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The Queen of My Self

In honor of Aung San Suu Kyi and to celebrate her release, and with a nod to Election Day, this week’s theme is admirable women leaders of democracy.

The Queen Who Would Be President – Part 2

Her candidacy attracted a widely diverse coalition of laborers, suffragists, Spiritualists, and communists, among others, who often had opposing positions. The need for governmental reform was the one platform that they all agreed upon. Although few seriously thought Victoria Woodhull would win, they knew her campaign would send a message to Washington that it was time for a woman in the White House.

I now announce myself as candidate for the Presidency. I anticipate criticism; but however unfavorable I trust that my sincerity will not be called into question.
Instead of debating Victoria on the issues, her opponents issued public attacks on her personal life and morals. Sound familiar? They called her everything from a witch to a prostitute. They accused her of having affairs with married men.
The rumors eventually led Victoria and her family to be evicted from their home. They spent one night literally homeless on the streets of New York because landlords were afraid to rent to the “Wicked Woodhull.”
Woodhull’s campaign was notable not only because of her gender, but through her association with Frederick Douglass, which stirred up controversy about the mixing of whites and blacks and fears of miscegenation.
The Equal Rights Party hoped to use these nominations to reunite suffragists with civil rights activists, since the exclusion of female suffrage from the Fifteenth Amendment two years earlier had caused a substantial rift.
Queen Victoria faced a myriad of obstacles to election besides the obvious one of running when women couldn’t even vote. One major stumbling block was campaign fund-raising. When she began her run, she had personal funds to draw from, but eventually her money ran out and she couldn’t get the support she needed to launch a formidable campaign.
“The press suddenly divided between the other two great parties, refused all notice of the new reformatory movement. The inauguration of the new party, and my nomination, seemed to fall dead upon the country; and . . . a new batch of slanders and injurious innuendoes permeated the community in respect to my condition and character.”
Election Day found the first American female presidential candidate in jail. The United States government had arrested her under the Comstock Act for sending “obscene” literature through the mail. The alleged obscenity wasn’t pornography, rather it was an article exposing the extramarital affair conducted by the popular Reverend Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s younger brother and one of the nation’s most prominent clergymen with Lib Tilton, the wife of Beecher’s best friend, Theodore Tilton.
At first, people took the side of the government. They were glad to see the “Wicked Woodhull” in jail for besmirching the reputation of a favored celebrity. But eventually, people realized that free speech was endangered since Victoria, her sister Tennie and her husband Colonel Blood were in jail for publishing what they believed to be the truth.
It didn’t matter to the government, whether the article was true or not. Their intention was to ruin Voctoria Woodhull and her influential newspaper. Some members of the press joined the attack. A Chicago editor admitted to running a campaign to destroy her. He said, “Editors know that all she has said about Beecher is true, and we must either endorse her and make her the most popular woman in the world, or write her down and crush her out; and we have determined to do the latter.”
The scandal erupted into numerous trials for obscenity and libel. Victoria was on the defensive and was arrested eight times. The Beecher-Tilton trial was the biggest news since President Lincoln had been assassinated. It received more coverage than the impeachment of President Johnson.
Victoria, Tennie and Colonel Blood were eventually acquitted of any crimes, but the lawsuits ruined them. They spent a fortune in legal bills and bail. They lost their stock brokerage. The government confiscated their printing press, their personal papers and their brokerage accounts.
The federal government was successful in its malicious prosecution. The resulting economic demise coupled with the stress of receiving blackmail letters and death threats, bankrupted its first female presidential candidate financially and emotionally.
Victoria Woodhull was a creative and courageous soul with strong abilities, notable accomplishments and provocative dreams. She promoted shocking changes in the prevailing attitudes about sexuality and the family structure that frightened and embarrassed her contemporaries.
Ever audacious, she challenged male-dominated organizations and institutions. She attempted to use existing law and the political system to achieve her vision of equality and justice in a more egalitarian society.
She was a Queen of Finance, a Queen of the Quill, a Queen of Women’s Rights, a Queen of Social Change, but most importantly, Victoria Woodhull was Queen of Her Self. She spoke her truth and walked her walk and put her money where her mouth is.
May we follow the path that she pioneered.
“The women of the country have the power in their own hands, in spite of the law and the government being altogether of the male order.
If Congress refuse to listen to and grant what women ask, there is but one course left then to pursue. What is there left for women to do but to become the mothers of the future government?”

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The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

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