[Marxism] Fwd: Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 26 06:55:18 MDT 2016

The first woman to run for the White House was born in September 1838 in 
Homer in rural Ohio. Victoria California Claflin was the 7th of 10 
children born to parents who lived on the undesirable end of the social 
spectrum. Her mother worked in brothels while her con artist father 
regularly beat his children during drunken rages, of which there were 
many. He also used his offspring to carry out his numerous con jobs.

Victoria California Claflin would later become Victoria Woodhull and in 
April 1871 announced her candidacy for President of the United States 
through a letter to the editor in the New York Herald. A year later she 
was formally nominated by the Equal Rights Party in the Spring of 1872. 
Frederick Douglas, the much-heralded freed slave, was nominated as 
Woodhulls running mate even though he never accepted it and had declared 
his support for the eventual winner, Ulysses S. Grant!

It was a sign that although they wanted to be taken seriously, the Equal 
Rights Party and Victoria Woodhull failed to run a serious campaign. 
There was also the little problem of their female candidate not having 
the right to vote or indeed be of the right age. Woodhull was just shy 
of the minimum age barrier of 35 to take office as president of the USA.


The people who launched a section of the Communist International in the 
USA were veteran radicals, who had fought against slavery and for 
women's rights for many years. They saw the emerging anti-capitalist 
struggles in Europe, most especially the Paris Commune of 1871, as 
consistent with their own. They saw revolutionary socialism as the best 
way to guarantee the success of the broader democratic movement. What 
European Marxism would think of them is an entirely different matter.

The names of some of the early recruits should give you an indication of 
the political character of the new movement. Included were abolitionists 
Horace Greely, Wendell Phillips and Charles Sumner. Feminist Victoria 
Woodhull joined in and put her magazine "Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly" 
at its disposal. The weekly not only included communications from Karl 
Marx, but spiritualist musings from Woodhull. The native radical 
movement of the 1870s was a mixed bag. Socialism, anti-racism, feminism, 
pacifism and spiritualism co-existed comfortably. The Europeans were 
anxious to purify the movement of all these deviations from the very 
start. Unfortunately they put anti-racism, feminism and spiritualism on 
an equal footing.

Victoria Woodhull was unquestionably the biggest irritant, since she 
defended all these deviations while at the same time she spoke out 
forcefully for free love, the biggest deviation imaginable in the 
Victorian age:

"The sexual relation, must be rescued from this insidious form of 
slavery. Women must rise from their position as ministers to the 
passions of men to be their equals. Their entire system of education 
must be changed. They must be trained to be like men, permanent and 
independent individualities, and not their mere appendages or adjuncts, 
with them forming but one member of society. They must be the companions 
of men from choice, never from necessity."

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/american_left/woodhull.htm

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