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