Two Renegades So Controversial, They Were Erased From History
Discarded by society, she led a social revolution. Disgusted by war, he sought a new world.
She was the first women to run for President, campaigning before women could vote.
He was the Hero of Vicksburg, disillusioned with the government after witnessing the devastating carnage of the Civil War.
Their social revolution attracted the unwanted who were left out of the new wealth: the freed slaves, the new immigrants, and women.
Who were they?
This is the true story of Victoria Woodhull and the love of her life, James Blood.
Adored by the poor, hated by the powerful, forced into hiding during their lifetimes and erased from history after death, the legend of their love lives on.
It’s 1869 and Victoria has a choice to make. She can stay in an abusive marriage and continue to work as a psychic, or she can take the offer of support from handsome Civil War general James Blood and set about to turn society upside down. Victoria chooses revolution.
But revolutions are expensive, and Victoria needs money. James introduces Victoria to one of the wealthiest man in America—Commodore Vanderbilt. Along with her loose and scandalous sister, Tennessee, Victoria manipulates Vanderbilt and together they conspire to crash the stock market—and profit from it. Victoria then parlays her fortune into the first female-owned brokerage firm.
When her idol Susan B. Anthony publishes scandalous rumors about Victoria’s past, Victoria enters into a fierce rivalry with Susan to control the women’s movement. James supports Victoria’s efforts despite his deep fears that she may lose more than the battle. She might lose part of herself.
Victoria starts her own newspaper, testifies to Congress, and even announces her candidacy for President. But when Victoria adopts James’s radical ideas and free love beliefs, she ignites new, bruising, battles with Susan B. Anthony and the powerful Reverend Henry Beecher. These skirmishes turn into an all-out war, with Victoria facing prejudice, prosecution, and imprisonment. Ultimately, Victoria and James face the hardest choice of all: the choice between their country and their love.
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History Is Written by the Victors:
Victoria Woodhull, Susan B. Anthony, and the Suffrage Movement
by Eva Flynn
The defining undercurrent of conflict within the woman’s movement was established early in its birth: the great rivalry between Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull. The rivalry was a great clash of personalities but also a clash in priorities. The two debated: must women get the vote first and then gain equality through the established political process, or is the process so broken that women must fight on multiple fronts simultaneously? On the moderate side was Susan B. Anthony, a powerful political figure who, having fought for abolition, desired unity within the movement. She was at the helm of the movement and wanted to take incremental steps towards liberation. On the radical side was Victoria Woodhull, a woman who, having been at the bottom of society, had nothing to lose by fighting for complete political, societal, and sexual equality.
Anthony began her career of agitation as a teacher. In 1848, one of her male colleagues told Anthony that he was earning $10 per month as a teacher. Anthony was only earning $2.50 per month. When Anthony wanted to bring up this issue, it sparked a half-hour debate as to whether it was proper for women to speak in public. This experience sowed the seeds for her later fight for emancipation.
But female emancipation would have to wait. An even greater conflict was coming, one that would turn into the Civil War. Before and during the Civil War, Anthony turned her attention to abolition, even becoming part of the underground railroad. Facing mobs everywhere she went, the police often had to escort her. In Syracuse, a newspaper editorial stated, “Rotten eggs were thrown, benches broken, and knives and pistols gleamed in every direction.”
Anthony’s bravery during contentious fights over slavery made her one of the leaders of the American political landscape. And yet, she still was not deemed worthy of the vote. Anthony was outraged that African-Americans were granted the right to vote ahead of women. Men who worked to end slavery, such as Henry Ward Beecher, were not anxious for women to vote. And it wasn’t only the men who were resistant; many prominent women did not want the right to vote. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for example, signed a petition that read: “The majority of women in this country believe Holy Scripture inculcates for women a sphere higher than and apart from that of public life; because as women they find a full measure of duties, cares and responsibilities and are unwilling to bear additional burdens unsuited to their physical organization.”
It was against this backdrop of resistance to female emancipation that Susan B. Anthony soldiered on, taking small steps towards reform. It was also against this backdrop that an even bolder visionary appeared: Victoria Woodhull.
While Anthony tried to unite supporters behind her, many broke away, preferring the more radical, holistic approach to equality. Anthony, however, remained more powerful and influential. Through these rifts and Woodhull’s own political missteps, Woodhull was ultimately forced out of the movement despite being the first woman to run for President. And when Anthony was commissioned to write the multi-volume history of the woman’s movement, Victoria’s name was left out entirely.
Question: Is the essential tension of working within the system or breaking away from it entirely still relevant today?
About the Author:
Eva was raised on bedtime stories of feminists (the tooth fairy even brought Susan B. Anthony
dollars) and daytime lessons on American politics. On one fateful day years ago when knowledge was found on bound paper, she discovered two paragraphs about Victoria Woodhull in the WXYZ volume of the World Book Encyclopedia. When she realized that neither of her brilliant parents (a conservative political science professor and a liberal feminist) had never heard of her, it was the beginning of a lifelong fascination not only with Victoria Woodhull but in discovering the stories that the history books do not tell. Brave battles fought, new worlds sought, loves lost all in the name of some future glory have led her to spend years researching the period of Reconstruction. Her first book, The Renegade Queen , explores the forgotten trailblazer Victoria Woodhull and her rivalry with Susan B. Anthony.
Eva was born and raised in Tennessee, earned her B.A. in Political Science from DePauw in Greencastle, Indiana and still lives in Indiana. Eva enjoys reading, classic movies, and travelling. She loves to hear from readers, you may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Goodreads and Twitter.
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