The First Ms. President — Not Quite

405px-Victoria_WoodhullWhile other nations around the world have, in recent years, welcomed their first female (woman) national leader, the United States still has not had its first female president. It’s not for the lack of trying (not because they haven’t tried) — just ask Hilary Clinton. However, Clinton was certainly not the first woman to run for president. That woman was Victoria Woodhull and she ran for president in 1872.

Victoria Woodhull was a colorful character (having had many experience, some good, but many bad or controversial). Woodhull was a suffragette, someone who championed (tried to get support for) women’s rights. She also believed in what she called “free love,” the ability to marry and have children without the government’s interference or involvement.

(I should point out here that “free love” in the 1960’s was an entirely different thing.  Young people in the 60’s who talked about free love believed that people should be able to have sexual relationships with whomever they wanted, regardless of (without caring about or being restricted by) marriage or other long-term relationships.  That’s not what Woodhull meant by “free love.”)

She was nominated to run for president by a newly-formed (just started) political party called the Equal Rights Party.  This Party also nominated (suggested; volunteered) Frederick Douglas for the vice-presidency. Frederick Douglas was a well known and well respected African American abolitionist (person fighting against slavery). Douglas actually never acknowledged (recognized) the nomination, but his nomination itself gave rise to (resulted in) a lot of controversy because it meant mixing races in one organization.

Woodhull did not get any electoral votes and it’s unclear how many popular votes (votes of individuals) she received. There was also some controversy because she was not yet 35 years old at the time of the election, which is the minimum age to become president. But according to the news coverage (news stories) at the time, this was not a major issue.

During Woodhull’s lifetime, she did many “firsts,” in addition to being the first female presidential candidate recognized by historians (people who study history). She and her sister were the first women stockbrokers (professionals who buy and sell stocks) and opened their brokerage firm (company that invests people’s money in the stock market) on Wall Street (the main area in New York City where stocks are traded) in 1870. She and her sister also published a newspaper called Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, which included stories about many taboo (not accepted by society) topics, such as sex education and spiritualism (the belief that people can communicate with the dead).

Perhaps Woodhull’s views about marriage and her work toward women’s rights had to do with her first husband, whom she married when she was just 15 years old. He was a much older man who was working as a doctor, though his credentials (qualifications) were dubious (doubtful; not to be trusted). He was an alcoholic (addicted to alcohol) and a womanizer (had romantic/sexual relationships with many women), and Woodhull divorced him. At that time, divorce was not common and the woman in a divorce was stigmatized (disapproved of by society) and ostracized (not allowed to join society).  Woodhull would marry three times in total and died living in England at the age of 88.

As I said, Woodhull was a very colorful person, but her life was anything but (definitely not) dull (boring).

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: Victoria Woodhull from Wikipedia

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12 Responses to The First Ms. President — Not Quite

  1. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Yes, this is a good one. Female as a candidate is something strange for many people, but it should not be, for woman, like man, is entitled to run for a place in the palaces. In Brazil we had the first female candidate ( Dilma Roussef) that won the election and is ruling the country. Whether she is doing a good government I don’t know, only the future will say.
    Thanks Jeff and Lucy for the lesson.
    Aecio from beautiful Brazil.

  2. Dan says:

    Hello everyone

    Thank you Lucy. I am not sure I have ever heard about this woman.

    That’s interesting. I was thinking Why she moved to England.

    If anyone know that, please post it!

  3. Sergio Rodrigues says:

    It is strange how a multicultural and democratic country like the USA hasn`t had a female President so far. Here in Brazil you are experiencing this situation of having the first female President ever, who, in spite of being the sucessor of one of the most popular Brazilian Presidents – or perhaps, because of it – has been enjoying high approval ratings. The reason I really dont know, since our inflation is rising and our PNB grew less than one per-cent last year

  4. Peter says:

    Dear Lucy ,
    I must say , I m totally behind the 60’s idea of free love.
    A cool school of thought

    Man, the lady went through a lot in her rather long life.
    One question though
    What is her credential?
    What school she studied in
    And how did she make money to start up all theses companies and institute. I mean ,how did she come up with the seed money.
    Definitely , she did a lot through her life. But , you know , all those initiations or starts as you called it needs some found ,some capital if you will.
    What did all the investing capital cold from
    Just curious
    How did she on earth get the credentials and education requirement for presidential candidacy at such a young age?

