Portrait of Victoria Woodhull


A Review Of The Evidence


If Victoria Woodhull wasn’t a prostitute, why do people say she was? Her friends and acquaintances claim she was misrepresented and slandered because she held unpopular beliefs. Her opponents couldn’t defend their positions by rational debate so they resorted to personal attacks. They twisted her words and took them out of context to prove she was a loose, immoral woman. In that way, her opponents could discredit her.

But "where there’s smoke, there’s fire" you may object. There must be something to the allegations. Otherwise, historians would have disproved them already. Both Barbara Goldsmith and Irving Wallace were convinced that Victoria was a prostitute. They must have been right? Ask yourself, what sells more books and movie tickets: "The Prostitute Who Ran for President" or "The Libeled Woman Who Ran for President?" You can decide for yourself, based on a review of the evidence, whether or not Victoria was a prostitute.


"Yes, I am a Free Lover. 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."

Those oft-quoted words of Victoria shocked the Victorian public, as they still shock the public today. They’ve been used to support the allegations of immorality and prostitution. But her words have been misunderstood. How do we know? Because Victoria said so:

"I said in my Steinway Hall speech, something to the effect, that I have the right to change my love every day or every night if I choose to do so; and the public press, and the public itself, cry out in chorus, Mrs. Woodhull confesses that she lives an utterly abandoned life; she lives and sleeps with two or three or five hundred or some other egregious number of men. Now all this is very absurd, and the public will come, at some early day, to be very much ashamed of it."

Victoria’s sex life was fodder for the newspaper, and it aggravated her. She believed in the right to privacy. One day around 1874 she was traveling from Washington to New York when a woman asked pryingly, "Oh, Mrs. Woodhull, is it true that you are a promiscuous woman?"

Victoria replied, "Well, I do not know what you would call promiscuous. Let me ask you a question, and then I may be able to determine." She continued, "Madame, I believe you have known at least four different men sexually. Is that true?"

"Oh, yes! I am now living with my fourth husband."

Victoria turned away from her. "Madame, you are altogether too promiscuous for me!"

Victoria was angered that a woman with four husbands was socially acceptable, while a woman who cohabitated with one man was an immoral woman: "Society permits a woman to have a dozen men, legally, in as many years, and she is all right. She’s sound on the Goose Question. But if a woman live with her sexual mate without the payment of the [marriage license] fee, she is all wrong; she is a prostitute. And this is called purity, called morality! I say damn such morals."


Victoria was vehemently opposed to prostitution. In numerous speeches she spoke out against men and women having sex for any other reason than love. She even went so far to say that women who married for food and shelter, and not for love, were prostitutes, too. Nevertheless, her journal, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, advocated the legalization of prostitution to combat hypocrisy and prevent venereal disease.


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