Know Ohio: Victoria Woodhull, the first female to run for president
RICK: AS YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WHO VOTERS ARE CONSIDERING THIS ELECTION, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON, MADE HISTORY WHEN SHE BECAME THE FIRST NOMINEE OF A MAJOR PARTY.
BUT SHE’S NOT THE FIRST WOMAN TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT – THAT HONOR GOES TO AN EXCEPTIONAL OHIOAN, WHO WAS WAY AHEAD OF HER TIME!
HERE TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE FIRST WOMAN TO RUN FOR OUR NATION’S HIGHEST OFFICE IS KNOW OHIO’S MARY FECTEAU.
MARY: Today, we’re used to seeing women do all kinds of things – from running at the Olympics, to running businesses…to running for president. But, back in the 1800’s, things were much different for women. Women were expected to be quiet and obedient. They dressed the part in big Victorian gowns and let the men in their lives — their husbands and fathers – lead the way.
So, it’s remarkable that, in this time, one forward-thinking lady from Ohio appeared on the presidential ballot. Victoria Woodhull was born in 1838 in Homer, Ohio. In many ways Woodhull was different from her peers. Woodhull was married at age 15, but she divorced and was remarried – and it was her second husband who introduced her to many reform movements that hoped to change the way things were in society.
Victoria didn’t have much education, but she was scrappy and found a way to make money on her own: by traveling with her sister, Tennessee Clafin -- telling fortunes and using, uh, non-traditional methods of healing people. This is how they met the rich railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, who would help Woodhull and her sister open a brokerage firm on Wall Street. Here they went into business buying and selling stocks -- the first women to do so. Woodhull believed in some revolutionary ideas from the time: that women should have more rights — specifically, the right to love who they want and to vote. She didn’t think these ideas got enough attention, so got to work publishing a newspaper full of them, called Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly.
By 1872, she decided to step even further into the spotlight – and run for president – remember, this was a full 50 years before woman would get the right to vote. She was nominated by the Equal Rights Party, and her platform included equality for all people, giving women the right to vote, and changing child labor laws. Way ahead of her time, Woodhull believed no one should have to work more than eight hours each day – and she wanted to provide more help for the poor. She said her running mate was famous abolitionist Fredrick Douglass, but he wasn’t actually on board, in fact, he publically supported her opponent: Republican President Ulysses S. Grant.
With the election only a few days away, Woodhull published an article in her newspaper making accusations against popular preacher Henry Ward Beecher. His supporters were so outraged that Woodhull was placed in jail. While she was locked up, Ulysses S. Grant was re-elected president. Woodhull was eventually found not guilty and released from jail. A few years later she moved to England where she lived out the rest of her days.
We don’t know how many votes Woodhull received, but she would not have been able to be president even if she recieved the most votes — not because she was a woman, but because she was only 34 years old at the time and the U.S. Constitution says the president must be at least 35.
Encyclopedia Article: World Book Student, Victoria Woodhull
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Website Article: Smithsonian Magazine, Victoria Woodhull Ran for President Before Women Had the Right to Vote
Website Article: The National Women's Hall of Fame, Victoria Woodhull
Website Article: Robbins Hunter Museum, Victoria Woodhull, the Very First Woman to Run for President
Website Article: Roadside America, Granville, Ohio: Victoria Woodhull Clock