10 Victoria Woodhull Quotes For Every Modern Feminist

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With modern feminism in the spotlight, it is interesting to look back in history and see that many of these “new” ideas about women’s rights, equality, and body sovereignty have been the topic of some pretty radical discussions for generations. In fact, one of the first and most outspoken leaders of feminism was Victoria Woodhull.

Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927) was the first woman to run for President as an official party nominee in 1872. She and her sister, Tennessee Celeste Claflin, opened the first women-owned brokerage firm on Wall Street and published the first women-owned newspaper. Victoria was also the first woman invited to address the United States Congress. What she wrote and said will surprise you, particularly given the fact that the following quotes are from 1870–1874.

1. The importance of standing up for one’s rights through any means necessary
Victoria encouraged women to assert their rights in any way that men would understand:

“Let women issue a sexual declaration of independence and absolutely refuse to cohabit with men until women are acknowledged as equals in everything, and the victory would be won in a single day.”

2. The importance of “no means no”
Victoria Woodhull was perhaps one of the first people to preach the importance of “no means no”. No one – not your husband, boyfriend, or date – has the right to act against your wishes:

“The wife who submits to sexual intercourse against her wishes or desires virtually commits suicide: while the husband who compels it commits murder.”

3. On the rise of feminism
Victoria and Tennessee were the first true Suffragettes. In fact, they advised Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the Suffragette movement in 1889 England.

“The spirits are coming back to tear your damned system of sexual slavery into tatters and consign its blackened remnants to the depth of everlasting hell.


4. On the topic of equal pay for equal work
Victoria Woodhull was way ahead of her time. Women today are still fighting for equal pay:

“Woman’s ability to earn money is better protection against the tyranny and brutality of men than her ability to vote. I demand equal pay for equal work.”


5. On slut-shaming
Victoria proclaimed that men should be accountable to the same standards. Any prejudice, objectification or degradation against women, in fact, everyone, must be publicly exposed:

“There are scores of thousands of women who are denominated prostitutes, and who are supported by hundreds of thousands of men who should, for like reasons, also be denominated prostitutes, since what will change a woman into a prostitute must also necessarily change a man into the same.”

6. On the importance of activism
Victoria put the “active” in “activist”:

“While others prayed for the good time coming, I worked for it.”


7. On the needs of a modern society
This was Victoria Woodhull’s declared platform in 1872 when she was nominated to run for president of the United States by the Equal Rights Party. The equivalent today would be higher taxation of the wealthiest and social responsibility for all citizenry:

“We stand united for woman suffrage, regulation of monopolies, nationalization of railroads, an eight-hour workday, direct taxation, abolition of the death penalty, and welfare plus vocational training for the poor, among other things.”


8. On the importance of government aid
Was Victoria a socialist? You bet – poverty and hunger were unacceptable to her. As a feminist,however, she was a Humanist, caring for all people:

“Hundreds, thousands, aye millions of human beings, men, women, and children, wander the streets of our cities and the highways of our country, hungry, ragged and cold, vainly seeking in this land of plenty, where physical want should be unknown.”


9. On women’s rights after marriage
During Victoria Woodhull’s time, a woman was NOT considered to be equal to her husband. In fact, all females were considered property. A husband could will away his offspring, forever separating mother and child:

“All that is good and commendable now existing would continue to exist if all marriage laws were repealed tomorrow.”


10. On a woman’s right to choose
The above quote is not about promiscuity, although it defends promiscuity as a personal right. Victoria’s purpose was to establish true gender equality so that women would be free to choose, just like men.

“Yes, I am a free lover. I have an inalienable constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to change that love every day if I please, and neither you nor any law you can frame, have any right to interfere.”


How can you apply Victoria Woodhull’s beliefs to your own life?

Victoria Woodhull argued that passion is the best and truest way to make choices. Ask yourself what really matters right now and in the long term. Is it:

  • Sexual expression
  • Connection and intimacy
  • Independence
  • Meaning and sacredness
  • Financial security
  • Career advancement
  • or a plethora of other priorities

Only you know the correct answer and it can be any combination of the above on any given day. Whatever you decide is your passion, pursue it without any self-imposed guilt or judgment.

“This is your glorious personal dance, the ebb, and flow of often-divergent energies. Behold the magic and live according to your passion. Enjoy it!” Says Mojgan Jahan, Psy.D., mother of two teenagers and Clinical Psychologist. This is your human right and what Victoria was talking about in 1871.

In closing, I want to thank two women for reviewing my comments and sharing their thoughts, Mojgan Jahan, Psy.D, and Ayesha Suneja, PhD. in Psychology who forwarded this gem of a quote:

“Femininity is not just lipstick, stylish hairdos, and trendy clothes. It is the divine adornment of humanity. It finds expression in your qualities of your capacity to love, your spirituality, delicacy, radiance, sensitivity, creativity, charm, graciousness, gentleness, dignity, and quiet strength.”

-James E. Faust


Photo Credit: Flickr/Mark Kidsley


Neal Katz, AKA ‘The Guy Feminist’ has two grown daughters and is the author of OUTRAGEOUS: The Victoria Woodhull Saga. When not writing or consulting, Mr. Katz promotes a new economic paradigm for global monetary liquidity to fund important ventures, Conscientious Credit Funding Organization.


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