The election ballot for the 1872 Presidential election included Republican Ulysses S. Grant, Democrat Horace Greeley, and Equal Rights Party representative Victoria Woodhull, a convention-defying feminist who fought for equality of the sexes. She was also known for her powers as a spiritualist healer and clairvoyant and regularly used her gifts to heal abused women. Growing up, Victoria and her siblings were exploited and abused by their parents. She married a charming man at 15 years old, but shortly after their wedding, she discovered her husband was a morphine addict, drunkard, abuser, and a womanizer. Despite its stigma, Victoria divorced her first husband and eventually met Colonel Blood, a war hero and fellow spiritualist. After they married, the couple moved to New York, where Victoria’s life began to turn the status quo on its ear as she became a talented financialist, a suffragette, and eventual presidential candidate–despite the fact women couldn’t vote until 48 years later.
The uphill battles Victoria faced in her life will inspire and awe. She was also a target of hate and ridicule and suffered almost unbelievable injustices. I was startled that this was my first immersion into this strong, trailblazing woman’s life. Evelina does a remarkable job of using letters and articles from Victoria’s lifetime to create an engaging story. Victoria was not always easy to relate to with regard to some of her choices, but Evelina does a great job fleshing out the reasoning behind Victoria’s motivations, which made her someone easy to sympathize with. This is a well-plotted and revealing look into the life of the first woman to run for president, and a book that stays with you.