Portrait of Victoria Woodhull

Once and for all time, let me assure the highly respectable male citizen from Vineland that I have done whatever was necessary to perform what I conceived to be my duty, and so long as I live I shall continue to do whatever is necessary, even to giving my life, but that shall be the last resort. Everything else before that, even if it be the crucifixion of my body in the manner for which I am now arraigned. If you do not want one to be forced to that extreme, come to my rescue as you ought to have done before, and not let me fight the battle all alone, and be subjected even to the possibility of a thing so utterly abhorrent to me as to submit sexually for money to a man I do not love. If Mr. Cotton, or if any of you are so terribly alarmed lest I may have been obliged to do this, let him and you manifest your alarm by rallying to my support so as to insure that no such exigency shall ever again arise. I hope Mr. Cotton and you are answered. But perhaps he may desire to tell you what he knows about sexuality.

Mr. Cotton—Give me five minutes and I’ll tell.

The Chairman—I will give you one minute and a half.

Mrs. Woodhull—I do not know whether you are a virgin or not, having by that virtue had the right to cast your stone at me. {Laughter.}

Mr. Cotton—So far as outside the marriage relation, I am. {Cheers.}

Mrs. Woodhull—He is a virgin. What have I always said? That you have the right to love one woman or forty women, and nobody has the right to say no. And no one has the right to exercise any tyranny over my sexual organs any more than they have over the processes of thought in my brain. I know none are without sin, which I call virtue. Without sexual desire you are not men and women. You are the result of men and women copulating before you. You are the result of that act; and that act is my religion, and by that act the world is moved today. And I shall love it and admire it, and pray God that my sexual desires may become so purified and intensified that I may be able to enjoy them as I do any other desire or passion of my soul; and if I want sexual intercourse with one hundred men I shall have it. This question is up for discussion, and we may as well have it out with these people who are so terribly alarmed about their virtue. I am sick and disgusted with their cant; and I repeat here, as I said yesterday to Mrs. Hardy, in that room, that if Col. Blood surely loved her—because I know nobody can know except himself—it would be my courtesy to mind my own business. And I hold that this would be true courtesy. I do not propose to be mortified. And if I or you wanted intercourse fifty times a week, or but once in a lifetime, or at any other time, when feeling disposed nobody has a right to interfere. And this sexual intercourse business may just as well be discussed now, and discussed until you are become so familiar with your sexual organs that a reference to them will no longer make the blush mount to your face any more than a reference to any other part of your body? Have I not done my work? Have I not done everything that was demanded of me? Have I not carried this important work on through every state? And I shall do so still. I shall push forward this great question of sexual adaptation, for I am the result of a sexual abortion, and my first child is a sexual abortion; and I have it on the brain, and I propose to keep it on the brain until the brain rules the sexual relationship. I do not propose to have any blush on my face for any act of my life. My life has been my own; I have nothing to apologize for. I do not ask you to accept any of my sexual relations; but I ask you to be happy, and then you will be virtuous; and then I think we will have no more of this blackguardism and discussion about anybody else’s sexual organs; for if you knew how contemptible it is, you would mind your own business, and permit everybody else to do the same.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Although many people read the same speech, they didn’t come to the same conclusion. Some people ignored the subjunctive case, which she used throughout her speech, and swore she admitted to being a prostitute. Others, like Dr. Joseph Greer, who was at the convention, came to a different conclusion. He was certain Victoria was not a prostitute. He knew her personally and believed she was a good woman.

It’s true that Victoria didn’t deny the accusations that she was a prostitute, but neither did she confirm them. She said, in a nutshell, it’s none of your business!

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