Woodhull, Victoria Claflin (1838–1927)
American Spiritualist, social reformer, and feminist. Born
September 23, 1838, in Homer, Licking County, Ohio, she
traveled with a medicine show when only a child, giving demonstrations
of fortune-telling and Spiritualist séances together
with her younger sister Tennessee (1846–1923). Victoria married
Canning Woodhull, a physician, before she was 16, was divorced
in 1864, and later remarried twice.
In 1868 the sisters moved to New York City where they met
Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was interested in Spiritualism. Vanderbilt
installed them in a stock-brokerage office as Woodhull,
Claflin & Company, where the ‘‘Lady Brokers’’ made considerable
profits. From this enterprise they founded the journal
Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly in 1870. This publication advocated
equal rights for women, free love, and other feminist issues.
In 1871, Victoria Woodhull spoke on women’s rights before
the House Judiciary Committee and became a prominent leader
in the cause of women’s suffrage. In 1872 she was the first
woman to be nominated for the presidency, sponsored by the
Equal Rights Party. Although she did not expect to be elected,
she and her sister publicized their cause and attracted much attention
by attempting to vote.
The February 2, 1872, issue of their Weekly contained a sensational
story alleging intimacy between Henry Ward Beecher
and the wife of Theodore Tilton. This scandal was reported
largely to discredit Beecher’s sisters, who had attacked the
Weekly’s stand on free love. In the event, Beecher went on a trial
for adultery, but was exonerated. Interestingly enough the
Weekly was the first periodical in the United States to publish
the Communist Manifesto.
In 1877, the sisters moved to England, where they continued
to publicize women’s rights. Victoria Woodhull married a
wealthy London banker and became well known for charitable
work. With her daughter, Zula Maud Woodhull, Woodhull published
Humanitarian magazine from 1892 to 1910. She died in
England June 10, 1927.
Sources
Brough, James. The Vixens. New York Simon and Schuster,
1980.
Melton, J. Gordon. Religious Leaders of America. Detroit Gale
Research, 1991.
Woodhull, Victoria. Garden of Eden Allegorical Meaning Revealed.
London The author, 1889.
Wood, C. E. Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
1684
———. Humanitarian Government. London The author,
1892.
———. Stirpiculture; or, the Scientific Propagation of the Human
Race. London The author, 1888.
Woodhull, Victoria, and Tennessee Claflin. The Human Body
the Temple of God. London, 1890.