Portrait of Victoria Woodhull

Some of her supporters abandoned her because she didn’t make a forthright denial of the charges. They forgot she already made a denial nine months ago, during her speech in Cooper Union on "The Naked Truth."

"Now, probably there are not ten in this audience—in many an audience that I address there is not one—who know or have any right to assume to know, from anything I ever said, or from anything they know of my life, whether I live the life of a nun, or whether I live as the exclusive wife of one man, or whether I am what the cry indicates. Mrs. Hooker and several other of my anxious female friends, who have had the opportunity to know most about my life, have on various occasions, taken the pains to assure the public that I am one of the most exclusive and monogamic of matrons. For my own part I have been perfectly willing that the world should think just the other way, if that same public choose to humbug itself into whatsoever preposterous idea—both to accustom the world to accept the idea of freedom for others, who might want a broader social sphere than I do, and also to give the world just this lesson—that it is none of its business (except for very special occasions) what my private life is, as it is none of my business (except for very special occasions) what the private life of anybody else is.

Do you not now begin to understand, that whosoever believes in the better policy, for society, of leaving the love affairs of the community to regulate themselves, instead of trusting to legislation to regulate them, is a free lover; and that being a free lover no more determines that one is low or promiscuous in one’s habits, than believing that people shall have the right to choose their own food, determines that the person who believes so, has the personal habit of living on rotten meat or bad eggs."


The most scandalous stories about Victoria Woodhull were published in what came to be known as the Treat pamphlet. Dr. Joseph Treat was formerly Associate Editor of Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly. He was also an acquaintance of Mr. Cotton, who had confronted her at the Chicago Convention. Dr. Treat published "Beecher, Tilton, Woodhull, the Creation of Society" in 1874.

In his pamphlet, Dr. Treat spoke of Tennie and the Chicago Convention. "In the hotel at Chicago she openly declared that your paper was supported by prostitution, a statement that she has recently, repeatedly made here. And at Chicago, she said to Anna Middlebrook, "What do you think I’ve been telling people here? I’ve told them I was a prostitute?"

"Well, I’m sorry you had it to tell!"

Of Victoria, Dr. Treat wrote, "Last March, on your Chicago trip, Col. not being with you, you rode in a sleeping-car with a prominent business man of Boston, well known also in this city. He himself related the story to friends here, from one of whom I repeatedly received it; and I do not doubt, did he know all, he would, for the honor of true manliness, and to be in the good company of those who will do justice to woman, come forward and stand sponsor for this statement; but as it is, his name has not been given me. He said the conversation mutually recognized the fact that you were one thing on the platform, and another off it. And what do you charge a night when you are not on the platform?" said he.’

"’Two hundred and fifty dollars.’ [over $3,500.00 in today’s dollars]

"He paid it and then and there mingled the rushing tide of his life with yours.’"

Treat was later arrested for libel, and he wasn’t the only one arrested. Victoria, Tennie C., and Colonel filed a lawsuit for libel against a publisher in the Midwest for falsely claiming that the Claflin sisters were prostitutes—a fact that has been left out of every one of the Victoria Woodhull biographies.


By a twist of fate, Victoria Woodhull never got her day in court that may have cleared her of the charges of prostitution. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Victoria and Colonel divorced. The following year Victoria left for England to get the rest she so desperately desired, and the verdict was left, not to the courts, but to history.



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