Woodhull, Victoria (Claflin)

Woodhull, Victoria (Claflin), 1838–1927, and Tennessee Claflin, 1846–1923, American journalists and lecturers, b. Ohio, sisters noted for their beauty and wildly eccentric behavior. As children they traveled throughout Ohio with their parents, giving spiritualist demonstrations. At 15, Victoria married Dr. Canning Woodhull but continued to tour as a clairvoyant with Tennessee. Victoria divorced Woodhull in 1864 and two years later probably married Col. James Blood (there is doubt as to the validity of the marriage). Tennessee married John Bartels but retained her maiden name. In New York City after 1868, the sisters were backed in a brokerage venture by Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was interested in spiritualism. In 1870, Victoria and Tennessee, with the financial support of Col. Blood, became proprietors of Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, a sensational journal that took stands in favor of woman suffrage, free love, and socialism. In 1872 the paper reported rumors of a love affair between Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and the wife of Theodore Tilton, which provoked a national scandal. Also in 1872, the journal published the first English translation of The Communist Manifesto. In the same year Victoria became the first woman candidate for president, running on the People's party ticket with Frederick Douglass as her running mate. The two sisters moved to England in 1877. Victoria, having divorced Blood, married John Biddulph Martin, a wealthy banker. Tennessee, also divorced, married Francis Cook, an English art collector who became a baronet in 1886. Both women became well-known philanthropists.

See biographies by J. Johnston (1967) and M. M. Marberry (1967); B. Goldsmith, Other Powers (1998); M. Gabriel, Notorious Victoria (1998); E. Fitzpatrick, The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women's Quest for the American Presidency (2016).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: American Literature: Biographies