Episode 76: Victoria Woodhull

Posted 9 October 2016 by
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Victoria Woodhull crafted a life for herself from pretty raw materials. She traveled from an abusive childhood to a very aristocratic end but the life in the middle? Ah, that is the part were she was a woman ahead of her time.victoria_woodhull_by_mathew_brady_c1870

 

Victoria California Claflin was born on September 23, 1838 to Reuben Buckman (Buck) and Roxanne (Annie) in the very sweet town of Homer, Ohio. Buck was an abusive scoundrel, Annie a mentally unstable religious zealot and Victoria’s childhood of abuse, poverty and lack of much of an education became even more of a struggle when the fine townsfolk of Homer shoo’d the Claflins away.

To support the family, Buck taught Victoria and her sister, Tennessee, a valuable life skill by putting them in front of audiences all over the Midwest as spiritual healers, clairvoyants, fortune tellers, sellers of magical elixirs…and we can only speculate what else. Even Victoria’s marriage at 15 to the dashing and charming Canning Woodhull wasn’t an escape–he was a womanizer, addict and all around crappy husband. After their son was born a year later the family moved several times, Victoria took a series of jobs to help them survive while her husband did as little as possible even while he was delivering their second child (it’s a gross story) (oh, yeah, we tell it.)

Escape from this life came in the form of one Colonel James Blood. He believed like she did, saw the world the way she did and, most importantly, made her happy.

Image courtesy, Flikr: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums'

Not the rocking caravan, but some from the 1800s                                                 Image courtesy, Flikr: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

When Victoria and crew including her sister, Tennie, moved to New York they began by earning money the way they always had, but since they were able to tell fortunes (or read people), they  must have known that Cornelius Vanderbilt would come into their lives, right? Known that with his mentoring (is that what the kids are calling it these days?) Tennie and Victoria would make quite a bit in the stock market. But if they had known what would happen after Victoria got involved with the suffrage movement do you think they would have stayed? Maybe, but Victoria wasn’t a very conventional suffragist (Victoria wasn’t a conventional anything), and while the suffragists were talking about the best way to bring equal rights to women, Victoria was living that life.

Victoria, deep in thought about…we have no idea
Bradley Rulofson,

Victoria and Tennie were the first two female stockbrokers in New York, Victoria was the first woman to speak before a congressional committee, they began a newspaper, Victoria started a speaking career and, oh yeah, she announced her candidacy for president.

With the suffragists watching (after they had to postpone their meeting because STUFF WAS HAPPENING!

With the suffragists watching Victoria address Congress (after they had to postpone their meeting because STUFF WAS HAPPENING!)

Like we said, not very conventional. Her platform, to our ears, sounds the opposite of radical: women’s rights, equal rights for equal pay, aid to the poor, and legislation to help women who were trapped in marriages by a society that failed to see the way they were treated. Okay, so “Free Love” sounds to our ears what it did to the Victorians, but all Vicky wanted was to get government out of her bedroom.

henry_ward_beecher__harriet_beecher_stowe

 

So many errors occurred between announcing her candidacy to election day 1872 that even a skilled politician today wouldn’t have been able to overcome them: Support, then a slow backing away from the suffragists, constant badmouthing by the Beecher sisters, lawsuits, a juicy scandal involving a high profile minister, a kooky and greedy extended family…and an arrest right before election day that sent both Victoria and Tennie into jail.

Ulysses S. Grant won without a fight from Victoria (or Susan B. Anthony's vote)

Ulysses S. Grant won without a fight from Victoria (or Susan B. Anthony’s vote)

She didn’t stand a chance. But she knew that going in her candidacy was symbolic and after it was all over, after Victoria moved on to a life of downright upstanding citizenry in England, Victoria knew that she had gotten her message out. The country was 48 years away from women voting, 144 years from the first woman nominee from a major party, and the US is still trying to legislate love but by thinking far ahead of her time, but in 1872, Victoria Woodhull wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and even that was ahead of its time.

Victoria's final years were spent in Bredons Norton...and she was happy and beloved by her village.

Victoria’s final years were spent in Bredons Norton…and she was happy and beloved by her village…and very, very wealthy.

