“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; and I have further right to demand a free and unrestricted exercise of that right, and it is your duty not only to accord it, but, as a community, to se that I am protected in it.” Victoria Woodhull, during a lecture on Free Love, November 1871
Victoria Woodhull Martin (1838-1937), born Victoria California Claflin, lived an uncommon life, very much in the public eye from early adulthood. She was an advocate of woman’s suffrage, speaker on free love, wall street broker, and the first female candidate for President. Married three times, she went by the names Victoria Claflin (her maiden name), Victoria Woodhull (her first husband’s last name), and then Victoria Woodhull Martin (her third husband’s name).
Daughter to an uneducated mother and a con-man, violent father, Victoria was an unlikely political figure. Her interest in marriage laws and women’s rights grew through personal experience in her abusive first marriage to an alcoholic. Divorces in the 19th century were rare and difficult to acquire, especially for the woman in the relationship. For Victoria “Free Love” was less about allowing promiscuous behavior and more about the freedom to leave a relationship no longer based in love.
Keep an eye out for a coming movie about Victoria Woodhull, starring Oscar winner Brie Larson, from Amazon studios!