Victoria Woodhull,(R)the Spirit to Run the White House
ELECT TO END
|TEMPORARILY CLOSING SHOP by Mary L. Shearer
In 1999 I opened up Victoria Woodhull & Company in my mother's home and have continued it there for all these years. For those of you who don't know, my mother June Fogg Shearer was the great-granddaughter of Isabella Morrill Fogg Blood who was called Nanna by her grandchildren. Isabell was the third wife of Colonel James Harvey Blood who after the civil war was simply called "Colonel" instead of by his first name. Colonel's second wife was previously married to Victoria Claflin Woodhull when she ran for President of the United States in 1872. Victoria is obviously the reason you're on this page.
My mother died in September 2014. With the sale of my mother's home in Jackson, I can no longer run my business from Michigan. I have to re-open it in the state of Illinois. Since I'm not familiar with the business tax laws in Illinois, it may take some time to set up the e-commerce portion of the site, so I'm temporarily closing up the web store until that can be accomplished.
I'm offering a $200 reward to the first person who can provide me with a genuine copy of an Ottawa, Illinois 1863 or 1864 "Cult of Love" ad. In Barbara Goldsmith's 1998 biography of Victoria Woodhull, "Other Powers," published by Alfred A. Knopf, she states on page 81 that Buck Claflin "advertised in the Ottawa Free Trader that on the first floor of the Fox River House lessons in the 'cult of love' were to be taught. In the summer of 1863, there were several complaints that the extra rooms at the Fox River House were being used for assignations and that Buck's daughters were prostitutes. The charges were never proved." In Goldsmith's notes on page 460 she provides the source as follows: "'cult of love': Ottawa Free Trader (April 4, 1863), courtesy of Chicago History Works...."
All four pages of the April 4, 1863 edition of the Ottawa Free Trader are now online through the Library of Congress:
You can see for yourself there's no "Cult of Love" ad in the Apr. 4, 1863 edition of the Ottawa Free Trader. Considering that it was perhaps a typo, I checked other dates and other Ottawa, Illinois papers, but I still couldn't find an ad for the "Cult of Love" or even an article in the Free Trader in the 1860's accusing the Claflins of prostitution. The earliest mention I can find for the "cult of love" in reference to the Claflins is on page 35 of Emanie Sachs' 1928 book "The Terrible Siren: "The Claflins did well enough in Ottawa to rent the Fox River House, the town's oldest hotel for a cancer infirmary, where the 'cult of love' was taught incidentally." The Terrible Siren isn't footnoted, so Sachs' source for the phrase is unknown. I even sent an email to Chicago History Works asking them for the copy of the ad they supposedly provided to Barbara Goldsmith. They had no idea what I was talking about, although I do admit I contacted them years after the fact. Perhaps whoever obtained it was no longer with the company. This "cult of love ad" is one of a very few pieces of evidence that Victoria's sister Tennessee Claflin could've been a prostitute in the 1860's, and it can't be found and a copy of it has never been published by anyone, including Barbara Goldsmith who cites it as a source in her book.
Barbara Goldsmith is one of the authors who presents as a "fact" that Victoria Woodhull and her sister were prostitutes rather than presenting it as a debatable point of history that may or may not be true. I present the family point of view that Victoria was never a prostitute. At first she ignored the allegations, according to her on the advice of attorneys, but eventually was involved in at least two libel lawsuits in the 1870's denying the allegations. The accusations angered and depressed her. So, to every author who says she was definitely a prostitute, prove me and Victoria wrong! Stop hiding behind the libelous Joseph Treat pamphlet and the libelous 1892 Chicago Mail articles as your evidence and produce primary evidence like an arrest record, court record, or newspaper account from the 1850's and 1860's showing any of the Claflin sisters were prostitutes. Produce the "Cult of Love" ad that Buck Claflin is supposed to have published. If the ad exists, I'll publish it here and send $200 to the first person who provides it to me. I'm waiting....
