The first woman to run for president lived nearby.
by Barbara Goldsmith
Recently, when I mentioned to a friend that the title of my book was Other Powers–The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull, she asked: “Just who was Victoria Woodhull anyway?” It seems a simple question, but Victoria was not a simple person. She was conceived in 1837, during the frenzy of a religious revival in Homer, Ohio. Her father was an itinerant con man and a thief; her mother was illegitimate, illiterate and a religious fanatic. As a child, Victoria was raised in filth and squalor, beaten and starved, given little education and exploited in her father’s traveling carnival show as a clairvoyant and fortune-teller. Unexpectedly, she demonstrated such powers as accurately recalling past events and predicting future ones, finding missing objects and people, and affecting cures. She also relayed messages from loved ones who had “passed over.”
From childhood, Victoria maintained that she was guided and protected by the spirits, who occasionally let her visit a utopian world in heaven unlike the chaotic, miserable world in which she lived. Like Joan of Arc, she listened to voices that told her she would rise from poverty one day to become “ruler of the nation.” At 15, in order to escape her father’s brutality, Victoria eloped with an alcoholic doctor who fathered a retarded son and so botched the delivery of their daughter that the baby nearly bled to death. After five years, Victoria left him and struck out on her own. Eventually, her belief in the spirits enabled her to form alliances with such powerful men as Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, to become the first woman to own a Wall Street investment firm, to found her own newspaper, to speak before Congress demanding that women be given the vote and finally, to run for U.S. President in 1872 against the popular incumbent, Ulysses S. Grant, and the powerful newspaperman, Horace Greeley. In short, she set America on its ear….