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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Poetry Friday--Victoria Claflin Woodhull

On this date in 1838, Victoria Claflin Woodhull was born in Homer, OH. The name may not be familiar to you, but, before Hillary Clinton ran as the first woman to be nominated by a major party to run for president, Victoria Woodhull was the first woman of any party to run for president! She ran in 1872 and was jailed for her attempt.

In July The Guardian ran a feature on Woodhull's run. It is full of interesting bits of feminist history and concludes with this statement from Woodhull after she had been thrown in jail:
To the public I would say in conclusion they may succeed in crushing me out, even to the loss of my life: but let me warn them and you that from the ashes of my body a thousand Victorias will spring to avenge my death by seizing the work laid down by me and carrying it forward to victory.

I find it fascinating that a woman who wasn't even able to vote, would place herself up for election! (Women's suffrage came in 1920, seven years before Woodhull died, but decades after she had moved out of the country that had treated her so badly.)

Here is a poem by Emily Dickinson who was writing at about the time Woodhull was running for president:


THE RETICENT volcano keeps
   His never slumbering plan;
Confided are his projects pink
   To no precarious man.

If nature will not tell the tale
   Jehovah told to her,
Can human nature not survive
   Without a listener?

Admonished by her buckled lips
   Let every babbler be.
The only secret people keep
   Is Immortality.

found in Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson [811 DIC]
I don't think anyone could have called Woodhull "reticent," but I wonder if she had regrets about being so outspoken before the country was ready to hear what she had to say? Someone had to lead the way!

Hurry over to Reading to the Core where Catherine is hosting the weekly Poetry Friday Round-Up.


  1. Thanks for sharing this story - I had not hear of Victoria, but think everyone should know about her. Fancy being jailed for being bold enough to think you could run a country. Glad that women like her were brave enough to take a stand. Thanks again.

    1. It is an unfortunate part of history--that women were denied the right to vote and then were imprisoned for protesting. Some of the treatment they received was horrifying.

  2. What an incredible woman - I think someone needs to write a picture book biography of her so I can add her to my collection of inspiring, rule-breaking women pioneers! Women like Victoria are part of the reason I get so very angry at people, especially women, who "can't be bothered" to vote, or who don't think voting is that important or that their vote matters. Women risked their lives and their freedom to win us the right to have our say - whatever else, we owe it to them to exercise the right they could only have dreamed of!

    1. She might not be picture book material, she was also a proponent of free love! ;-)

  3. What an election this would be if women couldn't vote. Ugh. We owe those early women a lot, each and every one.

    1. We take too much for granted!

  4. I took an elective in women's history in high school that was quite an eye-opener. Victoria Woodhull was one of those brave pioneer's we learned about. I hadn't read this Emily Dickinson, but it does hint at the depths of hidden power of Victoria. Thanks for sharing this, Diane!

    1. There was no such thing as women's history when I went to high school!

  5. Fun pairing, Diane! She was way ahead of her time! You've heard that Gracie Allen ran for president? (For the Surprise Party) A quote from a campaign speech: “My opponents say they’re going to fight me ’til the cows come home. So, they admit the cows aren’t home. Why aren’t the cows home? Because they don’t like the conditions on the farm. The cows are smart. They’re not coming home ’til there’s a woman in the White House.”

    1. What a hoot about Gracie Allen! Where did you uncover this, Tabatha?