Victoria Woodhull

American suffragist, editor (1838-1927)

Victoria Claflin Woodhull, later Victoria Woodhull Martin (September 23, 1838June 9, 1927) was an American suffragist and, in 1872, the first woman nominated for U.S. president.

I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere.

Quotes

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  • Many women who would be shocked at the very thought of killing their children after birth, deliberately destroy them previously. If there is any difference in the actual crime, we should be glad to have those who practice the latter, point it out. The truth of the matter is that it is just as much a murder to destroy life in its embryotic condition, as it is to destroy it after the fully developed form is attained, for it is the self-same life that is taken... Can anyone suggest a better than to so situate woman, that she may never be obligated to conceive a life she does not desire shall be continuous?
    • In an anti-abortion essay titled When Is It Not Murder to Take a Life? published in the Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly newspaper on October 8, 1870
  • If Congress refuse to listen to and grant what women ask, there is but one course left then to pursue. Women have no government. Men have organized a government, and they maintain it to the utter exclusion of women.... Under such glaring inconsistencies, such unwarrantable tyranny, such unscrupulous despotism, what is there left [for] women to do but to become the mothers of the future government? There is one alternative left, and we have resolved on that. This convention is for the purpose of this declaration. As surely as one year passes from this day, and this right is not fully, frankly and unequivocally considered, we shall proceed to call another convention expressly to frame a new constitution and to erect a new government, complete in all its parts and to take measures to maintain it as effectually as men do theirs. We mean treason; we mean secession, and on a thousand times grander scale than was that of the south. We are plotting revolution; we will overslough this bogus republic and plant a government of righteousness in its stead, which shall not only profess to derive its power from consent of the governed but shall do so in reality.
    • A Lecture on Constitutional Equality, also known as The Great Secession Speech, speech to Woman's Suffrage Convention, New York, May 11, 1871, excerpt quoted in Gabriel, Mary, Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored (Chapel Hill, N.Car.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1st ed. 1998 ISBN 1-56512-132-5, pp. 86–87 & n. [13] (ellipsis or suspension points in original & "[for]" so in original) (author Mary Gabriel journalist, Reuters News Service). Also excerpted, differently, in Underhill, Lois Beachy, The Woman Who Ran for President: The Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull (Bridgehampton, N.Y.: Bridge Works, 1st ed. 1995 ISBN 1-882593-10-3, pp. 125–126 & unnumbered n.
  • The rights of children, then, as individuals, begin while yet they are in fetal life. Children do not come into existence by any will or consent of their own.
    • In a speech "Children--Their Rights and Privileges" that led to Victoria Woodhull's election as President of the American Association of Spiritualists at their Eighth National Convention on its second day, Wednesday, September 13, 1871, at Troy, New York
  • Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere.
  • Of all the horrid brutalities of our age, I know of none so horrid as those that are sanctioned and defended by marriage. Night after night, there are thousands of rapes committed, under cover of this accursed license; and millions— yes, I say it boldly, knowing whereof I speak— millions of poor, heartbroken, suffering wives are compelled to minister to the lechery of insatiable husbands, when every instinct of body and sentiment of soul revolts in loathing and disgust... The world has got to be startled from this pretense into realizing that there is nothing else now existing among pretendedly enlightened nations, except marriage, that invests men with the right to debauch women, sexually, against their wills, yet marriage is held to be synonymous with morality! I say, eternal damnation, sink such morality!
    • Tried As By Fire, or The True and The False, Socially, speech, 1874, quoted in Gabriel, Mary, Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored (Chapel Hill, N.Car.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1st ed. 1998 ISBN 1-56512-132-5, p. 222 & n. [20] (each ellipsis or set of suspension points so in original) (author Mary Gabriel journalist, Reuters News Service), in turn as reprinted in Stern, Madeleine B., ed., The Victoria Woodhull Reader (Weston, Mass.: M&S Press, 1974).
  • Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for child, nor think of murdering one before its birth.
    • In an article in the West Virginia Evening Standard (1875) expressing her moral opposition to abortion
  • Promiscuity in sexuality is simply the anarchical stage of development wherein the passions rule supreme. When spirituality comes in and rescues the real man and woman from the domain of the purely material, promiscuity is simply impossible. As promiscuity is the analogue to anarchy, so is spirituality to scientific selection and adjustment. I am fully persuaded that the very highest unions are those that are monogamic, and that these are perfect in proportion as they are lasting. Sexual freedom means the abolition of prostitution, both in and out of marriage; means the emancipation of woman and her coming into ownership and control of her body; means the end of her pecuniary dependence upon man, so that she may never, even seemingly, have to procure whatever she may desire or need by sexual favor; means the abrogation of forced pregnancy, of ante-natal murder of undesired children, endowed by every inherited virtue that the highest exaltation can confer at conception, by every influence for good to be obtained during gestation, and by the wisest guidance and instruction on to manhood industrially and intellectually.
    • In an article in the Chicago Times on October 17, 1875

Quotes about Woodhull

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  • She vowed that if God gave her the strength she would resume her political campaign to overthrow the government, which was full of men not fit to be picked up out of the gutter.
    • Reformation or Revolution, Which? or Behind the Political Scenes, speech, Oct. 17, 1873, excerpted in Gabriel, Mary, Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored (Chapel Hill, N.Car.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1st ed. 1998 ISBN 1-56512-132-5, pp. 220–221 & n. [13], esp. p. 221 (vow) (author Mary Gabriel journalist, Reuters News Service), in turn as reprinted in Stern, Madeleine B., ed., The Victoria Woodhull Reader (Weston, Mass.: M&S Press, 1974).
  • Her remedy for crime and her method of abolishing it may be comprehended in the word 'Stirpiculture,' the improvement of the human race by the application of the 'doctrine of natural selection' to the human family. She repudiated the notion that free-love, as she advocated it, meant promiscuity, and maintained that the inevitable result would be to prevent promiscuity, which was the curse of society now.
    • Topeka Kansas Commonwealth, February 2, 1875
  • While Woodhull's earlier radicalism had stemmed from the Christian socialism of the 1850s, for most of her life, she was involved in Spiritualism and did not use religious language in her public speeches. However, in 1875, Woodhull began publicly espousing Christianity and changed her political stances. She exposed Spiritualist frauds in her periodical, alienating her Spiritualist followers. She wrote articles against promiscuity, calling it a "curse of society". Woodhull repudiated her earlier views on free love, and began idealizing purity, motherhood, marriage, and the Bible in her writings. She even claimed that some works had been written in her name without her consent. Historians doubt Woodhull's claim in this matter.
    • Victoria Woodhull's Wikipedia article, "Religious shift and repudiation of free love"
  • Worn out by harassment, suffering from anemia, constantly in need of money, Woodhull, to the dismay of her radical admirers, now retreated into biblical symbolism and rhapsodies on purity, motherhood, and the sanctity of marriage.
    • Rugoff, Milton (2018). The Gilded Age. Newbury: New Word City, Inc. p. 221.
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