Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hillary Clinton - First Female Presidential Candidate?


Congratulations to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who became the first female candidate for President of the United States from a major political party. Notice that I have underlined major, because Secretary Clinton was not the first woman to run for the nation's highest elected office. This honor belongs to Victoria Woodhull.

Victoria Woodhull
In 1872, Woodhull became the the first female candidate for President of the United States as the candidate from the Equal Rights Party. She ran on a platform of women's suffrage and equal rights. In 1871, she criticized the male-dominated government and proposed developing a new constitution and a new government a year. Her nomination was ratified at the convention on June 6, 1872. They nominated the former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass for Vice President. He did not attend the convention and never acknowledged the nomination.

Frederick Douglass
Douglass was a strong supporter of women's rights. In 1848, Douglass was the only African American to attend the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention, in upstate New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton asked the assembly to pass a resolution asking for women's suffrage. Many of those present opposed the idea. Douglass spoke eloquently in favor of the resolution. He said that he could not accept the right to vote as a black man if women could not also claim that right. He suggested that the world would be a better place if women were involved in the political sphere.

In this denial of the right to participate in government, not merely the degradation of woman and the perpetuation of a great injustice happens, but the maiming and repudiation of one-half of the moral and intellectual power of the government of the world.
Victoria Woodhull
c 1860s
She was also an advocate of "free love" which she defined as the freedom to marry, divorce, and bear children without government interference. Woodhull believed in monogamous relationships. She also said that women had the right also to decide whether or not to have sexual relations. This put women on an equal status with men "who had the capacity to rape and physically overcome a woman, whereas a woman did not have that capacity with respect to a man." She did not receive any electoral votes, and there is conflicting evidence about popular votes. Her position on this issue continues to be relevant today as evidenced in the recent rape trial of a Stanford University athlete and the absurd "punishment" given by a judge.

She was opposed to abortion and Woodhull also believed in spiritualism. Her interest in eugenics was likely motivated by the profound intellectual impairment of her son. She advocated sex education, "marrying well," and pre-natal care as a way to bear healthier children and to prevent mental and physical disease.

Woodhull infiltrated the male domain of national politics and arranged to testify on women's suffrage before the House Judiciary Committee. Woodhull argued that women already had the right to vote, all they had to do was use it, since the 14th and 15th Amendments guaranteed the protection of that right for all citizens. The simple but powerful logic of her argument impressed some committee members. Learning of Woodhull's planned address, suffrage leaders postponed the opening of the 1871 National Woman Suffrage Association's third annual convention in Washington in order to attend the committee hearing. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Isabella Beecher Hooker, saw Woodhull as the newest champion of their cause. They applauded her statement: "[W]omen are the equals of men before the law, and are equal in all their rights."

With the power of her first public appearance as a woman's rights advocate, Woodhull moved to the leadership circle of the suffrage movement. She focused unprecedented public attention on suffrage. Woodhull was the first woman ever to petition Congress in person.

Please check out the references in the Wikipedia article on Victoria Woodhull to learn more about her.

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