Saturday 9 May 2015

The Woman Demosthenes Told to Run for President

Woodhull, Demosthenes' Mentee
In a year when we have a real chance of the first XX-chromosome president of the USA, let us celebrate Victoria Woodhull, who stood for this office in 1872.  Raised in a one-room wooden shack in Homer, Ohio, and the recipient of less than three years’ education, her rise to prominence was overseen by her spirit guide, the ancient Greek orator Demosthenes.

Victoria’s father, Buck Claflin, was a working-class mid-western charlatan. He sold his daughters’ paranormal powers in boarding-houses for $1 per consultation—Victoria practised as a medium, and Tennessee (‘Tenny’) as a ‘magnetic healer.’

Victoria claimed that she had always been aware of her clairvoyant gift and could remember her own birth. She was radicalised by an unhappy first marriage and by talking to women left widowed and starving by the Civil War. She read Wollstonecraft and Mill. She became a socialist and feminist during her fruitful second marriage to another spiritualist as well as a freethinker, abolitionist and suffragist.

"Move to Manhattan and stand for the Presidency!"
In 1868 Victoria had a vision in a hotel in Pittsburgh. Her ‘guide’ appeared to her, and wrote the name DEMOSTHENES on the marble table at which she was sitting ‘in English characters which gradually outlined themselves from indistinctness to incandescence so brilliant as to light up the entire apartment.’  Demosthenes, clearly fluent in English, bade her hasten to 17 Great Jones Street, Manhattan, where ‘she would find a house swept and garnished for the commencement of the work she had to do.’ So she moved to the specified brownstone, where she found a copy of the Orations of Demosthenes conveniently awaiting her in the parlour.

The following year, Demosthenes presented her with the text of a petition to Congress when she was asleep. He wrote on a scroll ‘The Memorial of Victoria C. Woodhull,’  claiming under the Fourteenth Amendment the right of women as of all other ‘citizens of the United States’ to vote and demanding that the State of New York, of which she was now a citizen, should be restrained by federal authority from preventing her exercise of this constitutional right.

Douglass, nearly Woodhull's Co-Nominee

So along with her sister she set about her mission. They set up the first female-led stockbroker firm in the US, and made millions. This allowed them to found a feminist journal, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, which also supported workers’ rights and published the first English translation of the Communist Manifesto. In its very first issue, Victoria’s candidacy for presidency was announced. She was constitutionally ineligible being under 35 years old. But she received the presidential nomination of the Cosmo-Political or ‘Equal Rights’ Party (Frederick Douglass was nominated to be their vice-president, but turned it down).

The patriarchal ruling elite was having none of it. She spent the election behind bars, arrested on obscenity charges (she campaigned for Free Love and enjoyed exposing the hypocritical adulterous liaisons of the very male authority figures who objected to her advocacy of women’s sexual freedom). Ulysses S. Grant won the election in a landslide.

"The Death of Demosthenes"--not such a great role model
But Woodhull had put women’s exclusion from politics at the centre of the public radar. Just fifteen years later, a woman became mayor of a US town—Argonia, Kansas—for the first time in history. 

Those of us who would like to see a woman finally become president must hope that Hillary Clinton does not get stitched up on obscenity charges before November 3rd 2015.  I also recommend she acquire a better netherworld mentor than Demosthenes, whose own political career ended in suicide on the run after the Macedonian conquest. I have personally been visited in dreams by both Aeschylus and Aristotle, but then I have no current plans to run for president.

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