It's a presidential election year. Newspapers are crammed with the latest political stories. Walk into any corner store, and you're likely to hear folks talking heatedly about the candidates. No, the year isn't 2004, it's 1872. And the candidate whose name is on everyone's lips is Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president. Almost forgotten today, Woodhull was a household name in her own time. In this attractive and readable new biography by Kathleen Krull, with lavish, full-color illustrations by Jane Dyer, Woodhull's fascinating life comes alive. Born to a large and troubled Ohio family in 1838, Woodhull escaped home through an early marriage, which proved disastrous. Along with her two children, Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee, made their way to New York City where she associated with the likes of Cornelius Vanderbilt, made money on the stock market and even became a stockbroker. Woodhull became involved with the women's rights movement and despite the fact that it was illegal for women to vote, declared herself a candidate for president. As a candidate for the Equal Rights Party in the election of 1872, she was part of a diverse group of reformers, suffragists and others who were referred to by newspapers as "wild men and women."Woodhull never expected to win, of course. "To be perfectly frank," she once told reporters, "I hardly expected to be elected." At the same time, she realized the value of challenging the boundaries of her time. "If my political campaign for the Presidency is not successful, it will be educational."In a concluding author's note, Krull explains that Woodhull was ruthlessly attacked for her bold actions and ruined financially. But, always resilient, she and her sister made a fresh start in England, where they married wealthy men and lived happily until old age.
As Woodhull herself once proclaimed, "The truth is I am too many years ahead of this age." She died in 1927 at the age of 89, less than a decade after American women finally won the right to vote. Deborah Hopkinson's new books for young readers include Apples to Oregon and Dear America: Hear My Sorrow.