Women's History
Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.15

     challenging words:    brokerage, elixir, fiery-tempered, psychic, red-coated, spiritualism, abusive, candidacy, unconventional, testify, countryside, controversial, alcoholic, gristmill, society, milestone
     content words:    Victoria Claflin Woodhull, Victoria Claflin, Roxanna Claflin, Canning Woodhull, James Harvey Blood, New York City, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Victoria Woodhull Blood, Wall Street, Susan B.

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Victoria Woodhull
By Joyce Furstenau

1     In the mid 1800's, women in America were given few rights. They could not attend college. If a woman worked, her wages went straight to her husband. Women who had ambition were thought to be evil. Women could not vote, serve on juries, or testify in court. All these inequalities served to inspire one very fiery woman of her time. Her name was Victoria Claflin Woodhull.
2     Victoria Claflin was born in Homer, Ohio, on September 23, 1838. She was the fifth of seven children born to Reuben and Roxanna Claflin. Her father was a gristmill operator. He was always trying some new scheme to get rich quick. Her mother was a fiery-tempered woman who had many interesting hobbies. She often brought her children to religious revival meetings held in the nearby woods.
3     Victoria enjoyed imitating these preachers when she was young. She also had a lovely singing voice. Her sister Tennessee had unusual talents as well. "Tennie" seemed to have special abilities in the area of spiritualism. Spiritualism is the belief that the spirits of the dead can communicate with someone. Her father saw the girls' ability as an opportunity to make money. He took Victoria and her sister on the road. He changed his name to "Doctor" R.B. Claflin. He booked his daughters as psychic healers and fortunetellers. He traveled the countryside using his daughters to advertise his medicine show.
4     When Victoria was fifteen she got sick. She was worn out from all the traveling. She fell in love with her doctor, Dr. Canning Woodhull. He was also a medicine salesman. After they were married, he used Victoria to promote his "Elixir of Life." The marriage produced two children. The family traveled from town to town, selling Dr. Woodhull's elixir for several years. Dr. Woodhull became an abusive alcoholic. He eventually abandoned Victoria and the children. After eleven years of marriage, Victoria obtained a divorce. This was extremely difficult for women to accomplish at that time.

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