Rad Man of the Month: Victoria Woodhull

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Sarah reveals the Rad Man of the Month and her new hero. When Sarah grows up, she wants to be Victoria Woodhull.

There are two types of this people in this world. Some will tell you that they consist of dog and cat lovers, without factoring in the possibilities of people genuinely obsessing over God’s other creations, or totally being above favoritism of species. The smug mathematwats will inform you that there are 10 types while smirking. Wow if that is you, get this in your precious binary speak: your pee pee is probably 10cm at the most to boot. (ie. 2cm. LOLZ MATHZ).

Here we like to think that the humans of our planet can be divided into Rad Men and their binary opposite, Dick Men. Rad Men are well, rad. They are everything a self-respecting individual should aim to be whereas DMen a) sounds like semen and b) are either totally average or total arse hats. I mean, who wants to be a dick, man?

Each month here at Rad Men, we shall present to you the best of the best. That is, the raddest of the rad and amazingly deserving of our humble title: Rad Man of the Month.

Our very first Rad Man to note is Victoria Woodhull. Our first impressions of her led us to create this title, purely because she is a woman ahead of her time, and ahead of all measures of incredible. What word other than radical can you justly use to describe someone who was a spiritualist, Wall St broker, publisher of a national newspaper, feminist AND a presidential candidate in 1872?

Woodhull was a woman of many firsts: she along with her sister were the first female stockbrokers on Wall Street, they also were the first women to establish their own weekly newspaper and she also was the first woman to run for president of the United States of America.

However Vic had it tough living the thug lyf as a child. At 11, she had only 3 years of formal education under her belt before being forced to leave her hometown with her family. Daddy Claflin had just tried to pull a scam by burning down the family’s heavily insured gristmill. An angry mob chased him away and the rest of the family soon followed after him.

At the age of 10, she had allegedly had visions of Greek statesman and orator of 4th century Athens where he appeared as her patron saint. Her sister Tenessee also claimed to have ‘second sight’. Instead of telling his daughters to shut up and wash the family wagon like any other respectable parent, Mr. Claflin thought gee. What a business opportunity. A new cosmos of possibility opened up to him. His shameless igniting of the family business had only been a trial; this was clearly where the Clafs’ future was. Being the fantastic individual he was, he changed his name to “Dr. R.B. Claflin, American King of Cancers” (I shit you not) before embarking along with the family on a travelling medicine roadshow where Victoria and her sister made their fortunes as boppy spiritualist healers. This is to me sounds like a supreme childhood: they were telling fortunes, hosting séance sessions, telling people they were supernatural and shit. The modern adolescent’s job, diminishing away behind a fast food counter just pales in comparison. This was in a time when formal medical training and licensing were not required so naturally the Claflins were taking prime advantage of the situation.

At 15, Victoria married a Doctor Canning Woodhull, a man who’d been consulted when she was struck with a chronic illness. They bore two children, Byron and Zula Maude (sick names). This marriage was a doomed one however, as Victoria soon discovered her husband was an alcoholic and womanizer. She was also earning bread to support her family; working as a cigar girl and actress in San Francisco and depending upon who you ask, she also was allegedly dabbling in some prostitution on the side.

In 1860, New York was where it was at and there, Victoria continued on in her spiritualist thang with Tenessee, claiming their fortunes as ‘magnetic healers’. They would take their show to their road and by this time Vic’s husband had abandoned her and the children. She later divorced him and married Colonel James Harvey Blood, a man who shared her belief of spiritualism and free love and who was also marrying for a second time.

Notably, divorce was extraordinarily difficult for women to obtain in the nineteenth century in America. A woman was expected to be bound for better or for worse, with no exceptions, whereas a gentleman could indulge in extramarital affairs and get familiar with the local street walkers with no fear of social repercussion. Divorced women were marginalized, objects of scandal. After putting up with her first husband’s shit, Woodhull flipped this common hypocritical perspective the middle finger. She conveyed the radical view that women should be free to the option of divorce and to the ownership of their own sexualities, stating later in a speech she delivered in 1870, “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.”

In New York City, Victoria opened a salon where she and Tennessee conversed with the brightest fundamentalist intellectuals of the day, where she gained awareness in women’s limitations in political and legal rights. There was a notorious incident where the two sisters attempted to dine at Delmonico’s, “America’s Finest Restaurant”, where ladies were not allowed unaccompanied after 6pm. Conventional gender and social class code was broken when Tennie called in their carriage driver and they were seated for soup: when two sasha fierce independent women and one working class man were to be served.

They soon met and befriended bigshot millionaire railroad magnate, Cornelius Vanderbilt, a Daddy Warbucks to Vic and Tennie. He gave them financial advice and backed them in the stock market, helping them become the first women to establish a banking and brokerage firm on Wall Street. The sisters were scrubbing up nicely, with Victoria, the Beyonce of her day, famously saying “woman’s ability to earn money is better protection against the tyranny and brutality of men than her ability to vote.”

In 1870, Victoria and Tennessee began publishing their own weekly journal, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly which was basically the grandmother of all feminist zines. Their paper relished in controversy, publishing articles on women’s suffrage, short skirts, vegetarianism, free love, spiritualism, licensed prostitution and sex education. If that wasn’t controversial enough, Woodhull was also the first person in the US to publish The Communist Manifesto .The journal’s primary purpose was to support Woodhull for President of United States. This was five decades before women could vote, but there was no law stopping this lady from running for office. Her campaign would be one proclaiming social and political reform, with focuses on free love and women’s suffrage.

She was the first woman to present a memorial before the House Judiciary Committee on women’s suffrage. Woodhull argued that American females actually did have the right to vote as a matter of fact you silly fuckers, as the 14th and 15th Amendments granted all citizens this. All they had to do was use this right.

As Woodhull gained popularity, she also gained haterz. She was held to differing standards to male pollies. Rumors of sorts circled the media and she was its victim. She had declared that LOVE SHOULD BE FREE GAWDDAMMIT in a public appearance and now was suffering under society’s scrutiny.

Reverand Henry Ward Beecher, a man upheld as a golden child of morality in society, was famous for decouncing sexual hoohas outside of wedlock. His sisters had publicly mocked Woodhull. After discovering Beecher had adulterised with the wife of a collegue’s friend, Theodore Tilton, Victoria was quicksavvy to expose his hypocrisy to the world in her journal in a ‘scandal issue’. Days before the election, Victoria, her husband and sister were arrested on account of obscenity and were jailed. For a long period of time, they faced multiple charges upon which they were found innocent yet bail forced them into bankruptcy.

Theodore later sued Beecher for adultery with his beloved, sparking a legal sensation of the era. The whole nation was shocked; there were auctions for seats in the trial and fucking souvenir booths and snack bars were stationed outside. It ended in a hung jury.

After having divorced the Colonel, in 1878 Vic migrated to England where she married John Biddulph Martin and took the name Woodhull Martin. She continued to rally for women’s rights and established The Humanitarian magazine. She died in 1927. Her legacy refused to die with her. It lives on in the resistant and headstrong ladies of today. To our very first official Rad Man of the month, we salute you Victoria Woodhull.


One thought on “Rad Man of the Month: Victoria Woodhull

  1. Pingback: The Final Word on First Impressions | Rad Men

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