 

Time Travel with The History Chicks

 

Websites!

The grand mama of  Victoria sites (well, the great, great, great step-granddaughter of them anyway) head over to Victoria-Woodhull. com, Victoria Woodhull Spirit to Run the White House has Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly archives, Victoria Woodhull Presidential Library and enough reading to keep you busy for a very long time from a distant relation of Victoria’s.

Whaaa? The 19th Amendment didn’t give all women the right to vote? Well, it did, sorta, but states moved quickly to take that right away from native Americans and women (and men in some cases) of color. Here is a really great (read:eye opening) timeline of Voting Rights History in the United States.

Speaking of eye opening: Literacy rates in Early America are probably higher than you thought.

15th Amendment says what? and a case from the 14th Amendment regarding voting rights. What’s the lesson here? Know your Amendments, people!

 

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Fox Sisters, Leah, Kate, and  Margaretta circa 1884

Victoria’s obituary from the New York Times.

Quick review of female US presidential candidates if you don’t want to read a whole book (below.)

Information about the Fox Sisters  (and a lot of other creepy stuff, it’s the website of the American Ghost Society.)

Eugenics, Anthony Comstock and Victoria Woodhull. Light reading. No, not really, but more in-depth intel about those obscenity charges that kept her in jail on voting day.

When you are in Wichita, Kansas check out Old Cowtown (place Beckett talked about), they do have a very impressive list of events. The Steampunk Expo that started at Old Cowtown has moved on to a different venue, it’s in November and you can learn more about it here, Emerald City Steampunk Expo. (Thanks for that heads-up, Robert!)

An in-depth look at the colorful history of the Ludlow Street Jail in New York from Atlas Obscura, and an article from The Bowery Boys about notorious Boss Tweed’s time (and end of time) in the jail and a bit about Great Jones street.

On Film!

The documentary narrated by Kate Capshaw with Gloria Steinam commentary:kate-capshaw-documentaryAn upcoming documentary about Victoria, The Coming Woman, is in editing, it’s a labor of love project so follow along with the Rau Sisters to it’s completion.

Books!

kathleen-krull-jane-dyer

Mary Gabriel

Mary Gabriel

Myra MacPherson

Myra MacPherson

Ellen Fitzpatrick

Ellen Fitzpatrick

And, finally, how Beckett saw the Claflin kids (please don’t let that be cussing subtitles in some language we don’t know):

Episode 75: Marie Curie Part Two

Posted 17 September 2016 by
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Marie faced life after Pierre Curie died with two children, more than just a touch of radiation exposure and a desire to use science to help all humanity but she also had a lot of non-science drama on the horizon.

Nobel portrait, circa 1911

Nobel portrait, circa 1911

 

Brief recap: Polish born genius navigates an early life filled with heartache and challenges to pursue one of academics and science in Pre-WWI Paris. She finds love, builds a family and when her partner in love and work, Pierre, dies in a horrible accident everything seems to be crashing down on her. Details on Part One, you should go listen.

Back in her Manya days. L-R: Manya, Papa, Bronya and poor, 2nd place Hela.

Back in her Poland Manya days. L-R: Manya, Papa, Bronya and poor, 2nd place Hela.

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Episode 74: Marie Curie Part One

Posted 27 August 2016 by
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A lot of people only know Marie Curie as a woman who won a Nobel prize (or two…spoilers) but that is just a small part of the life of this intelligent, brave, determined and focused physicist, wife and mother. Her life was so full it’s going to take us two episodes to bring it to you.

Marya Sklodowska was born in Russian controlled Warsaw, Poland, in 1867, the 5th child of two educators. But before you think that having teachers for parents must have made getting an education easy, think again. The Russians weren’t fooling around when they told the people of Poland that they were Russian now, forget everything Polish. And the Polish people weren’t fooling around when they said, “uh, yeah, about that…no.” This meant that Manya (her nickname), her sisters and brother had to learn twice as much: what the Russian education system expected and what their heritage and love of Poland dictated.

