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VICTORIA WOODHULL RESPONDS TO CATHERINE BEECHER

December 2, 1871

Woman Items

Detroit ladies are going to give up corsets. They will stay no longer.

Rouge has been accurately defined as the extreme unction of departed beauty.

The Marriage, Divorce and Prostitution topic excites attention everywhere. Some two years ago the city of St. Louis adopted, as an experiment, a system of legal and police supervision of the social evil, including registration, inspection, etc. . . . St. Louis has boldly tried the experiment based upon the idea that until there is a radical change in human nature, prostitution cannot be entirely removed, and that it is better to adopt mitigating and reformatory measures and open the door through which fallen humanity may be restored to virtue and happiness. . . . The St. Louis authorities testify that since its adoption there has been a marked decline of social vice. Mayor Brown stated that a reformatory institution would soon be built, designed to aid and benefit those women who may desire to return to better lives. It must be remembered, says a Boston paper commenting upon the subject, "that this represents the police view. It is not necessarily the moral, humanitarian or Christian view." It is a deeply important subject and is still open for discussion. Its importance demands all the light that can be brought to bear upon it, and yet there are those who would stifle inquiry.

{Excerpts from a letter by Victoria C. Woodhull. Victoria’s letter was prompted by an October 1871 letter to the editor by "A Lady from Hartford," believed to be Catherine Beecher. Catherine, a member of the famous Beecher family, was among the people in Hartford, CT, who attacked Victoria Woodhull. Catherine Beecher believed Victoria was immoral. She was one of the instigators of the rumors that plagued Victoria Woodhull all her life--that she was a prostitute who shared her bedroom with two husbands at the same time.}

To the Editor of the Hartford Courant . . . For all honest criticism, I am thankful. For all ignorant misstatement, I hope to be charitable . . . . A person who, out of pure malice or to injure a cause with which he does not agree, willfully, deliberately and intentionally lies, deserves the worst of all fates. Such a crime as that is as much worse than physical murder as the loss of that which is murdered by it, is more than the loss of life. A person who will publish to the world that a brother or sister is morally an abandoned person, when he can by no possibility know but celibacy itself is lived instead, is, to my mind, as much below the murderer in the scale of being as he is below the angel. . . . We challenge you to produce a single editorial article from the columns of the WEEKLY that is immoral in its teaching; that is false and wicked in its social theories; that is 'blasphemy of religion and the exaltation of impiety;" . . . and I deny that the "editor practically or theoretically repudiates marriage.". . . To support your allegations you make a quotation from a correspondent, and hold me responsible for her statements. . . . I am only responsible for the sentiments and principles of articles appearing as editorial or without signature. I have often invited the most adverse opinions that I might more pointedly compare the higher with the lower truth. And I now say, to make my position impossible of misconception, that the columns of the Weekly are open to the communications of even a Madam Restell [the abortionist] to advocate the beneficence of her institution, of which so many of my self-constituted judges have occasion to make use, and of which, if they were to tell the truth, as they felt it, they would be obliged to say it has been a blessing to them.

I should not, however, feel called upon to follow such communication with a lengthy editorial, lest I might be held as advocating the practice of abortion; since whoever has read the WEEKLY knows I hold abortion (except to save the life of the mother) to be just as much murder as the killing of a person after birth is murder . . . . Neither should I feel especially called upon to give editorial dissent should a mistress of one of the fashionable houses of prostitution frequented by Doctors of Divinity, Medicine and Law, present the beauties of a life of prostitution in its columns, since I have too frequently endeavored to show that "prostitution is anarchy" to leave any doubt as to my position upon that question . . . . From one imputation I desire to defend myself. I am aware that a certain lady said of me to you that I was a sensualist . . . . I am a sensualist in no other sense than I worship the senses, as the only outward means by which the soul reaches perception . . . .

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Webmaster's Note: Except for some headings, these are actual extracts from the Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly. Some spelling and punctuation has been changed. If an article was too long, some sentences were removed. Sentences or paragraphs that have been removed are indicated with the ellipsis (....)