VICTORIA WOODHULL: PHOENIX RISING
The Phoenix Rising Project is a series of events stimulated by the passionate and varied work of Victoria Woodhull, a native of Homer, OH and an American leader of the women’s suffrage movement in the 19th century. As researcher/author Jesse Greenspan reports “A jack-of-all-trades, Woodhull alternately tried her hand at stockbroking, newspaper publishing, lobbying, public speaking, clairvoyance and philanthropy, and even ran for president long before women won the right to vote.” This three-year, nine-part series will use Woodhull’s concerns to launch dialogue around her areas of interest as they manifest in today’s world. Through round tables and invited speakers/artists, both local and national, the Phoenix Rising Project intends to engage citizens as panelists and participants in these politically neutral discussions by entering into civil, adult conversations so that we might listen and learn from each other intentionally. This series is the result of a partnership between The Robbins Hunter Museum and Denison University, and has been supported by Ohio Humanities and the Granville Community Foundation.
The Voices of Women
The next event will be on Monday, January 28 from 1:00-2:30 P.M. in Swasey Chapel at Denison. The theme is “Social Justice,” and the speaker will be Mary Frances Berry, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought, History and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She has chosen the title “Race, Protest and Politics: Where do We Go From Here.” Berry has been one of the most visible activists in the cause of civil rights, gender rights and social justice in the nation. Read more about her here or follow her on Twitter @MFBerry.
Thursday, February 8 2018: “Courageous Voices”
This roundtable was an an introduction to Woodhull and her historical impact and drive for social reform as well as her legacy for social reform in the 21st century. It was moderated by Judith Dann, a Woodhull scholar and Classics professor at Columbus State Community College. Panel members included artist and activist Rachel Marco-Havens, and Granville’s own Carol Apacki, Rita Kipp and Ceciel Shaw. This event was free to museum members, students and faculty of Denison University and was open to the public. It took place at the Robbins Hunter Museum in Granville.
Thursday, April 19 2018: “Scandalous Voices: Journalistic Truths Standing in the Face of False Rhetoric”
This roundtable focused on Victoria and her sister Tennessee’s newspaper, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, of which they were primary contributors and editors. The paper was known for its radical views, some of which – like free love – are still quite controversial today. However, many of the other issues the sisters approached were, and are still, relevant- woman’s rights, labor laws, and revealing frauds on Wall Street. The discussion tied the sisters’ success in media to today’s issues of journalistic integrity, relationships between the media and administration, and the need for visible truth in media. See a video of the event here and a transcription is available here.
Thursday September 13 2018: “Dangerous Voices: Women who Dare to Speak the Truth”
Victoria Woodhull was a woman unafraid to speak her truth, no matter the cost. Her support for free love and her unconventional ideas about marriage were supported by many women of the time, despite the “scandalous” nature of said ideas. In this way – and several others – Victoria was a woman more fitted to the 21st century, where we are finally seeing women being taken seriously when they come forward. This event focused on strong, powerful women who had the courage to speak their truth. Panel members included Linda Schlossberg and Phyllis Pratt Thompson, both Harvard University faculty in Women’s Studies and 19th c. America; Cindy Safronoff, author of Crossing Swords: Mary Baker Eddy vs Victoria Claflin Woodhull and the Battle for the Soul of Marriage; and Cari Carpenter, professor at West Virginia University and editor of Selected Writings of Victoria Woodhull: Suffrage, Free Love, and Eugenics. The video of the event is available here and the transcription here.
January/February Social Justice Advocacy: Gender equality and family rights. On the 28th of January Mary Frances Berry, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought, and the Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. The program will begin at 1:00 p.m. in Swasey Chapel, and will be followed by a book signing from 2:30-3:00. The Phoenix Rising discussion will begin at 3:15.
Berry is a past chair of the US Commission on Civil Rights, and bring many of the issues confronting Woodhull that are still in discussion today to the table. Immediately following, we will host a discussion for audience members to explore the subjects brought up by Ms. Berry. Admission is free.
April Humanitarian Advocacy: Women assisting the disadvantaged.
September Child Advocacy: Women supporting children from the womb to adulthood.
January/February In Politics: Women who lead the charge.
April In Business/Finance: Women as economic leaders.
September In Abundance: Is the concept of sisterhood still relevant?
Trailblazer. Activist. Pioneer.
Hers was a dynamic life that included many “firsts.” She was the first woman stock broker on Wall Street, the first woman to speak before a congressional committee, and one of the first female newspaper publishers. She was the first to run for president for a recognized party, even though women were not yet allowed to vote in national elections. Woodhull doggedly challenged those social morés that she deemed offensive. She advocated reform of the institution of marriage as well as the legalization of prostitution. She supported sex education for women and greater attention to child welfare.
Born in poverty in 1838 in nearby Homer, Ohio, Woodhull received very little formal education. Still, during her lifetime, her accomplishments were wide-ranging and impressive. At the forefront of the woman’s suffrage movement, she was a charismatic social reformer, fearless in her challenge to the status quo. In childhood, she developed a flair for public speaking, often on behalf of her father’s charlatan medicinal schemes or her mother’s devotion to Spiritualism.
In 1872, outraged by the hypocrisy she found in church pulpits, Woodhull became a principal actor in one of the greatest 19th-century scandals. She published details of a love-affair between one of the most prominent religious figures in the country, The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and a member of his congregation. Because she had sent obscene materials through the mail, her effort resulted in financial ruin. Her outspokenness earned her the respect of many of her fellow reformers, but others called her “Mrs. Satan,” the standard bearer of morally pernicious ideas. She left the U.S. in 1877 to live in England for the rest of her life.Her years in Britain saw a continuation of her humanitarian work. She established schools for local children, started a kindergarten on her estate, and continued to speak on women’s sexual education and rights.
Victoria Claflin Woodhull’s life was one of passion and intrigue, always driven by an unshakable desire to bring about equality for all. Her meteoric rise in the public arena, subsequent decline from favor, and her phoenix-like return to fame form an astonishing and inspiring story.
Her remarkable life and resulting consequences will be the basis of a series of roundtables, designed to further discussions about causes and reforms that Woodhull thought important and that continue to be relevant today.
The mission of the Robbins Hunter Museum is to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the architecturally significant Avery-Downer House, its collections, and the stories of those who lived here.
221 East Broadway, Granville, Ohio 43023 740.587.0430
April 1st through December 31st, Wednesday through Saturday 1-4pm, Docent-led tours
Available year-round for events, receptions and celebrations.
This program is made possible, in part, by Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.