Have you heard of Victoria Woodhull? I had only a vague recollection of her being an early suffragette before coming across an article tucked inside a book purchased from a used bookstore. Who placed it there I have no idea, but this Parade Magazine article, printed in March 1998, astounded me.
Victoria Woodhull was far ahead of her time. The first woman owner of a Wall Street investment firm and founder of her own newspaper, she was an adviser to Cornelius Vanderbilt and spoke before Congress demanding women be given the vote. Most astonishing, she ran for President in 1872 against incumbent Ulysses S. Grant and newspaper mogul Horace Greely. Just think, that was 142 years ago – and we still haven’t had a woman president.
On top of all that, Victoria was a psychic, or claimed to be. Being a firm believer in such God-given gifts, when I read that about her, I had to find out more. From young childhood, she was exploited by her father in his carnival show as a clairvoyant and fortune-teller. She was able to recall past events and predict future ones, could find missing objects and people, and supposedly cured afflicted individuals. She was also said to communicate messages from the dead.
Raised in squalor, beaten and starved by her father, with little or no education, Victoria always claimed to be guided by spirits, one of whom told her she would “rise from poverty one day to become ruler of the nation.” Perhaps that’s why she ran for President. Obviously she didn’t win, but she did “set America on its ear” proclaims the 1998 article.
In her book Other Powers – The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull, author Barbara Goldsmith says of Woodhull’s time, “If a married woman worked, her wages were given directly to her husband. She could not dispose of her property upon her death. If she divorced, she automatically forfeited custody of her children. Women could not enter universities, law schools or medical schools. They could not serve on juries, and they could not vote.
“Most significantly, women had no control over their own bodies: There were no laws to protect them from physical abuse at the hands of their husbands or fathers, although some states stipulated the size of the objects that might be used to inflict discipline. They had no right to deny their husbands sexual access.”
Good grief! No wonder Victoria Woodhull preached for the “. . . emancipation of woman and her coming into control of her own body . . . the end of pecuniary dependence upon man . . . the abrogation of forced pregnancy . . . “ and more.
For those of us who read and write romances set in the Old West, it behooves us to keep in mind the great difference between women’s circumstances then and now. We like our heroines to be capable of standing up for themselves, but the harsh reality is that they often had little or no say in what their husbands, fathers or other men decreed. Which is not to say there weren’t women who defied convention and men who respected their opinions, even loved them for their independent ways. My kind of heroes!
From Darlin’ Irish:
Captain David Taylor is an obstinate Texan who’s determined not to get involved with a hot-tempered colleen. She might make his blood run hot but he’s certain she doesn’t have the stuff to make a good frontier wife. It takes almost losing her to make him admit he’s wrong.
From Dashing Irish:
Tye Devlin feels an instant attraction to a gun-toting Texas cowgirl and she to him, but he’d rather walk away than allow her to stand with him against his enemies. However, the lady has a mind of her own. If she has to hogtie him, she’ll teach him two heads, two hearts and two guns are stronger than one.
Half-breed cowboy Choctaw Jack may need help from a timid white girl with a healing touch, but he has no intention of letting her into his heart, for he treads a dangerous line between the white and red worlds. She can’t walk it with him. Or can she?
Find these Texas Devlins books plus the prequel novella, White Witch, on these sites:
Also available as a boxed set: Texas Devlins 4 Book Bundle