Manya (because we love the name and will use it as long as we can) at 16

Manya (because we love the name and will use it as long as we can) at 16

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Episode 73: Agrippina the Younger

Posted 6 August 2016 by
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Julia Agrippina (the Younger) was born on November 6, 15 AD just one year after Caesar Augustus died…that would be Great Grandpa Augusta to Agrippina. She was the first daughter to Germanicus, a very popular military general, and Agrippina the Elder a very brave and unconventional Roman military wife. Although her father would die when she was very young  coughpoisoncough and the rest of her family didn’t fare so well either, Agrippina would do what was needed to survive a very high profile life in a society where “high profile” meant “giant target.”Rome_Agrippina_Minor

This episode was a little different for both of us– the magnitude of materials we needed to reference so that we could puzzle together Agrippina’s life was surprising. We cover that dramatic life as the daughter of a military leader, the sister to an emperor, the wife AND niece to another emperor and the mother to yet another…but we also talked about life, challenges, customs and survival strategies for women in ancient Rome.

And we talk a lot about poison.

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Episode 72: Elizabeth Keckly

Posted 16 July 2016 by
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When we were researching Mary Lincoln we both admired her friend, Elizabeth Keckly, so much that we knew that had to talk about her. She was born a slave, eventually bought her freedom and built a very successful business (twice) all before she, too, realized her own White House dream. Yes indeed- Lizzie needs her time in the spotlight.Keckley1870framed

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Episode 71: Schuyler Sisters with Amanda Vaill

Posted 25 June 2016 by
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schuyler sisters

Since the musical Hamilton opened on Broadway we’ve been getting a lot of requests to cover the Schuyler sisters, Angelica, Eliza and Peggy. (You sang that, right?) But we couldn’t make it work because there wasn’t enough material available to us to fill a whole show in the way we would want to…so we met someone who could:.

Author Amanda Vaill.

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Episode 70: Mary Lincoln Part Two

Posted 11 June 2016 by
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In our last episode we talked about Mary’s childhood, education and life as the wife of Abraham Lincoln. She was described as, “amiable, accomplished, gracious and a sparkling talker,” by members of the Republican Party before she got to Washington…so what happened afterward that left her without this glowing impression?

Frida Kahlo may have approved of the fluffy dresses and floral head bling.

Frida Kahlo may have approved of the fluffy dresses and floral head bling.

 

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Episode 69: Mary Todd Lincoln, Part One

Posted 4 June 2016 by
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Mary Todd Lincoln’s life can’t be defined by who she married and her husband’s legacy–she was a lot more than simply a southern born wife of a president. Actually, she wasn’t simple at all.

Mary_Todd_Lincoln_framed846-1847_restored

Mary circa 1847 (wikicommons)

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Episode 68: Madam C.J. Walker

Posted 14 May 2016 by
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When Madam C.J. Walker solved one of her own personal problems, she also created an opportunity to leave behind a life as a laundress for one as a successful businesswoman, philanthropist and civil rights activists and she was able to take thousands of women with her. Alaia Williams from the 18 to 49 Podcast graciously fills in as guest co-host with Beckett to talk about the life of this trailblazing role model who began to change her fate by changing the condition of her hair.

Madam C.J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker

Rags to riches stories don’t happen without a lot of hard work, the ability to fill a need, hard work, perseverance and- yeah- hard work. Madam C.J. Walker’s life was all that and more. When she was born on December 23, 1867 in Delta Louisiana, her given name was Sarah Breedlove – and she was the first person in her family who was not born a slave. This fact makes it sound like the family’s life was improving, but they were extremely poor sharecroppers and laundresses; none of the children went to school and by the time Sarah was seven, both of her parents had died.

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Episode 67: Q&A Number Two

Posted 2 May 2016 by
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What would you serve Dorothy Parker for dinner? When are you covering the Schuyler sisters? What would you tell your high school history teacher? We get a lot of questions and love them all (except maybe the mean ones). Some are asked quite often or were so good that we thought, “hmmm, maybe a lot more people would like to know this but were too busy to ask it, perhaps we should have a colloquy,” (because we’re fancy like that.)

And then Beckett talked Susan out of actually using the word, “colloquy.”

See? Fancy.

See? Fancy.

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