In light of the upcoming US presidential election, I would like to focus on the extraordinary women’s rights pioneer Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927). She was the first woman to run for this position in the 1872 election on an Equal Rights Party ticket, even though women had not yet won the right to vote. Her vice-presidential candidate was the formerly enslaved abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Victoria Woodhull, who was born into a family of nomads, spent her childhood working as a healer and fortune teller. As an adult, in the 1870s, she opened a stock brokerage firm on Wall Street, with a backroom for female clients - a highly controversial move at the time, given that women were still considered to be men’s property.
She was also the first woman to address a congressional committee, arguing that “nowhere in the constitution” does it deny women the right to vote. As a 19th-century libertine, she believed in free love and thought that marriage should not be viewed as government-imposed. Her emancipatory activism would eventually lead to the media nickname “Mrs. Satan.”