Feb 242010

Victoria Woodhull

Wow what a story!  What a life!  What a shame!  That no one knows who she is. She was…. the FIRST WOMAN TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT.  Yes, in 1872, this often-married thirty-four-year-old mother of two (one with special needs) who eloped at the age of fifteen – ran (against Ulysses S. Grant) for president. Victoria Claflin Woodhull pulled her self out of poverty and up by her bra straps. Gorgeous, charismatic and smart, she spent her life bent on improving it, through education and association with smart powerful men – like Cornelius Vanderbilt, and women – like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony who left her out of the history books for being so controversial.  She cut her performing chops early on, traveling around with her completely crazy, perennially poor, religiously fanatical family, staging medicine and fortune telling shows – she was a spiritualist and a magnetic healer – which inadvertently prepared her for a life in politics.  A true maverick, with so many firsts, including being the first woman to address the Senate Judiciary Committee demanding the right to vote, the first female to have her own stock brokerage firm on Wall Street (with her sister) which made enough money to fund her own newspaper in which she wrote about all her little pet projects such as women’s rights, free love, and legalized prostitution which is what she called marriage.  Mrs. Satan, The Prostitute Who Ran For President and The Scandalous Victoria Woodhull, as she was known, spent election day – and many other days – in jail, for publishing a story about Henry Ward Beecher – the most famous preacher (and hypocrite) of the day who was having an with a married parishioner in what became the biggest scandal and trial of the century.

Victoria Woodhull attempting to vote

Victoria Woodhull depicted as "Mrs. Satan"


Fabulous Female Fact: Frances Wright

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Feb 242010

Frances Wright

Frances, or Franny Wright,  1795-1853 is the first woman on record to speak in public – to both men and women!  And she took a lot of heat for it.  An orphaned Scottish heiress who lost her parents at the age of two or three (sources vary), Frances led a most fascinating life – full of accomplishments and risk taking.  Self-educated (she started studying Greek when she was just a girl), she supported, wrote and spoke about birth control, women’s rights, education reform, abolition, “free love”, and she hung out with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  Her “radical” father had been a big Thomas Paine fan and sounds like she inherited more than just money from him.  Lucky for us.  And for Sarah Palin, whether she knows it or not.  At the age of 23, she saw her first play “Altorf” produced in New York City.  At the age of 26, her first book, a collection of letters she wrote while in America, ”Views Of Society And Manners In America” was published and she was off and running.  She hit the lecture circuit and spoke holding a copy of The Declaration of Independence, wearing only white, and like Victoria Woodhull (and Anne Hutchinson) with whom she shared a great deal, she paid a price.  She got more than just heckled; scorned, criticized, the object of ridicule, she was called many things, including “a female monster whom all decent people should avoid”.   She published a newspaper (again like Woodhull) and fell in with Robert Dale Owen – leader of a socialist/utopian movement and started a commune!  Yup.  A commune in Tennessee – she bought the land herself – called “Nashoba” where she tried (unsuccessfully) to give slaves a place to live and learn the skills to live free.  Tawk about idealism.  I love Frances Wright.  She, like so many of our “fore sisters” inspire me.  Another unknown fabulous forgotten female, a REAL maverick.


Fabulous Female Fact: Lilly Ledbetter

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Feb 242010

Lilly LedbetterShe’s seventy, she’s a grandmother and she danced with the president at his Inaugural Ball! What an honor. For both of them. She’s Lilly Ledbetter of Alabama. Finally, after TEN YEARS, in January 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act became the first bill our hero, President Obama, signed into law. And she was right there.

Lovely Lilly Ledbetter has quite the little story. In 1979, she became a working mother with her job as a plant supervisor at Goodyear Tire Company in Alabama. One fine day, in 1998, she got to work, and when she checked her mail she found a note someone sent her showing her pay versus three men who did the same job as she, but the men got paid a whole lot more. And had been. For like twenty years. Imagine.

So, she sued. Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court! And then – she lost. They – being the SUPREEEME Court, said she “could have, should have, sued, when the pay decisions were made, instead of waiting beyond the 180-day statutory charging period.” What???? That did not seem fair. She didn’t KNOW!!!! She was getting punished for something she didn’t know. I hate that. So did she and so did a lot of other people, including Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi.

In the fine tradition of her suffragist sisters, she fought – for ten years – and we all won when on January 27, 2009, the silly Supreme Court decision was reversed and The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act was signed into law! Yay!!!!