A few years ago I travelled to Ottawa, Illinois in search of the ad. Someone at the Historical Society said it was very unlikely that an ad for prostitution would have been printed in Ottawa newspapers at that time. While I didn't find any ads for the "Cult of Love," I did find ads for Dr. R.B. Claflin and for Tennessee Claflin. Here's a typical ad for Tennessee Claflin in the April 9, 1864 edition of the Ottawa Free Trader. Make of it what you will:
MEET COLONEL BLOOD'S FAMILY
Recently a novelist with the pen name Nicole Evelina has written an article about Colonel Blood with incorrect information. She tries to tie herself to my family by saying, "Oddly enough, I am from St. Louis and I dated a guy with the last name of Blood in high school, so I can't help but wonder if he's a descendant. How weird would that be?" She knows that I exist as she links to my web site and yet never bothered to ask me if her former boyfriend is a relative. Without even knowing his name, I can say for sure he's not a descendant of Colonel Blood. Colonel has no living biological descendants. His only daughter (Evelina incorrectly says he had two daughters) Carrie Blood Blake didn't have any biological children. Carrie had one adopted daughter who has living descendants. Colonel Blood's step-sons Frank and Irving Fogg also have descendants. Even without this information, simple logic should've revealed the answer to Evelina. She claims Colonel had two daughters. Why would a daughter have a child with the Blood surname instead of the surname of her husband? Even Victoria Woodhull's children bore the surname of their father and not their mother. Evelina claims that Victoria's father "Back" (should be Buck) "was running a house of prostitution and using four of his daughters, including Tennie, as whores for men." I looked at her sources listed--which oddly enough includes my web site--and believe she's relying on Chapter 9 of Barbara Goldsmith's book, "Other Powers." Goldsmith doesn't provide her source for the offending paragraph although the mention of the "servant girls" suggests to me that her source was the 1892 Chicago Mail whose editor Joseph R. Dunlop eventually changed the paper's name to the Chicago Dispatch and was sued by Victoria's third husband for libel. Dunlop served nearly two years in Joliet prison for publishing obscenity and was accused of blackmailing prominent people. He asked them for money or else he would publish articles that would ruin their reputations. A later paragraph in the same Chapter 9 says that Tennie "had ten men visit her in one night" citing the libelous Joseph Treat pamphlet which Goldsmith admits in her notes for Chapter 33 was "never substantiated, has, I believe framed the common perception that Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee C. Claflin were nothing more than self-aggrandizing prostitutes--clearly a misconception." Very few writers acknowledge that Joseph Treat was arrested for the criminal libel of Victoria Woodhull and her sisters for publishing the pamphlet Goldsmith cited. If Goldsmith and Evelina had published in the 19th century what they wrote about Victoria Woodhull, they probably would've been arrested for criminal libel, too.
Newspapers in 1876 reported that Victoria Woodhull's daughter responded to allegations of prostitution by Treat and others by saying, "Mamma, if you can not clear this stain from your character telegraph me. I will kill myself, and you see that you do the same." Whether that story is true or not, it reflects how damaging the allegations were to the family. It's my belief, and appears to be the belief of biographers Mary Gabriel and Lois Beachy Underhill as well, that the publication of the libelous Treat pamphlet with the allegations of prostitution is what led to her divorce from Colonel Blood. Victoria was disappointed that Colonel had failed to protect her reputation and blamed him in part for destroying it. The allegations of prostitution are part of what drove her from this country to England.
