Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance

Affirming Sexual Freedom as a Fundamental Human Right

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The Woman Who Ran for President: The Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull

Drawing on newly available material, Underhill, a former advertising executive, has written an outstanding study of controversial feminist Woodhull (1838-1927). Beautiful and charismatic, Woodhull and her sister made their living as spiritualists until financier Cornelius Vanderbilt established them as stockbrokers. With their wealth, they began a muckraking newspaper that argued for women’s suffrage and free love. Woodhull became an influential speaker for women’s rights and ran for president against Grant in 1870 as the nominee of the Equal Rights Party. Her advocacy of communism and sexual freedom (she married three times and had many affairs) angered feminists and liberals. In retaliation for his criticism, Woodhull publicized in her newspaper the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher’s affair with a parishioner. This act resulted in lawsuits and effectively ended her career. She moved to London, remarried and denied her past. Underhill argues convincingly that, although Woodhull was deliberately left out of histories written by Susan B. Anthony and others, she was an important figure in the struggle for women’s equality.