    According to u she got married as a child ,so how did she manage to pull it off after her divorce.
    And , there is one more thing
    Didn’t back then was totally up
    To men to get divorced ?
    Did women have a say in it ?
    Perhaps in extreme case , as her hubby was a Booz-addled alcoholic

    Thanks for the rich post

    The post truly does Eslpod just

    Make it a continuum please


  5. parviz says:

    Dear Lucy,
    Thank you very much.
    I don’t really know how much pain this poor woman suffered during his lifetime, but I personally admire her, for that what she did was nothing short of a revolution.

    Thanks again,

  6. Dan says:


    At times, reading about people like this woman, they are often
    defined as “larger than life character”.


  7. Peter says:

    Well, today’s post is a serious post needing to look more closely.
    Well, the world of 100 years ago were not ready for female presidency as the biological differences between women and men
    was a big influence on how societies view women. Back then, the role of women and how they are to conduct themselves was totally biased by the prevailed idea of gender inequality.
    Back then, there was this strong belief that the biological differences between the two sex totally define their mental and physical capabilities ;moreover , it dictates and determinant their social role and their place in a given society.
    Back then ,the noble notion of gender equality and the role of women as an active member of society has not fermented yet. The women were to take care of chores around the house and raise children.
    Back in 20 century , societies stance on The notion of having a female as the leader of a country was sth of a taboo, out of question ,and not viable.
    It was later on in mid 21 century that the traditional way of thinking made way to a less orthodox , frantic image of women as an equal member of societies capable of making a difference. The novelty that later on named ” gender equality .”

  8. Lassana says:

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you very much Jeff for this interesting story about this woman who was courageous and modern.

    She has allowed contribued to change mentalites in worldwide.

    Thanks again


  9. emiliano says:

    I think there are people every where and every time that are ahead of all their contemporary, may be for their ideas, forms of life or even because they think their world needs
    a strong boost.

    This woman was one of them, that is for sure. In a world where women where nearly nothing she wanted to make a great change.
    World needs always persons like her to be progress, to change old ideas and points of views.

    Thanks Victoria, even your name means success, I do think you made a lot in pro women rights.

    The progress of this world since 1914 (firs great war) had increased thanks to women were necessary in a man´s world, and after the second war the progress about ideas was
    iven faster.

    Nothing has been the same since those years when a great war convulsion agitated man´s world. Women started to be necessaries because there were enough men to work
    in hospitals, factories, and so forth.

    Now there are more girls in the universities that boys, if you travel in the subway of Madrid you could see four girls or women Reading by one boy or men. The same if you go
    to a museum, a classic concert or a art exposition.
    Nothing is the same but it is necessary even more changes in men´s mind respected to the house and children chores.

    Thanks Lucy, as always you put your finger on the wound….inteligent smart teacher.
    ESL could not be what it is without your work and style


  10. Tania says:

    Hi! Victoria Woodhull…a wonderful and brave woman.
    I have found at my public library “A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton” by Carl Bernstein,
    a biography of Hillary.
    I have to read it as it is written by Carl Bernstein. Jeff told us about him.

    Thank you.

    Best wishes,


  11. HILARIO says:

    IMAGINE.- It’s hard to imagine how it could have affected the whole American social and political developments if a woman with this profile could have won enough electoral votes as presidential candidate, but one can imagine it as a really positive contribution to the posterior evolution of the American society. Her profile indicates she possessed strong determination as a decision maker person, and it appears that she’s backed by a broad experience made of miscelanea in marital and domestic issues, business drivings, and a street foot knowledge in social human behaviours and aspirations. All it resulting in such an early maturity derived from the prestigious teaching she received at the Real Life University. Women as birth givers and carers, are more of life supporters than men who by his nature tend more of being opportunist predators. Women in power can be more than extraordinary leaders because they have a plus, a fair amount more of a very scarce resource among men when men are in politics, and that is to have a broad common-sense. The ability to empathise, to compassionate and to trim once and again the starting point of the race for life are not taught neither at Harvard or at the London School of Economy. Only women are able in my opinion for doing the most difficult change in politics and society, which is I think like reads the motto of her Equal Rights’ Party. Equality in rights broadly understood merely means to change progressively the piramide of wealth and power into a cilinder by the measure of socialization of richness and the capitalization of poverty. Another picture that comes to my mind is when I imagine how the black networks of the extreme -right American hawks of the time could they have reacted against the arise and progression to power of a smart woman and a brilliant lawyer black as they were Victoria and Frederick.

  12. emiliano says:

    Right Hilario, absolutely I agree with you now and I do think the same you have said.
    By the way your English is perfect….are you a teacher?

    Thanks. emiliano

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