It's a relatively unknown fact that the definitive biography of Victoria Woodhull, the 1928 "Terrible Siren" by Emanie Sachs, was considered "potentially libelous" by attorneys for the publishers but Harper & Brothers published it anyway. Since Buck Claflin was dead, Sachs probably felt safer to write anything about him, although she still had to be careful about the living to protect herself from a civil or criminal libel suit. A friend of Colonel's told Emanie Sachs that Fannie and Colonel were lovers around the time she was 20 or so when they were both single (that would be sometime around 1882). When my great-great-uncle Charles Koss, a New York attorney, got wind of Sachs' book in the 1920's he threatened to sue her for libeling his wife Fannie, seeking two million dollars in damages. Fannie isn't mentioned in the book. |
Evelina makes the outrageous claim that Fannie was rumored to have had an affair with Colonel while he and Victoria were married. That's a complete misreading of this web site which presented just one of the legends about Fannie and Colonel. There was almost a 30 year age difference between Fannie and Colonel. Family legend also has it that Colonel Blood was interested in Fannie, but she wasn't interested in him. Certainly if my family believed Colonel and Fannie were lovers, my Nanna Blood would've never married him nor trusted him enough to allow him to chaperone Fannie on her voyage to Italy. The records show that Colonel accompanied Fannie to Italy, so the story that Nanna sent Fannie to Italy to get her away from Colonel can't be true. It's just a legend and I identified it as such. Colonel left Fannie in Milano to study opera and continued on to Africa where he died in 1885. (I was saving the information I just provided for my own book but Evelina has forced me to provide it to prevent the blackening of Aunt Fannie's name.)Another source that Evelina cites is Myra MacPherson's "The Scarlet Sisters." Has Evelina even read her sources? MacPherson wrote on page 322: "Back to the question of whether the sisters were prostitutes. After reading everything available, I am inclined to think they may have been occasionally for sale when they were under their father's devious rule and possibly when they came out of prison destitute and tried to keep the Weekly and their various causes afloat. Still, it is conjecture, and authors who make it otherwise are using hearsay to create a sensational 'fact.'" On Evelina's web site, she wrote about me: "I've found out through comments to my Huffington Post article that descendants of Victoria's family do not believe the bad things circulated about Victoria's early life. Certainly, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and to their own research. All I can say is that my sources, which include many recent biographies (listed at the end of this post; full sources for the book are listed here), include this information and in turn cite their own sources." She disagrees with me and then she links to her sources which include me! She incorrectly refers to me as a member of Victoria's family when I clearly stated on Huffington Post that I'm the great-granddaughter of Colonel Blood's step-son. Since Evelina is a novelist, she can make up whatever she wants, but it's hurtful and damaging to twist one of my family legends into something it's not and pass it off as history.
RESEARCHING VICTORIA WOODHULL
My mother was the one who introduced me to Col. Blood. She showed me his picture which was labeled Col. J.H. Blood and I was drawn to it. We pulled out the Fogg family genealogy by her cousin Lillian Fogg Lee and learned together about Colonel Blood's previous marriage to Victoria Woodhull. When my mother was born in Michigan in 1927, Victoria Woodhull was still alive, although Victoria would die a few days later in England, so to me, the era of Victoria Woodhull doesn't seem that long ago. I've had the opportunity to stand on the Indian mound in Homer where she played as a child, and I've visited several of the towns where she lived.
By remarkable coincidence I learned that Victoria Woodhull had been arrested for selling obscene pamphlets in 1873 in Jackson, Michigan, where my business was founded, and the man who had her arrested was Judge Videto. The case was dismissed. When my Uncle Richard Shearer celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary, I ended up seated next to a descendant of Judge Videto's brother. He was a friend of my uncle. What a small world!
For nearly 20 years I've been doing in-depth research about Victoria Woodhull, Colonel Blood, and their families. Based on all the information I've discovered about Victoria Woodhull that others haven't, I probably know more about Victoria Woodhull's life in America than anyone else in the world. Most people who write about Victoria's life between 1838-1869 rely primarily on the 1928 biography "Terrible Siren" by Emanie Sachs instead of consulting original records and newspapers from that time. They repeat the errors Sachs made: Canning Woodhull's father wasn't a judge, Col. Blood wasn't a Colonel, there was no marriage of an Underwood to a Hamilton, etc. By seeking primary evidence, I uncovered Victoria's secret 1865 marriage record and documentation of her1868 divorce which was supposed to be non-existent because of the Great Chicago Fire. I discovered proof that Col. Blood was, in fact, divorced from his wife Mary before he and Victoria married in Dayton, Ohio in 1866. (Some writers have speculated he never divorced his first wife.) I also discovered the first marriage record, of Victoria's sister, the future Lady Tennessee Cook, Viscountess of Monserrate. I've identified family members who were previously unknown or known by their last names only, trying to flesh out a more complete picture of the family that surrounded Victoria Woodhull and Colonel Blood.
