Jessa Crispin at The Baffler:
It was not, at one time, considered so remarkable that a candidate for the United States presidency talked to the dead. That the candidate was a former prostitute and an advocate for free love was more worrying. What’s more, her vice-presidential pick was a former slave; that was likely the surest sign that Victoria Woodhull was not going to be the next American president.
It was the election of 1872, and Woodhull stood as the nominee for the newly organized Equal Rights Party, with Frederick Douglass as her VP. (There’s no real evidence to show that Douglass agreed to this arrangement, and he certainly did not campaign with her.) Women might not have had the right to vote, but they could run for office, and Woodhull felt that the presidency was her destiny.
In the end, the first woman to seek the White House received no electoral college votes, and her party made the ballot in only twenty-two states. Her enemies pounced on her utopian call for sexual freedom for both men and women, and stirred up the fear of miscegenation that white voters felt, with only minimal prompting, at the sight of a white woman consorting with a black man. Meanwhile, Woodhull’s history of working as a clairvoyant and her vocal support of Spiritualism were not much of a hindrance to her campaign. Go figure.