At a time when Hillary Clinton is considering another run for the presidency, it might be helpful to consider the first woman who ran for president—and at a time when women were prohibited from voting!
The Coming Woman, by Karen J. Hicks, is a novel based on the life of feminist Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for U.S. President, 50 years before women could even vote!
Running for President wasn’t Victoria’s only first as a woman. She was also the first to own a successful Wall Street firm, the first to publish a successful national newspaper, and the first to head the two-million-member Spiritualist Association.
She was the first woman to enter the Senate Judiciary Committee chambers to petition for woman’s suffrage, her argument changing the entire focus of the suffragist movement by pointing out that the 14th and 15th Amendments already gave women the vote.
In her campaign for the Presidency, Victoria Woodhull boldly addressed many of the issues we still face today: equal pay for equal work; freedom in love; corporate greed and political corruption fueled by powerful lobbyists; and the increasing disparity between the rich and the poor, to name only a few. Her outspoken and common-sense ideas may shed a new perspective on the parallel conundrums of today’s world.
This bold, beautiful, and sexually progressive woman dared to take on society and religion. To make an example of the hypocrisy in what Mark Twain dubbed The Gilded Age, she exposed the extramarital affairs of the most popular religious figure of the day (Henry Ward Beecher). This led to her persecution and imprisonment and the longest, most infamous trial of the 19th century. But it did not stop her fight for equality.
Victoria’s epic story, set in the late 1800s, comes to life in a modern, fictional style, while staying true to the actual words and views of the many well-known characters.
Praise for The Coming Woman:
“If you have a heart, if you have a soul, Karen Hicks’ The Coming Woman will make you fall in love with Victoria Woodhull.” – Kinky Friedman, author & Governor of the Heart of Texas
“What kind of confidence would it take for a woman to buck the old boy’s club of politics in 1872? More than 140 years pre-Hillary, there was Victoria Woodhull. This book takes you back with a breathtaking, present-tense bird’s eye view into a time when women’s liberation was primarily confined to one woman’s very capable, independent mind. I couldn’t put it down.” – Ruth Buzzi, Golden Globe Award winner and Television Hall of Fame inductee
“The Coming Woman is a great read and a long overdue biography written beautifully by Ms. Hicks. Victoria Woodhull comes alive in each and every paragraph; a vital strength and spirit in Woodhull propels her to run for president of the United States when women weren’t even allowed to vote! What a woman, what a book! An inspiring must read for every woman and any adventurous men! Thank you, Ms. Hicks for finally telling her colorful story.” – Jennifer Lee Pryor, author of Tarnished Angel: A Memoir and President, Indigo, Inc.
Karen J. Hicks is retired and lives in Henderson, Nevada. She recently published her second novel, The Coming Woman, based on the life of the infamous feminist Victoria C. Woodhull, who was the first woman to run for U.S. President. Her first book was a self-help book titled The Tao of a Uncluttered Life. Karen served as in-house editor for author Steve Allen and has written several screenplays, as well as poetry, short stories, and essays. To learn more, go to http://www.karenjhicks.com/
The early spring drizzle on Great Jones Street doesn’t deter newsboys from hawking the April 2, 1870 headlines up and down the thoroughfare between the beer gardens and dance halls of the Bowery and the opulent emporiums of Broadway.
“Petticoat Politician Victoria C. Woodhull to run for President!”
“Indian raids in Wyoming!”
“Sergeant Patrick Gass of Lewis and Clark expedition dies at ninety-eight!”
The heavy, mahogany front door at No. 17 flies open. Victoria Woodhull, lithe and fair at thirty, skips lightly down the steps of the elegant four-story brownstone. Her bobbed and curled brown hair bounces gently against her high forehead. A diamond ring glitters on her right thumb.
“Queen of Finance takes on Government!” yells a newsboy.
Victoria smiles as she hails him. He hands her a New York Herald.
“So Mrs. Woodhull is to run for President, is she?” she asks. “What do you think of that?”
“No offense or nuthin’ to you as a woman, Ma’am, but it’s plum crazy.” The boy looks down and shuffles his feet.
Another newsboy waves and calls out, “Mornin’, Mrs. Woodhull! You’re stirrin’ things up for sure today!” He runs on yelling: “Bewitching Broker in dash to the White House!”
The mortified boy on the steps turns as red as the fresh rose pinned to the black velvet band at Victoria’s throat. She pats his cheek; her laughter is soft and melodic.
“Don’t be embarrassed, son. I’m sure you won’t be the only one of your opinion. And I shouldn’t have tricked you. Here’s an extra penny to apologize.”
“Thank you, Ma’am!” The boy scoots away, calling out: “Asa Brainard pitches fifteenth straight win for Cincinnati Red Stockings! New York Knickerbockers can’t stop ‘em!”
Victoria skips back up the steps, flipping through the newspaper. Glancing up as she opens the door, she spies tall, scarecrow-looking Stephen Pearl Andrews skirting puddles, hurrying toward her. His bony nose, bushy gray hair, and grizzled beard glisten with droplets of rain. His calf-length black coat flaps wildly in the breeze. Victoria grins and goes to meet him, blue eyes sparkling like sunlit waves. She takes his arm and Andrews’ wildness softens at her touch. He pats her hand.
