Historical fictionalized account of Victoria Woodhull’s rise to presidential candidate and wealth, coming from poverty and abuse.
“What compels a woman and her youngest sister to overcome abject poverty and violent abuse to grow up to defy convention and obliterate every barrier to become the first women to own and operate a Wall Street brokerage firm and publish their own newspaper? How did Victoria Claflin Woodhull (1838 – 1927) become the first woman invited to speak to the United State Congress, and then the first female to run for President?” These enticing words spoke to me while I was deciding whether or not to delve into yet another book that deals with feminism. Feminism about a legendary woman who is arguably the first woman suffragette that is written by a man. And what do the words ‘historically fictionalized’ mean in this account of Victoria’s life? I felt like I had a lot of research to do before even deciding if this book was indeed worth my time to read.
First, I delved into the life of the author, Neal Katz. His passion for Victoria’s story seems genuine and I also believe that feminism should know no gender boundaries. Equal rights and opportunities are a humanist approach, but for a man to take on her life’s story by writing in first person using Victoria’s words, thoughts, and point of view seemed a little out there to me – at first. You see, I have a few things in common with both Neal and Victoria. I grew up in Appalachia, I am a domestic abuse survivor, and I have a background in economics and finance that gives me great interest in micro and macroeconomics and how it shapes our world. In Neal’s own words, I think this will explain in further detail why a male, semi-retired, former CEO would want to tell Victoria’s story;
The saga of Victoria Woodhull appeals to Neal, as it serves three purposes.
- First, the story provokes public awareness of the historical and continuing degradation and subjugation of gender prejudice.
- Second, the tale exposes the historical basis for the manipulation of the “free markets” of stocks, bonds and commodities.
- Third, the story shows how existing financial and political power structures use prison and seizure of assets to prevent innovation and social change. Victoria Woodhull overcame all these obstacles in a remarkable life.
When we think of 19th century America and what women in our country had to endure, it is difficult to digest the text that tells of Victoria’s rise from poverty, abuse, and prostitution to then amazingly being respected by the most powerful men in the world, the first woman to run for President (with Frederick Douglass as her running mate) and being one of the first two women (the other was her sister, Tennessee) who had the first woman-owned registered Brokerage firm. Victoria was a woman ahead of her time and didn’t mind taking the hard road to get female voices heard. If you do not know the history of women’s suffrage and women’s rights, Victoria’s plight and fight to be heard should be taught in High School and certainly in any 101 history class. But, there is also a long undercurrent of our society’s secrets, political aspirations, and market manipulations that gave me pause to the real reason this book was and is so important to Neal.
There is quite a bit of information on the manipulations on so-called ‘free markets’ in this book, and that is for good reason. Prior to becoming an author, Neal formed and managed several businesses, specializing in finance, operations, marketing, and exit strategies. His work spanned advising and working for newly formed start-up, initial public offering, and Fortune 100 companies. Once a licensed securities broker, Mr. Katz is familiar with the financial markets from an insider’s perspective. Why is this important? It is important because Victoria’s story is intertwined in America’s financial markets and how they were easily manipulated by Mr. Vanderbilt and the so called ‘soiled sisterhood’ or ladies who worked in the top brothels of New York servicing the rich and famous men of the financial industry.
The Victoria Woodhull Saga tells the poignant, lascivious, and compelling inside story of how Victoria and her sister worked closely with Cornelius Vanderbilt (yes, ‘the richest man in America, Robber Baron, and king of steamships and railroads’ Vanderbilt) who at age 74 fell in love with the beguiling 24-year old Tennessee. Victoria provided the titan of industry “Inside Her Information” gathered through the ‘soiled sisterhood‘, the ladies of the evening working at the top seven brothels servicing the rich and famous of New York City. This relationship resulted in the great lion of industry having his last public roar as together they manipulated the financial markets, detailed in the book, and created the impending collapse of the U.S. economy in the gold scandal of 1869. To avert the crash, President Ulysses S. Grant provides the richest man in America insider information on the Gold market and telegrams Vanderbilt that his railroad company is “Too Big To Fail!” Vanderbilt was proclaimed ‘The Savior of the American Economy’ for intervening in a crisis he helped create. If this ‘too big to fail’ saga sounds familiar, it’s because it probably brings back the recent memories coined in 1984’s Congressional Hearing on the FDIC’s intervention with Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis tied to subprime lending and the subsequent bank bailouts that bring into question international monetary policy that is in place to be able to ‘stabilize’ economies when a crisis emerges.
To say that The Victoria Woodhull Saga does not make a point about our ‘free market’ society in a criticizing tone is not only a very fair statement, I would argue it is actually quite an understatement. For better or worse, you must be interested in how the rich become rich and how the powerful become and stay powerful to get into it – and it ‘ain’t’ pretty. In Victoria’s world, it was a male-dominated business and she wanted a slice of the pie and how she got there is quite remarkable. To Neal, Victoria’s plight is a righteous one and calls a lot of attention to many power-driven and successful men, from religious figures to bankers, who served to undercut those who lived in the very cruel underbelly of disadvantaged positions.
