Monday, October 30, 2006

A Conversation with Victoria Woodhull

Just after the Civil War ended, an intriguing young woman stepped into American public life. Victoria Woodhull, a 28-year-old Midwestern fortuneteller who earned her money by bringing dead souls into contact with the living, was told by "the powers of the air" in 1866 that she was destined to become the ruler of the world. So Vickie moved to New York City, of course, and within a few short years she was a household word nationwide. Not only did she run for US President in 1871, but she also became the first woman ever to open a Wall Street stock brokerage and the first woman to publish an American newspaper.

Vickie was no conservative. She favored spiritualism, magnetic healing, free love, the women’s suffrage movement, easier divorce laws, legalized prostitution, birth control, labor reform and Marxism. (Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, whose masthead read “Progress! Free Thought! Untrammeled Lives! Breaking the Way for Future Generations,” was the first American newspaper to publish Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.)

Fame preceded Vickie wherever she went, and people either loved her or hated her. She eventually was jailed on obscenity charges, lost her bid for the Presidency and was shoved back into the faceless crowd as American life steamrolled (I think steamrollers were invented by then) toward the 20th century. You've never heard of Victoria Woodhull, have you? I hadn't myself, until I started to research bad girls and came across her name in the British Public Library.

But Vickie is back here with us today, in a conversation with Bad Girl Blog!

Bad Girl Blog: Hello, Vickie. I just want to get this party started by saying that I'm a big fan of your work. Really, really big. I mean, I worship you. That's not even a joke. For example, when I'm in a bad mood, I ask myself, "What would Victorial Woodhull do?" And the right answer just comes to me, like that! It must be the powers of the air. So anyway, can we talk about sex? I hear you're a huge free lover. Is that true?

Victoria Woodhull*: Yes! I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can, to change that love every day if I please! And with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere.

BGB: Wow, Vickie, I love you! You rock! Hey, are you bi-curious, by any chance? Sorry, that's a bit premature. But hell no, I'm not going to interfere with your natural right to love whom you may. I'm totally for it. I mean, I believe I have that natural right, too. The only thing that's keeping me back is my natural shyness. Believe it or not, when it comes to sex, I can get a little shy and (gulp) repressed.

Vickie: Some women seem to glory over the fact that they never had any sexual desire and to think that desire is vulgar.

BGB: Ha ha. You're funny. You're so intense. Did I say vulgar? No, one of my favorite things about me is my ability to feel sexual desire. It's just that sex itself can feel vulgar, if it's bad sex with a bad lover.

Vickie: What! Vulgar! The instinct that creates immortal souls vulgar?

BGB: I love the way you talk. Say more.

Vickie: Who dares stand up amid Nature, all prolific and beautiful, where pulses are ever bounding with the creative desire, and utter such sacrilege? Vulgar rather must be the mind that can conceive such blasphemy. No sexual passion, say you. Say, rather, a sexual idiot, and confess that your life is a failure.

BGB: Wait. What? All those words pouring out of you got me confused. You're not calling me a failed idiot, right? I mean, you're speaking in generalities now, right? Because I'm totally cool about sex. Sex is beautiful. It's all nakedness and touching, and we're all animals, we all love to be touched. Oh look, there's my cat, Donna, she's naked right now! And she loves to be touched--well, usually, sometimes, not always. Actually, Donna can be a real bitch when she's not in the mood. Oooo, she's stretching now. Isn't she cute? Donna for US President! Yay!!

At this point, an annoyed look crosses Victoria Woodhull's face and she disappears in a puff of mist.

BGB: No, Vickie, don't go! I'm sorry, I got silly. Can't we continue this conversation? Sorry, Donna distracted me, wait, don't go...Vickie?...That's the problem with ghosts--they're incapable of change. I know Vickie would be an animal-rights activist if she were alive today...Vickie, come back...Ms. Woodhull?...

*Vickie's quotes are taken from speeches she made and articles she published while running for President of the United States in 1871.