted the vote. Most of the war horses of the movement (save for Anthony, who never married) were in marriages that were decades long. That Woodhull was also a brilliant strategist and a charismatic speaker paled to the fact that she did not stay within her own marital bounds.

It was the optics of the thing.

Yet Hartford suffragist Isabella Beecher Hooker adored her (much to the distress of Hooker’s straight-laced family). But Woodhull’s stance on fidelity made her the nemesis of Hooker’s brother, the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, who, Woodhull believed — hell, everyone believed except a few of his siblings — was also a proponent of Free Love — though not out loud. Woodhull said that when she once confronted the minister about his hypocrisy, Beecher responded “Milk for babies, meat for strong men.” meaning his congregation couldn’t handle the complexities of their shared belief.

That, to Woodhull, was hypocrisy. In 1875, she published a bombshell of an article about Beecher’s infidelities, and the scandal kept America — and much of the rest of the reading world — enthralled for months.

But in the end, Beecher, the revered minister from a famous family, survived and when he died, his obituary carried nary a mention of the scandal.

But for Woodhull, that was pretty much that. Her public influence waned — how dare she pick on the Rev. Beecher? — and she moved to England, where she continued publishing. There’s a story of her returning to the U.S. at least once, but she never again enjoyed the influence she dropped the bomb on Beecher.

Woodhull is no Hillary Clinton, but just watch this campaign and see how many times Clinton’s opponents attack her sexuality, or how many times Clinton’s pugnacious repudiation of that idiot Trump is questioned because Clinton’s a girl, and girls shouldn’t hit back. See if much has changed. I think it’s going to continue to be a bruising campaign. I think it’s going to get worse. I hope we keep our wits about us.

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16 responses to “Victoria Woodhull for President

  1. When I see Hillary Clinton in the media, what first pops into my mind is Wild Bill. That casts a fairly thick shadow over whatever willingness I can muster to try and take her seriously. The distinct possibility I could be compelled to vote for Clinton 2.0 in November doesn’t help.

    • His is a big shadow, isn’t it? And he was the first politician in whom I ever believed…

      • I don’t think Hillary sees it as a problem.
        I don’t think the DNC sees it as a problem.
        That’s the problem: The people who own the Democratic Party regard Wild Bill as a feature, not a bug.

      • Bill Clinton’s first election year was when I became fed up with the 2 party system and voted for Perot. When the whole Clinton-Lewinsky scandal became news, my kids would ask what he did. I just said he lied about some things and that was a bad thing to do. (How else do you tell little kids about what the President did? It was shameful that the national discussion was driven in that direction by BC.) I feel like democrats really had no choice in this primary because Hillary was the chosen one from the start. She has been given every advantage all along, via early super delegate accounting and the media. On the one hand, it is exciting to potentially have a woman as President. On the other hand, I see wealth, privilege, and a blind spot for those who are truly struggling. She doesn’t see the people and their struggles in the same way Bernie does. Still, given the alternative, she will ultimately get my vote.

        • I’m there exactly. It’s what’s kept me from full-throated support. I had issues with Bernie, but they were minor. But I cannot risk voting for a third party (none of whom precisely appeal to me, so far) for fear that I will one day have to form my mouth around the words “President Trump.”

  2. You make a good point. Since she will be running against scumbag Trump, nothing will be too much from him and all will be forgiven by his supporters. Sadly, Trump has lowered the bar to a point that we expect nasty from him and don’t react with shock. He will get away with saying anything and it’ll just be Trump as usual. Hillary fighting back will be news because she’s a woman and because she will be fighting someone who operates at a low level.

    • It’s going to take some super-human strength not to sink to his level. I wouldn’t know. I’ve already sunk.

    • Clinton is a pretty tough cookie…and a savvy politician. She’s not going to wallow in Trump’s wake of empty hateful rhetoric. She’s got her own brand to push, and can give as good as she gets.
      She’s got surrogates to do the heavy lifting. clerics to preach the gospel. Saints to trumpet The Message™ from On High. And sinners to trumpet The Message™ from the Down Low.

      The biggest threat to Clinton 2.0 isn’t with Trump’s mealy mouthed politicking. It’s from within her own Party. Trump’s already proved what he can do with the more radical elements of his Party. (Even if he has yet to get through Cleveland.) What Clinton does with the more radical elements of her Party will determine the outcome in November. If all she does is run against Trump, she’ll lose.

      • Yeah. There are strong opinions for & against Hillary within the party. Running mate selections and the debates may influence the current polarization within the parties. It’ll be an interesting 5 months. At the end of the day, one of these 2 will be the leader of the most powerful country on the globe. It would be a sad day if that ended up being hateful, bigoted, narcissistic Trump. We are much better than that!

        • I still think the GOP has a surprise planned for Cleveland. Something that will ace The Donald out of the nomination. Like an indictment? Maybe? Or a delegate revolt that puts Ryan on the ticket. Or both.
          It’s a long shot…but possible.
          Those are probably the only hopes Bernie has for Philly. An indictment or a delegate revolt, (which would take an Act Of God at this point), or both.

          But if both of the presumptive candidates survive their Party conventions, it will certainly make for an interesting campaign.

          • I have money riding on the notion that Paul Ryan will be on the ticket.

            • There’s a school of thought that says a Ryan Presidency, with control of Senate and House remaining as is…or won completely by the GOP…would be far worse for the country…especially the poor…than anything Trump or Clinton could come up with.

              I’m not so sure about that.

              • Hard to say, though his repeated attempts to address poverty fall pretty short.

                • That’s because he’s not attempting to address poverty. He’s just throwing empty rhetoric around to make snuggly with moderate Republicans in the electorate, independents uncomfortable with Clinton 2.0 corporatism, right-wing media desperate for something…anything…that gets the taste of Trump off their tongue…and Democrats ready to jump ship.

                  A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down your pants.

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