Victoria Woodhull is known as the first woman to run for president of the United States. She ran for the election of 1872. Some argue that she wasn’t a true candidate because her 35th birth was in September 1873 and the inauguration was March 1873.

Woodhull was an activist for women’s rights along with labor reform. She believed in free love, which meant that one could marry, have children, and divorce without the interference of the government.

Early Life

Born Victoria California Claflin, the 7th of 10 children in the town of Homer, licking county, Ohio. Her mother, Roxanna, was illegitimate and illiterate and was a follower of the spiritualist movement. Her father, Reuben, was a con artist and sold snake oil. Woodhull grew up being whipped, starved and sexually abused by her father. Woodhull grew up believing in spiritualism, which helped support her theories of free love.

By the time Woodhull was 11, she had only had three years of formal education, but she was found to be very intelligent by her teachers. She was forced to leave school when her father burnt down the family’s gristmill and collect insurance money. The fraud was discovered by the town and they were chased out.

Marriages and Family

Victoria l was 14 when she met Canning Woodhull, who was 28. Canning practiced medicine at the time when Ohio didn’t require a formal education or license. They were married on November 20, 1853.  Victoria was only two months past her 15th birthday when their marriage certificate was recorded, November 23, 1853. Shortly after the marriage Victoria learned that Canning was an alcoholic and womanizer and she would have to work outside the home to support her family. She had two children with Canning, Bryon and Zulu. After the birth of her children she divorced her husband but kept his last name.

In 1866 got married for a second time to Colonel James Harvey Blood.



Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Claflin, became the first female stockbrokers. In 1870 they opened a brokerage firm on Wall Street Woodhull made a fortune on the New York Stock Exchange by advising clients like Vanderbilt. Many men’s journals sexualized the sister running their firm by linking the un-chaperoned women with “sexual immorality.”

Newspaper editor

Woodhull and Claflin used the money from their brokerage to found a newspaper on May 14, 1870, the Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly. At its prime had national circulation of 20,000. The main purpose of the paper was to support Victoria Woodhull for president of the United States. Feminism was the primary interest for the next six years of publishing.  It published controversial opinions on taboo topics advocating for sex education, free love, women’s suffrage, spiritualism, vegetarianism, and licensed prostitution.

Women’s rights advocate

Woodhull arranged to testify on women’s suffrage before the House Judiciary Committee.  She argued that women already had the right to vote and they just had to use their right. She backs this up with that 14th and 15th Amendments guaranteed the protection of rights for all citizens. In 1871 the National Woman Suffrage Association postponed their opening to attend the committee hearing. Women such as, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Isabella Beecher Hooker saw Woodhull as a great representation for their cause and applauded her. Woodhull was also the first woman to petition Congress in person.

First International

Woodhull joined First International, which is also know as International Workingmen’s Association. She supported the goals of the groups goals in her newspaper. By 1871, the group was declining greatly and in 1872 Karl Marx expressed approval of the expulsions.

Presidential Candidate

Woodhull announced her candidacy for President on April 2, 1870. She was nominated by a newly formed Equal Rights Party on May 10, 1872. A year before this, she had announced her intention to run. She also spoke very openly about being against government being ran by mainly men. Her nomination was ratified at the convention on June 6, 1872. They nominated Frederick Douglass for Vice President. He never attended the convention nor acknowledged the nomination. This made Woodhull the first woman candidate.


Some say that Woodhull was never a true candidate because she was not 35 by the time of election. The nomination of Frederick Douglass also stirred up controversy about mixing races. A few days before the Presidential Election U.S Federal Marshal arrested Woodhull, her husband Colonel James Blood, and her sister Tennie. The charges were for “publishing an obscene newspaper” The arrest prevented Woodhull from voting in the 1872 election. Woodhull also received no electoral votes in her election of 1872.


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