A fearless maverick, Victoria (Vicky) Clafin Woodhull Blood Martin took New York City by storm. Born into a wild and wacky family who traveled the country with a medicine show telling fortunes and selling patent medicines, Woodhull moved to New York in 1866 with her sister Tennie. They arrived just as the women’s suffrage movement was gaining steam—that year Elizabeth Cady Stanton ran for Congress, albeit unsuccessfully. This was an opportune time for Woodhull to champion her causes—women’s rights, worker’s rights,and sex education, as well as more radical ideas such as free love and legalized prostitution.
What’s more, the national rage for spiritualism served the Woodhull sisters well. As children, they had performed as clairvoyants in the family’s medicine show. Their presumed spiritual powers attracted the recently widowed Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt for whom they gave business tips “from the beyond,” and Tennie became his lover. In return, Vanderbilt backed them in their Wall Street brokerage firm of Woodhull, Claflin & Company. In fact, they became the first American women to work as bankers and own a seat on the Stock Exchange. The sisters used their handsome profits to start a weekly radical feminist newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, as an organ for their beliefs. Read the rest of this entry »