Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Victoria Woodhull: Fearless Feminist

Victoria Woodhull: Fearless Feminist

Kate Havelin
For ages 12 and up
Lerner Publications, 2007   ISBN: 978-0822559863

Victoria Woodhull was dogged by controversy for much of her life. She lived on the fringes of society, frequently breaking the rules of the times, encouraging either the admiration or the condemnation of people who heard about her exploits. She was not afraid to voice her opinions and for this she paid dearly. She was truly a woman born before her time, advocating a woman's right to vote, a woman's right to decide if and when she would bear children, and a woman's right to control her life and her finances. She also supported workers in their efforts to have better working conditions and better pay. Victoria not only spoke about and wrote about these issues at every opportunity, but she also made an even bolder step, she tried to win the most powerful position in the country – the presidency.

Victoria had a very hard childhood. She was exploited by her parents who used Victoria and her sister Tennie to con money out of people by pretending that the girls were "clairvoyants." In 1853 fifteen year old Victoria tried to escape from her family by marrying a doctor. The marriage was no escape because Victoria's husband, a confirmed alcoholic, was not good at his job, and the young couple were poor and without prospects for the future.

In the end Victoria and Tennie went back to being con artists, this time targeting people who were trying to reach out to dead relatives and friends. Frequently the two young "mediums" were forced to head out of town expeditiously when the locals realized that they had been conned by the young women and their family.

There finally came a time when Victoria and Tennie had had enough. Victoria divorced her husband and she and Tennie left their family. They moved to New York and started a new chapter in their lives. Soon after arriving in the city Victoria began to develop an interest in suffragist issues and she became active in the women's rights movement. At first she was well, if somewhat cautiously, received by the women who led the suffragist cause. Then Victoria announced her candidacy to run for the presidency. Her speeches and writings brought a number of scandals and other problems down on her head, and she ended up being arrested and attacked from all sides by her enemies. Not having any money or friends who were willing to support her, Victoria was at the mercy of those who wanted to discredit and ruin her.

Anyone who has an interest in finding out about the lives of strong women will be intrigued by the story of Victoria Woodhull. She was such a fascinating person who really shook up the establishment of her time, daring to tell the truth about what she saw.

Well written and packed with anecdotes and interesting information about Victoria Woodhull's life, this is one of the titles in the Trailblazer Biography series.