Why Victoria Woodhull, The First Woman to Run for President in 1872, Remains the Heroine the World Almost Forgot
by Laura A. Roser
“When men attempt bold gestures, generally it’s considered romantic. When women do it, it’s often considered desperate or psycho.” – Sarah Jessica Parker
The quote above may be the modern Sex-in-the-City reaction to a bold woman, but in the early Victorian era a bold woman was cast as something more sinister, threatening the very fabric of society, rather than desperate or psycho. She was shamed into acquiescence then obsolescence.
Neal Katz is the award-winning author of Outrageous: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume One: Rise to Riches. He is an active feminist and gives half of the earnings from his books to help foster equal treatment of women. He says, “Ultimately Feminism leads to better treatment of all humans.”
Ms. Victoria Woodhull, the subject of his four-volume historical fiction series, is someone I had never heard of before I ran into Neal at a writer’s party in California last summer. I remember flipping through a copy of Neal’s book and asking him, “So, who is this Victoria Woodhull?”
“Oh, someone you will be surprised you didn’t know.” Mr. Katz’s blue eyes sparkled with passion. “She’s the first woman to run for president in the United States,” he said. “First woman to address Congress. She and her sister became the first women to open a brokerage firm on Wall Street and the first women to own and publish a newspaper…” He paused for dramatic effect. “All in the 1870’s!”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this woman was her undauntable drive to boldly state her opinions in a time when radical ideas (especially from a woman) inspired great fear and social alienation. In 1870, the Sister’s newspaper, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, advocated women’s suffrage, equal pay for equal work, birth control, legalization of prostitution, and free love. The last an argument for full legal rights for women, not a salacious cause of promiscuity. Their publication also printed the first United States translation of Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Neal at his office and ask him some more detailed questions about this fascinating woman.
“Tell me about Victoria’s legacy,” I said as I pushed the record button on my iphone.
Neal nodded his head. “Astonishingly, there really was no legacy. Not until just recently. Only now is Victoria finally starting to get the credit and proper place in history she deserves. She was demonized in the American press, presented as harpy or evil satanic figure for challenging the male establishment – especially conservative religious elements. When she left the United States, broken and disappointed having lost a tremendous fortune, she reclaimed comfort and prosperity in England as a proper lady – and continued fomenting radical women empowerment. To protect her standing as Lady Martin, Victoria suppressed through a cadre of lawyers any news articles, word, or mention of her name. So, Victoria herself prevented contemporaneous recognition throughout her later life.” Neal smiled. “And little sister Tennessee lived like a Queen as the Countess of Montserrat (the title bequeathed by Queen Victoria) outside of Lisbon, Portugal. See why I’ll need four volumes?”
The first biography about Victoria, The Terrible Siren, by Emanie Sachs, was written in 1928 following Victoria’s death. Neal laughed after he said the name. “I guess 1928 was still too early to accept a powerful Woman’s voice.” Neal looked at me intently. “I think that anyone who studies her will learn that she was an incredible forerunner for Feminism, social responsibility, and ultimately Humanism.”
Neal first became interested in Victoria because his own struggles, he felt, mirrored many of hers. When I asked him what makes for a great legacy, Neal did not hesitate. “1. Passion for your cause or focus; 2. continuous dedication to excellence; and 3.allowing love to guide you.”
“Love is the strongest fuel we as human beings can obtain and utilize,” Neal confidently stated. From the development of multi-million-dollar businesses to the creation of his own wine label to becoming an award-winning author, Neal has learned to act out of a desire to show love and accomplish the very best expression of himself. He believes his dedication to excellence— even with small things, like weeding his garden—has made all the difference.
Besides writing the three other books in the Victoria Woodhull saga, and possibly the screenplays to a television series based on the novels, Neal is also passionate about big ideas to improve the lives of many. He has launched a nonprofit, Conscientious Credit Funding Organization (ccfoglobal.org) to fund the creation of millions of new jobs through an innovative application of a sustainable an renewable funding model to renew or build infrastructure, deploy green energy, produce jobs and promote sustainable technology
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Neal Katz is the author of Outrageous: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume One: Rise to Riches. He is a semi-retired, serial entrepreneur with a passion for women rights. He practices Yoga, meditates daily, has taught A Course in Miracles, produced Oregon wines under the LOVE, a Wine Co. label, enjoys reciting Vedic sutras, and writes his own inspirational poetry. His second book in the Victoria Woodhull saga, SCANDALOUS: Fame, Infamy, and Paradise Lost which covers the Presidential election of 1872 is set to be released summer of 2016. To learn more about Victoria and her sister, Tennessee, and about Neal, visit www.thevictoriawoodhullsaga.com.
2016 Winner of four National Awards and one International Award. : IBPA Ben Franklin, Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book by a Publisher, and the IPPY Award for Best Historical Fiction. Also named a Finalist in the Historical Fiction category of the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and second place winner of the IndieReader Discovery Award for best Fiction. Recently named Best New Fiction by the International Book Awards.