Victoria Claflin Woodhull, later Victoria Woodhull Martin (September 23, 1838 – June 9, 1927), was an American leader of the women’s suffrage movement who ran for President of the United States in the 1872 election.
An activist for women’s rights and labor reforms, Woodhull was also an advocate of “free love”, by which she meant the freedom to marry, divorce and bear children without social restriction or government interference. “They cannot roll back the rising tide of reform,” she often said. “The world moves.”
Woodhull was politically active in the early 1870s when she was nominated as the first woman candidate for the United States presidency. Woodhull was the candidate in 1872 from the Equal Rights Party, supporting women’s suffrage and equal rights; her running mate (unbeknownst to him) was abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. Her campaign inspired at least one other woman – apart from her sister – to run for Congress. A check on her activities occurred when she was arrested on obscenity charges a few days before the election. Her paper had published an account of the alleged adulterous affair between the prominent minister Henry Ward Beecher and Elizabeth Richards Tilton which had rather more detail than was considered proper at the time. However, it all added to the sensational coverage of her candidacy.