Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Woman for President -- in 1872?

Victoria Woodhull

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!

Horshoe, cactus, stetson & horse divider

Speaking of heroes, let me introduce three guys who learn their women are strong enough to walk beside them, not two paces behind.New cover 2013 redo

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.

New Cover redo 2013


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.


From Dearest Irish:WordPress Cover 2

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:

                               Amazon              Barnes and Noble

Also available as a boxed set: Texas Devlins 4 Book Bundle



  1. Lyn, what a woman she was! I always do have to keep in mind what you talked about at the end of your post, about how different things were for women then as opposed to now. I think that's why I always make my heroes the kind of person who would never accept or condone ill treatment of a woman, so my heroine has nothing to fear if she allows herself to fall in love with him. Excellent post!

  2. No wonder you chose her as a topic. She fits right in with the characters in your novels.
    Indeed, she was amazing. Don't you imagine her clairvoyant ability frightened many people? It would scare me, for sure.
    I've never heard of her, and that's what I love about this group--we can "conjure" up topics and people few know about. Quite an education.
    Women have come a long way, baby, but not nearly far enough yet.
    In the 1800s, women in Texas could own property, one of the few if not only states that allowed such. But as soon as she married, it was turned over to her husband.
    Excellent topic. Thanks, Lyn.

  3. I'd never heard of her. What a fascinating woman! Tweeted.

  4. Terrific post here, Lyn. Thanks for sharing the history of this remarkable woman. It is true...when a woman married, she literally ceased to exist as a separate person, and Hubby got all. When Margaret Fuller claimed that women were equal to men in the 1840's America was SHOCKED at such a nonsensical idea. Yes, I think we all know women had a tough time in the past..but we do write romance, the definition of which is "how we would like things to be." That's why my heroes never hit anything LOL and treasure their womenfolk. Thanks for a great post today!

  5. Cheryl, I have to do the same. One reviewer accused David in my first book, Darlin' Irish, of being "mean to her" (Jessie.) Yes and no. He tries to protect her and himself from taking their attraction too far because he fears she would leave him, as his mother left him and his father. He comes off as kind of harsh at times, but in the end he accepts and trusts Jessie with his heart. He absolutely would never raise his hand to her or any woman!

  6. Celia, you're right, Victoria would make a great model for one of my heroines. She was an independent, even radical thinker and she shocked many people with her pronouncements. She coined the term "free love" more than a century before Hippies adopted that term.

    Isn't it crazy that women could own property in our dear state back then, but only until they married. Not surprising I guess, since men made all the laws.

    Yes, I constantly learn from the info shared by our members. This is a great group!

  7. Thanks, Ella! I was meant to find that article yesterday. :)

  8. Ooh, now I'll have to read up on Margaret Fuller! Thank you, Tanya, and I agree, our heroes must be exceptional. They can't treat women as lesser beings or abuse them. The sad thing is there are far too many women who suffer such ill treatment today. Their abusers ought to get a taste of Old West justice IMHO.

  9. Very interesting, Lyn. I think a lot of folks have no idea what women were like back then. Yeah, they couldn't vote (my grandmother couldn't vote until the year my mother was born) and had the government not helping them with rights but there were some very independent minded ladies. Oregon had a couple of them who lived lives very different than the stereotype so many have of the pioneer lady.

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  11. How amazing that an impoverished woman used to harsh abuse could rise up to such heights of success and fame. This was such an eye-opening article. It's still hard to imagine such a suppressed world. Great article Lyn.

  12. Hi Lyn,
    Wonderful article. In Australia in the 1800's, the law allowed men to beat there wives as severely as they pleased, just so long as they didn't kill them.
    Glad I didn't live then.



  13. Rain, I'm thankful for those strong, independent women. If not for them we might not have the vote even now. They were a courageous bunch.

  14. Sarah, as I mentioned in the article, what hooked me about Victoria Woodhull is that she achieved her success by using the extraordinary gifts God gave her. She lived to be eighty-eight, dying a wealthy widow in England. Wouldn't she be amazed at the long way women have come since then!

  15. Margaret, I'm glad I didn't live back then too. We take our freedom and legal protections for granted these days. Sad to say there are so many women in today's world who still live in fear of bodily harm if they dare to disobey their men.

  16. Fascinating post, Lyn! I had never heard of her. My, but she was ahead of her time!

  17. Lana, she sure was. Her views on "Free Love" scandalized the nation, but I suspect a lot of women agreed with her on many women's issues. They were simply afraid to stand up and say so.


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