“So did the Herald print your announcement?” he asks.
“The entire thing! And Ashley Cole wrote the perfect headline and introduction!”
“You are on your way to your destiny, la mia stella.”
Inside the house, Victoria walks past tall vases of fragrant flowers and a staircase that curls upward to the second floor. She stops at a marble statue of the famous Greek orator Demosthenes—classic tunic, laced sandals, laurel wreath on his head.
“Demosthenes’ promise to me as a child—that I would live in a mansion in a city surrounded by ships and rule my people—It’s all coming true! How do you say thank you in Greek, Pearl?”
“Efharisto, Demosthenes! I will fight for freedom for our people as you did for the Greeks.” She pecks Andrews on the cheek. “Demosthenes’ prophecy has driven my entire life, Pearl, but you are his corporeal representation and have given me the courage to act on it. So thank you, too.”
“Yes, yes. Let’s look at this announcement now.”
Victoria opens the Herald to page eight, and Andrews reads the headline aloud.
“’The Coming Woman, Victoria C. Woodhull, to race for the White House: What she will and what she won’t do . . . New ideas on government.’” He beams proudly. “Victoria, a Golden Age is upon us, and you are going to lead it!”
“Come, Pearl, we must tell the family!” She takes Andrews’ arm and hurries down the hallway, a spring in her step. Andrews reluctantly allows himself to be dragged along. The cacophony of voices increases as they near the kitchen, and Andrews slows his stride even more. Victoria chuckles. “Come now, you’re not going to the gallows.”
“I think I would rather,” Andrews mutters.
They enter the kitchen, where Victoria’s mother Roxanna Claflin, a short, stern woman with tightly curled gray hair, sits at the foot of the table, carping with a heavy German accent. She glares at Andrews through round, wire-rimmed glasses. Victoria’s quarrelsome father Buck, whose sharp features are made more ominous by a black patch over his left eye, is at the table’s head. The long, wooden benches along each side hold over a dozen sisters, husbands, and children.
Victoria’s youngest sister Tennessee looks up excitedly. Tennie is twenty-five, shorter than Victoria, and fashionably plump. Her dark hair is an unruly mop of short, tousled curls, and her eyes resemble deep wells of melted chocolate.
“Did they print it?” she asks.
“Every word!” Victoria says.
Colonel James Blood, Victoria’s dark and dashing Civil War hero husband, walks over and kisses his wife. She kisses him back, and then hugs her daughter Zulu Maud. The girl’s eyes light up with adoration, looking like a sunny, summer sky. Victoria tries to hug her son Byron as well, but he jerks away, spilling his milk. Byron is physically large for his fifteen years, but mentally he is still a five-year-old. He grins a toothless grin as Zulu Maud sops up the milk. The family begins to bicker.
“My god, people!” Tennie yells, clapping for attention. “Shut up for five minutes and let Victoria read the paper! History is being made here.”
“Well, whoop-dee-do and hullabaloo. Who gives a hoot.” Victoria’s sister Utica stands. Wobbles. She’s only twenty-nine years old, but alcohol and drugs have stolen her beauty and zest. She staggers out.
Roxanna pushes back from the table, her face blotched with anger. She glares at the Colonel. “It’s you, Mr. Hellbound Blood!” She turns her fury on Andrews next. “And you and your passel of Free-lovers! You’ve led my baby onto this path that will destroy her and all of us along with her!”
“Oh for heaven’s sakes,” sister Polly snaps. “Victoria is not going to the White House. What party will support her? We’re just poor people from Ohio.”
“Mr. Lincoln was a poor boy from Illinois,” Pearl counters. “And look what a fine president he turned out to be.”
“Yeah, he was so fine someone shot him,” Polly says.
“That’s what I mean! You want someone to shoot you, Victoria?” Roxanna rushes out, wailing hysterically in German.
“My god, Sis, you better read before somebody else has a hissy fit.”
“I can’t. Not with Mama so upset.”
She hands the paper to Tennie, who skims the page.
“My god, look at the end! ’Victory for Victoria in 1872!’ Whatta brick ol’ Ashley is!”
“Miss Claflin, it’s unladylike to use such slang,” Pearl scolds. “But a fine prediction nonetheless. You must tell your friend I applaud him. I couldn’t have written a better introduction to Victoria’s announcement.”
“At least not in so few words,” Tennie teases. She hands the paper to Colonel Blood.
“Ashley probably should have left out this part about Victoria winning if women are allowed to vote. The male zeitgeist will bury a suffrage amendment for sure now,” Blood says.
“I agree,” Andrews says. “I’m sure he meant it as a vote of confidence, but politicos are threatened by anyone with an intelligent thought and the courage to voice it. Especially if that person is a woman.”
“Well, they’re just going to have to get used to it,” Victoria says. “I’m going to pursue this to the end and with the Spirits’ blessing I will win.”