A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull
Illustrated by Jane Dyer
Non-fiction Picture Book
Ages 7 to 12
Walker, 2004, 0-8027-8908-0
Today it is hard to imagine what it would have been like to be in woman in the 1800's. Imagine having to wear clothes so tight that they made you ill. Imagine always being the 'property' and responsibility of a man, of not being in charge of ones own life. Imagine not being able to go to college or to be able to have an interesting or challenging job. This was the world to which Victoria Woodhull belonged and it was a world that she was not willing to accept as it was. Victoria wanted to have her own life, to determine her own destiny and to have a say in how things were done in her country.
Victoria began life under very difficult circumstances. Hers was a poor family and she and her siblings often went hungry, were beaten, and went uncared for. When her father discovered that Victoria had a fine voice he sent her off on the road to be a child preacher. Soon Victoria and her sister Tennessee were supporting their family and it was a miserable existence for both of them.
When she became a young woman Victoria met and fell in love with a doctor called Canning Woodhull. Though she escaped from her family, Victoria now found herself tied to a man who was an alcoholic and who could not take care of her and her children. Being the kind of woman she was Victoria took care of things herself and became a spiritualist to people like the famous and immensely wealthy Cornelius Vanderbilt. Victoria spoke to the spirits for him and she also advised him on his financial investments. One day one of the investments paid off in a big way and Victoria was given her share. Suddenly she was a wealthy woman, a woman who did not have to work to put food on the table.
Victoria and her sister Tennessee went on to do many amazing things that had never been done by women before. They showed their world that woman could run a business and could manage investments. Victoria went on to speak out about the rights of women, or rather about the fact that women at those times had very few rights. Undoubtedly her most outrageous act was to run for the office of President. Women could not vote, but there was no law against them running for public office. What followed was an incredible campaign to try to get women the vote and to give them a voice in government.
This is an uplifting, fascinating picture book biography which shows us what life for women was like in the 1800's and how hard it must have been to break through the barriers that enclosed women at that time. These were barriers of sexism, old-fashioned ideas, false assumptions, ignorance, and fear for the unknown, and they were built by both men and women. Though Victoria did not win her election she did a great deal to show women that they could break through the barriers if they have the courage and drive to do so.
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