Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sheroes: Victoria Woodhull & Tennessee Claflin

Sheroes: Victoria Woodhull & Tennessee Claflin
Life: Victoria, September 23, 1838 - June 9, 1927
Tennessee, October 26, 1845 - January 18, 1923
Fame: Victoria- First woman to run for president of the United States.
Tennessee- First woman to open a Wall Street brokerage firm.

Victoria (Claflin) Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin were two daring sisters born 100 years ahead of their time. They were journalists, women suffragists, Wall Street brokers, and spiritualists.

Born into a poor family in Homer, Ohio, their father was a con man, their mother a spiritualist. The sisters grew up working as spiritualists and magnetic healers in their family's traveling medicine show. At age 15, Victoria was married off to Canning Woodhull who turned out to be an alcoholic and womanizer. She continued to work as a clairvoyant with her sister and divorced Woodhull in 1864.

In 1868, Victoria and Tennessee moved together to New York. With money they had saved from their work as spiritualists and the backing of Cornelius Vanderbilt they made history by starting their own Wall Street brokerage firm in 1870. They were the first women ever to work on Wall Street and the sisters soon became known as the Bewitching Brokers.

They made a fortune in the New York Stock Exchange and used their earnings to start the first ever feminist newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, which published over the next six years. It became notorious for publishing controversial opinions on taboo topics, advocating among other things- sex education, free love, women's suffrage, short skirts, spiritualism, vegetarianism, and licensed prostitution. The paper also printed the first English version of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto on December 20, 1871.

Victoria was the first woman to ever appear before the House Judiciary Committee on January 11, 1871. She gave speech on women suffrage stating that women already had the right to vote, since the 14th and 15th amendments granted the right to all citizens. She argued that all women had to do was use their right. The simple but powerful logic of her argument impressed some committee members.

On May 10, 1872 Victoria was nominated as a candidate for the President of the United States by the newly formed Equal Rights Party at a time when women didn't even have the right to vote.
A few days before the election, both Victoria and Tennessee were arrested for publishing a newspaper article exposing the extramarital affairs of a prominent Protestant minister, Henry Ward Beecher. The scandal cost them their reputation and their fortune.

In 1877 the two sisters moved to England where they lived rich and respectable thereafter- Victoria married a millionaire banker and Tennessee became a nobleman's wife.

Resources: Wikipedia (Victoria & Tennesee), Victoria-Woodhull.comnpr.orgwww.lkwdpl.orgRemarkable American Women, Life Magazine, 1976.


Sweet Pea said...

Sisters rock!

kara rane said...

i am truly inspired.. double time**!!

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