Belva Lockwood, pioneer in the field of law, and second woman candidate for President.
We continue our series of Presidential candidates with Belva Lockwood, the woman who many regard as the first “legitimate” female nominee for the office. You be the judge; certainly, her age and employment history are a contrast to Victoria Woodhull, (covered here), whose earlier campaign, in 1872, was tainted by scandal (and marred by not meeting the age requirement of 35).
This woman had it all together, but it hadn’t come easily!
Belva Bennett Lockwood was born in 1830 on a farm in upstate NY. She paid for and arranged her own education, but family pressure drove her to marriage rather than college.
Being widowed at 22 changed the course of her life; teaching, college, law school, and finally the groundbreaking milestone of being the first woman to argue cases before the Supreme Court.
Belva was not only a pioneer herself, but sponsored other trailblazers to the Court..
Then, in 1884, Belva Lockwood ran as the Equal Rights party’s candidate for President. She was no fool; the Presidency was a long shot, but the impact on society would be undeniable. She took the inevitable backlash in stride, saying that being featured in a political cartoon was an accomplishment in itself.
You have to be famous in the first place to be mocked in the national media!
A halfhearted attempt at the office in 1888 ended her quest for elected office, but her reputation was such that several Presidents, many educational institutions, and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee all relied on her advice.
Her portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.
Belva’s example had been an inspiration for women to move into a sphere that had been denied them. (A convention of female lawyers she chaired in 1893 had over 200 attendees.)
Belva Lockwood died in 1917, having forged a path of education, advocacy, and determination for generations to follow.
When asked if there would ever be a woman President, Belva said:
If a woman demonstrates that she is fitted to be president, she will someday occupy the White House. It will be entirely on her own merits, however. No movement will place her there simply because she is a woman. It will come if she proves herself fit for the position.
Listen to the audio for her life in detail!
Here are the books Beckett recommended:
“Ballots For Belva” by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
“Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President” by Jill Norgren
The closing song is “Keep on the Path” by The Mystery Body.
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 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.
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), andwhile 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 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.
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)
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…and very, very wealthy.
Time Travel with The History Chicks
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.
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!)
The documentary narrated by Kate Capshaw with Gloria Steinam commentary:An 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.
And, finally, how Beckett saw the Claflin kids (please don’t let that be cussing subtitles in some language we don’t know):
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
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 Poland Manya days. L-R: Manya, Papa, Bronya and poor, 2nd place Hela.
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
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 familydidn’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.”
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.
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.
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:.
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.
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 andshe 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
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.