Despite the sensationalist title, these two women do share certain qualities. Hillary is far from the first woman to run for President, though she is arguable the closest to win the brass ring thus far. No, the first candidate was Victoria Woodhull in 1872, also dubbed Mrs. Satan by her detractors.
So what? you say. There must have been several other female candidates? Why align Mrs. Clinton with someone bearing the devil’s surname? Historically, there have been 26 candidates for President and 74 for Vice President. (9 also ran, but did not succeed in securing a nomination. This category includes Mrs. Clinton because as of this post, she has not secured a nomination.) The only notable stand outs from this bunch are Geraldine Ferraro (with 37,577,352 votes running as VP with Mondale in 1984 — also the only major party candidate), Winona LaDuke (with 2,883,105 votes running as VP with Nader in 2000), Charlotta Bass (the first African American candidate with 140,023 votes for VP in 1952) and finally Grace Allen (wife of George Burns who ran for President in 1940 as a publicity stunt, garnering 42,000 votes).
Compare these records with Victoria Woodhull. She received a whopping 2,000 votes (which seem to have not been counted). Standing against Hillary’s already 16,691,283 votes (Clinton’s sources, not mine), the two are polar opposites. What draws them closer is the appearance of a black man also running for office. In Victoria’s case it was her running mate, Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave and abolitionist. He apparently wanted nothing to do with Ms. Woodhull, neither acknowledging his nomination nor campaigning. This was probably due to the fact that no one notified him of the nomination.
This is where the similarities end. Throughout her life, Victoria Woodhull lived as a psychic, magnetic healer (which is how she secured millionaire husband Cornelius Vanderbilt), and prostitute. She advocated short skirts, spiritualism, woman’s suffrage, vegetarianism, homeopathy, licensed prostitution, birth control, Marxism and free love. It was the last point that got her the most flack.
In a scandal as big as the Monica Lewinsky affair of the 1990s, Victoria printed information about the Beecher-Tilton Affair between Elizabeth Tilton and Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin). Beecher was a prominent Protestant preacher, who denounced free love from his pulpit and attacked Victoria Woodhull personally. The affair had taken place in 1870, and Henry had convinced Elizabeth that she was blessed in God’s eye. However, she soon confessed to her husband, Theodore Tilton, one of Beecher’s closest disciples. He agreed to do nothing about the affair, thinking that Beecher had hypnotized his wife into it (he was also guilty of running around).
The whole thing finally broke loose when Theodore Tilton told his dear friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a noted feminist of the day. Stanton of course told Victoria Woodhull and she printed it up as an example of the sexual double-standard between men and women. You can’t blame Victoria. She suspected that Beecher had spread rumors that led to her being evicted from her home. For a time, the Presidential hopeful was homeless. No one would rent to the “Wicked Woodhull.”
Although Beecher was guilty, he was exonerated of all crimes. The public couldn’t accept that a pious man such as he could be a hypocrite. However, they could believe that Victoria Woodhull had viciously slandered the poor man. She was arrested for sending “obscene material” through the mail, spending election day, 1872, in jail. Her votes were not counted. Apparently a woman telling the truth was a greater threat than a preacher telling a lie.
Is it any surprise then that the next female candidate for President wasn’t for another twelve years. The government did all that it could to teach “Mrs. Satan” a lesson, one that future candidates, like Mrs. Clinton, I’m sure have noted. In Victoria’s time, women could not vote. Moreover, they were not even considered citizens. So if Victoria had won, she would not have been allowed to serve as President. All this while Great Briton had already enjoyed 35 years of Queen Victoria’s reign.
The major source for this post came from the article “Mrs Satan Goes to Washington” from issue 236 of Fortean Times.