And the first woman to run for president is? No sooner had I Tweeted this question earlier today then @two_ontheaisle came back with “Victoria Woodhull.” I was impressed, as I had never hear of Woodhull until this morning, when NPR’s Contenders tipped me off about her special place in American history. Of course, perhaps @two_ontheaisle listened to the series, which broadcast last week or chanced upon it online as I did earlier today.
Contenders, an NPR Radio Diaries series, profiled “Some of the Most Original Presidential Candidates in American History.” And Woodhull was singularly “original,” flaws and all. The forgotten political trailblazer even “may have been a bit of a huckster” according to SUNY professor and author Amanda Frisken.
Still, when you consider that in addition to her quixotic candidacy, Woodhull was the first female stockbroker, and publicly advocated “free love,” all in a time before women where given the right to the ballot, you can’t help but admire her pluck and nerve.
Other spirited, “original” figures profiled include William Jennings Bryan, whose thundering “Cross of Gold” speech is considered among the greatest orations in U.S. political history, Nixon White House scourge and civil rights pioneer Shirley Chisholm, and the redoubtable Margaret Chase Smith, who dispensed muffin recipes during her 1964 bid for the GOP nomination.