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MikeBo’s Blog Cloudy, Showers 83°F/28°C in Cedar Park, TX Showers  60°F/ 16°C in Washington, DC Buonagiornata miei amici About ten years ago, with the ennui of retirement hanging heavily on my shoulders, I decided to return to college. Now, mind you, I was well into my sixties and well above the age of most of my fellow students, not to mention most of the faculty at nearby San Joaquin Delta College. And, so it was, that over lunch with my History professor in the faculty lounge, I decided to  change my major from Communications to History. Thank you, Professor Wesley Swanson! If I had not changed my Major, I would not have met Victoria Woodhull, one of the most fascinating players in American politics. Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for President of the United States! Declaring her candidacy in 1871, fifty years before women won the vote. But, Woodhull saw her opening: there was no law against a female candidate for office! In fact, Ms. Woodhull argued that women already had the vote, since the 14th and 15th Amendments, with no mention of gender, granted the right to vote to all citizens of the USA. Born into a family of medicine show performers, young Victoria spent her youth traveling with Victoria Woodhull her family’s medicine show telling fortunes and peddling the remedies of her days. But she and her sister Tennie eventually became  financial advisors to tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. That relationship was parlayed into the first New York stock brokerage owned by a woman, Woodhull, Clafin & Company. Out of that enterprise, Woodhull founded Woodhull and Clafin’s Weekly, a weekly newspaper which espoused women’s suffrage and labor reform and became notorious for its controversial subject matter such as sex education, free love, short skirts, spiritualism, vegetarianism and licensed prostitution. Woodhull testified before the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of women’s suffrage and took her place in the top tier of the women’s suffrage movement along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Ironically, she was unable to vote for herself as the presidential candidate of the Equal Rights Party in the 1872 election. She was in jail, charged with obscenity, for a scandalous article about the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher of Brooklyn, NY. She was a controversial, but popular person in her day. Some would say she was way ahead of her time.  It would not be until 1940 that another woman would toss her hat into the presidential ring, and that would be a Hollywood publicity stunt. 1940: Gracie Allen and “The Surprise Party!”     Comedian George Burns’  wife and life partner needed a publicity boost for the couple’s failing radio show, The Hinds Honey & Almond Cream Program, starring, of course – George Burns and Gracie Allen. Pre-dating by almost thirty years Pat Paulsen’s hilarious run for the Presidency in 1968, Gracie Allen used her ditzy persona  to poke fun at all things political. Her opponents were Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, Republican Wendell Willkie and Socialist Norman Thomas. Roosevelt was re-elected to an unprecedented third term. Neither Socialist Thomas nor Gracie won not one electoral vote. 1972: Shirley Chisholm, Democrat and Linda Jenness, Socialist Workers Party     Shirley Chisholm made history in 1968 when she became the first African-American woman Shirley Chisholm elected to Congress. In 1972 she tried to make history for a second time by making a run for her party’s presidential nomination. Calling herself The Candidate of the People, she struggled for acceptance as a viable presidential  candidate. By convention’s end, Shirley Chisholm had placed fourth after George McGovern for the Democratic Party nomination. McGovern was defeated by Republican Richard Nixon in his re-election landslide. 1972 proved to be a twilight of sorts for the Socialist Workers Party which dissolved following the election. It’s primary candidate, Linda Jenness, a secretary from Atlanta shared the Socialist presidential candidacy with another female candidate, Evelyn Reed. Reed ran in Jenness’  place in those states where Jenness did not appear on the ballot because of her age. However, Jenness did manage to gather more than 83,000 votes in 1972. 2008: Hillary Clinton Seeks the Democratic Nomination for the first time.    The former First Lady and US Senator from New York mounted her first quest for her party’s presidential nomination in 2008 but withdrew in June 2008 to endorse the ultimate winner and first African-American President, Barack Obama. The new President appointed her Secretary of State, a post she held until 2013. Hillary Clinton did win her party’s presidential nomination in 2016 and won the popular vote. But, in a quirk inserted into the US Constitution by the Founders, she lost the Electoral College vote to Donald Trump 304 to 227. It remains to be seen if Clinton will try again in 2020. 2012, 2016: The Green Party’s Jill Stein.     Jill Stein won 469,015 votes in the 2012 presidential elections, the most successful presidential candidacy ever conducted by a woman. She returned in 2016 to face another female candidate, Democrat Hillary Clinton as well as the eventual winner, Donald Trump. How is 2020 shaping up?      It’s a foregone conclusion that Donald Trump will seek re-election in 2020. Just ask him. But, when Nikki Haley unexpectedly resigned as UN Ambassador, her name instantly came up as a potential GOP Presidential candidate. Over on the Democratic side, Politico Magazine identifies four women as potential candidates: California Senator Kamala Harris; Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator from New York; and Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota. Politico is stating flatly, Why 2020 Will Be the Year of the Woman. And  goes on to say, Democrats are pining for the karmic justice of defeating Trump with shards from a glass ceiling! I wonder what Victoria Woodhull would say to all of this. Following the 1872 election Woodhull’s life continued to follow a tumultuous path, falling out of favor with Susan B. Anthony over her stance on free love. In 1877 with her sister Tennie,  she left New York to start a new life in England where she lived to the ripe old age of 88, dying in 1927. She had survived long enough to see women get the vote. Now, as we count the days until the midterm election in November and the next Presidential election in 2020, Victoria Woodhull’s name should be part of the conversation each time that mention is made of a female presidential candidate. Ciao, MikeBo [Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com]

LST 920: Charlie Botula's Long, Slow Target!

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