Perhaps unfairly, the timing of this book during the current American political debates and upcoming election with a female candidate in line to become the first Democratic candidate to run for President may draw some unnecessary lines to the life and times of Victoria. We are in a different time and climate while still battling much of the same inequities Victoria and her sister faced. Victoria’s story can and should stand on its own and we should take notes and make changes in our lives to not repeat infighting and elitism among those who are still striving for equal and legal standing. Empowerment and sustainable economic improvement of women, especially of single mothers, in the United States is a far cry from being accomplished. If we are looking for ways to improve and enhance Victoria’s story in her honor, we have some very big shoes (by all genders and races) to fill.
Q&A with Neal Katz author of OUTRAGEOUS: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume 1, Rise to Riches. To purchase, visit outrageousthebook.com.
- How were you introduced to the life of Victoria Woodhull and what made you so passionate to share her story? I came across Victoria in some readings about Victorian America. Then I read Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull by Barbara Goldsmith. I found so many parallels between Victoria’s life and my own that I devoured several excellent books about Victoria, her sister Tennessee Celeste Claflin, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher. The histories were informative but none captured the imagination of the American public. I hope The Victoria Woodhull Saga in four volumes will make Victoria Woodhull not only well known, but iconic.
- Victoria knew that a rise to power was through financial and political gain. Did you get a sense through your research that Victoria thought she had a chance to be elected as President of the United States as the first female in the 19th century or was there another motive for her candidacy? The audacity of declaring herself a candidate for the Presidency, securing her party’s nomination, and running a campaign through the first women-owned (Vickie and Tennessee) newspaper is astonishing. It did not matter if she could win, in fact, she was not printed on any ballots in any states, and she was wrongfully arrested and placed in prison during the voting. Once she became rich, the next logical step was to become well known and influential—the candidacy provided the opportunity. No, she would never think she could win.
- Your thoughts on our free markets come from historical and personal knowledge. How would you describe the current market in the United States or even that of the world? I believe we are literally on the brink of catastrophic disaster. There is a debt crisis about to happen that will end any appearance of “the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.” We had an opportunity in 2008, after the bank and investment firm failures to change the mentality, but greed and short-term profits were more desirable than systemic change to establish a solid foundation. This time the U.S. will not be able to prop up the world markets, and we will finally witness a true domino effect—of financial collapses. The biggest danger in this is militarism, typically when things go really bad for a country it turns to war.
- Would gender equality in America be enough to achieve sustainable economic improvement in the lives of women, especially single mothers, in our country? IF by gender equality you mean a collective mind shift that would end the subjugation, degradation, and objectification of women by men, then to some degree, yes. I have designed a program to prove to America and the world that single mothers are an investment grade asset completely under utilized in our economy.
- If Victoria were alive today, what injustices do you think she would passionately advocate against? Today Victoria would advocate what she stood for and wrote about in the 1870’s. This was her political platform: Women suffrage and equal legal standing, regulation of monopolies, nationalization of railroads, an eight hour workday, direct taxation, abolition of the death penalty, welfare and education for the poor, and equal pay for equal work. Amazingly in 1872!
- Why do you think you, as a successful businessman, are a good person to be telling Victoria’s story in first person? Many of the determining factors that befell on Victoria have occurred in my life. I recognized early on the psychological profile driving her reactions and imperatives in her life. Add to that the fact that men wrote her out of history, I believe a man should write her back into herstory!
- What surprised you the most about your research and knowledge about Victoria when writing this book? There are so many factors that surprised me. She was dazzlingly smart despite her formal education ending in the third grade (a distinction she shared with Cornelius Vanderbilt). She knew how to gather the right advisors around her. She was an incredible manipulator of the mass media of the day, the press. Most of all, overcoming the adversity of her childhood, Victoria Woodhull would not be constrained by civility, cultural dictates, propriety, nor any form of compliance. She was fearless and a champion for those less fortunate.
The Victoria Woodhull Saga continues! ‘Scandalous, The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume 2: Fame, Infamy, and Paradise Lost’ coming in Spring of 2016.
Charity: Katz has pledged one half of book sale proceeds to charities dedicating to the empowerment and sustainable economic improvement of women, especially single mothers.
About Author Neal Katz: Neal Katz is a serial entrepreneur. He harbors a passion for women’s rights and his lifestyle is centered on self-awareness and love. His novel “Outrageous: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume One: Rise to Riches” (thevictoriawoodhullsaga.com) spotlights gender prejudice, exposes early manipulation of “free markets” and reveals how political power structures used prison and seizure of assets to prevent innovation and social change. Katz promotes a new financial paradigm to monetize charities through Credit Funding, which will provide sustainable and renewable funding for diverse charitable endeavors, such as micro-finance, low-income housing, education, vocational training, and infrastructure renewal, without a single dollar donated.
For more information and a review of the Suffragette movie, please visit: www.thevictoriawoodhullsaga.com
List Price: $29.99 (Kindle Version available for $2.99 at Amazon.com)