It irks me that so many writers seek out intimate details of the private lives of the Claflins, Woodhulls, Bloods, and Martins, and claim to know for a FACT everything about Victoria Woodhull's love life, but neglect to get simple facts right like a name. For nearly 70 years writers referred to Colonel Blood's first wife as "Mrs. Blood" never bothering to find out her full name. When Barbara Goldsmith finally gave a first name to his first wife in 1998, it was the wrong one! She said his first wife was "Isabel" not Mary Ann Clapp Harrington.
I've seen an article on SIU's web site that claims my web site doesn't follow the published books on this topic. Why should I when I know that some of what has been published about my own family is incorrect. Using Emanie Sachs as his source, M.M. Marberry on page 242 of his 1967 biography "Vicky," wrote about Colonel and my Nanna Blood as follows: "His bride was the mother of Frank Fogg, who was a man his own age. The widow had money and she financed an expedition to mine gold in Africa." Thanks to Sachs and Marberry the impression given over the decades was that Nanna Blood was a wealthy, elderly widow that Colonel Blood had married only for her money, and that he was still madly in love with Victoria when he died and trying to win her back with gold. As a member of his step-son's family, I can tell you with certainty that Isabell was a divorcee, not a widow. Her entire divorce settlement was definitely less than $800 (less than $20,000 in today's dollars) so she certainly wasn't wealthy when Colonel Blood married her. Nanna Blood was born in November 1833 and Colonel Blood in December 1833. My great-grandfather Frank Fogg was born in 1854 and therefore not a man of Colonel Blood's age. While these details may be unimportant to some people, it indicates that Victoria's biographers don't always have their facts right.
This branch of Foggs wasn't and still isn't a wealthy family. The amount of gold returned to this country by Frank Fogg in 1887 was only $25,000. As a young man, Frank Fogg was a shoemaker and a schoolteacher. Later he was a labor orator, newspaper editor, small-town lawyer, and Greenback politician. Only my great-great-aunt Fannie Fogg Koss and her daughter were "rich" and that was largely because Fannie married the attorney for the wealthy Wendel family in 1889 four years after Colonel's death. (Fannie was Col. Blood's step-daughter and supposedly left an estate of about a million dollars in 1927.) It wasn't until years after Col. Blood's death that Nanna Blood made money buying and selling real estate, too late for money to have been a motive for their marriage. While she was well-off enough to leave a total of about $14,000 in cash bequests (worth about $369,000 today), she was hardly a Rockefeller or a Vanderbilt and none of her money passed down to my mother. My mother was a stay-at-home mom and my father was a letter carrier.
Several times the "facts" that other writers have printed have resulted in sending me off on expensive, wild goose chases, and people wonder why I question everything I read in her biographies. One author said Colonel Blood had one son and a daughter. I knew the name of Col. Blood's only daughter, but I spent years looking for the son until I found him. I was in the NY Public Library reading a letter by anarchist Benjamin Ricketson Tucker to Emanie Sachs, and he was talking about Colonel Blood's "son." Finally I would learn his name and find out what happened to him! The letter went on to say that Col. Blood's son went to Africa to bring back the body and that his daughter-in-law was pregnant. All of a sudden I realized the son I had been looking for all these years was my great-grandfather and that his "daughter-in-law" (my great-grandmother) was pregnant with my grandfather! I laughed when I saw how Tucker described my family. He called my family the "genteel poor." How different his portrayal of my family compared to M.M. Marberry. Years later I discovered a birth record for what is most likely Col. Blood's real son, an unnamed infant who died in St. Louis.
So what is my point? If you are doing research about Victoria Woodhull, please seek out primary evidence about Victoria Woodhull and her family instead of relying on third party accounts and hearsay evidence that in some cases can be proven to be incorrect. If an author can produce primary evidence that Victoria Woodhull was a prostitute, I'll be happy to change my opinion and admit that Victoria covered it up and denied it in spite of the evidence. But until someone can produce primary evidence that Victoria Woodhull was a prostitute, I consider her to be a victim of vicious rumor and innuendo.
Victoria Woodhull & Company