To celebrate the anniversary of the first woman to be nominated for U.S. President, we offer this excerpt from SCANDALOUS: Fame, Infamy, and Paradise Lost, Volume Two, The Victoria Woodhull Saga by Neal Katz. (The narrative is first person as Victoria Woodhull).
On May 10, 1872 the Equal Rights Party decided its platform for the national election and nominated Victoria C. Woodhull as its Presidential nominee, with Frederick Douglass as her Vice President running mate.
By 4:00 p.m., after hours of discussions and arguments, one by one, the convention ratified the most progressive reform platform in the history of American politics. The convention Chairman, Judge Reymert, proclaimed, “Great work! We did it!”
The twenty-one planks included: universal suffrage; equal legal rights; equal pay for equal work; new code of civil law; new code of commercial law; nationalization of monopolies; universal tax; free and open trade with all nations; uniform pay; abolition of the death penalty; government employment of unemployed; government paid vocational training; universal coverage of insurances; work injury compensation; welfare for the needy; equal access to work; child labor laws; freedom of all religions, beliefs, and practices; prohibition of corruption; and sexual freedom.
Chairman Judge Reymert informed, “We will break for dinner. Please reconvene here at 7:30, two hours hence.” Cheering filled the air.
Solidarity induced euphoria.
… At exactly eight o’clock, the doors flung open. As my sister Tennessee and I entered Apollo Hall cheers rose up, and thunderous applause echoed off the walls.
“Woodhull, Woodhull, Woodhull!” the crowd created pandemonium with the same words repeated over and over.
Chairman Reyment asked, “Do you want me to recognize Victoria C. Woodhull?”
The sound became waves that could capsize Vanderbilt’s great ship The Colossus, or perhaps a government.
Arriving at the podium, I waved to everyone. I spoke quietly.
“I want to thank all six hundred and sixty-eight delegates from twenty-two states and four territories! And the other thousand plus people gathered here on this momentous day!”
After a long pause due to deafening cheering, I resumed.
“Together, we have forged a new political party, smelted from diversity and tempered on the anvil of common purpose.”
Cheering halted my speech.
“From this convention will go forth a tide of revolution that shall sweep over the whole world. Go where we may in the land, there we see despotism, inequality and injustice installed where there should be freedom… equality… and justice.”
I had to pause again as the cacophony increased.
“How can equality rise when one-eighth of our populous is illiterate? How can we plant the seeds of justice when a very few rich hoard all the money produced and own all the land? From what well will freedom spring when the wealthy class poison our waters with corrupt politicians?”
I let the crowd scream itself hoarse.
“Shall we be slaves to escape revolution? I say never! I say, away with such stupidity! We, together, must demand our rights, though the heavens fall. Who will dare to attempt to unlock the luminous portals of the future with the rusty key of the past!”
“Today we have struck the match to ignite the revolution that shall sweep with resistless force, if not fury, over the whole country, to purge it of political chicanery, despotic assumption, and the whole of industrial injustice.”
The prolonged cheers and chanting of my name seemed a melodious paean of love exalting the namesake of the hall, the Greek god Apollo. I trembled in their adoration. During the ovation, I walked to to the wings of the stage, waving to all.
A booming voice called out. “I place the name of Victoria C. Woodhull for presidential nominee of the Equal Rights Party and future Presidentess of the United States of America!” The voice belonged to the Honorable Judge A. G. Carter from Cincinnati, Ohio, my birth state.
Shouts sounded from everywhere. “Second!”
Chairman Reymert posed the motion. “I call for a vote on the seconded motion that Victoria C. Woodhull shall be elected by this convention to become the nominee of the Equal Rights Party for President of these United States of America.” He called triumphantly, “All in favor, say aye.”
The roar of “aye” lasted for nearly fifteen minutes. Returning to the podium crying tears of joy, I accepted their nomination.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I sincerely thank you for the unanimity with which you accord me this great honor.” I gulped for air. “For over a year I have worked constantly, heart and hand, in the good cause, sometimes receiving your approval and sometimes receiving your rebuke.”
Shouts of “Never,” “Not me,” “I didn’t,” and, “Not true,” sounded from every direction.
I quieted everyone down. “Now that you thus honor me, my gratitude and humility before you knows no bounds.” I raised my head and reached my arms wide to embrace the entire convention.
“I shall endeavor to be true to our united principles and the platform of our party.” I paused, looked upward through the roof, and then raised my voice to a full forté to be heard in the firmament.
“Together, we will march into the future.”