Sometimes, in order to make history, you have to be "scandalous."
Victoria Woodhull was about as scandalous as them come. She had to be. For her mission was far from simple. Indeed, it continues to this day.
In 1800s USA, respectable women were expected to marry early, raise children, and remain silent about most things, but especially about politics. The idea of women having the "vote" or running for office was considered by most to be ridiculous and undignified.
Victoria Woodhull was neither dignified nor respectable, and was not afraid to appear ridiculous when it came to her rights.
Victoria was born in an Ohio frontier town in 1838. As was customary for many families at that time, she was married off at 15 to a man twice her age. Her new husband may have been the local doctor, but he was also drunk and a serial womanizer. He was found in a brothel not three days after their wedding.
Unable to rein in her husband's drinking and carousing, Victoria had little choice but to support herself and two children on her own. She worked as an actress and seamstress. After ten unhappy years, she left her marriage, determined never to allow a man to mistreat her again.
Victoria's outspoken opinions on sex would soon get her into trouble, however. She understood all too well, given her experience as a young woman, that men frequently used marriage to control women while they secretly engaged in infidelity. In response, Victoria advocated for "free love" in her newspaper, maintaining that men and women should be able to form sexual relationships as they pleased, without legal or cultural barriers to ensnare and/or punish them. While Victoria preferred monogamy, she also believed that she had "an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can."
Victoria's support of free love convinced many that she was an enemy of "family values" and of religion. Her detractors nicknamed her "Ms. Satan." In the fall of 1872, Victoria became aware that Henry Ward Beecher, America's most famous preacher, was having an affair with a married woman named Elizabeth Tilton. She published the story of his adulterous hypocrisy in her newspaper, illustrating exactly how marriage enabled men to do as they please while keeping unhappy women in virtual slavery.
This was too much for the government to bear. Authorities had Victoria arrested on November 2, 1872, on the charge of obscenity. She spent the night of the presidential election not campaigning, but in jail. She received no electoral votes, although to this day no one knows how many write-in votes were cast in her name.
Unhappy with the puritanical attitudes of the United States, Victoria decided to move to England in 1877, where she remained for the rest of her days. At the age of 81, in 1920, she witnessed US women gain the right to vote, fulfilling one small piece of her lifelong efforts to create a society characterized by equality between the sexes. That's why she's a Time Traveler Tours #HistoryHero.