The Oscar-winning actress, Brie Larson, is reportedly set to play Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to ever run for President of the United States, in a new biopic of the same name for Amazon Film.
If Hillary Clinton put “about 18 million cracks” in that highest of glass ceilings, it was Woodhall who put the very first one. 136 years before Clinton attempted her first run in 2008, Woodhall ran for office under the banner of the Equal Rights Party, almost 50 years prior to women being granted the right to vote. Nominated in 1872 to run against incumbent Republican Ulysses S. Grant and Democrat Horace Greeley, Woodhall would have been just 34 years old on inauguration day had she won — according to the constitution, the president must be 35 on the day “he” assumed office.
Unsurprisingly this was the least of her worries since, come election day, Woodhall failed to secure a single electoral vote, although it is unknown how many popular votes she received. But Woodhall was a woman well-ahead of her time and showed an unquenchable thirst to challenge the patriarchal status quo. Prior to running for President she and her sister had become the first female stockbrokers and the first women to found and run a Wall Street brokerage firm, with the financial backing of shipping millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt, the “richest man in America”. Using the money from the brokerage business the sisters set up a radical newspaper named Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly and, one year later, Victoria took on a leadership role in the Karl Marx International Workingmen’s Association. It was that same year that she announced she would run for President.
Woodhall ran on a distinctively women’s rights’ based agenda, opposing what she referred to as “sexual slavery”— the double standard of permitting male promiscuity but stigmatizing married women for the same behavior; advocating a woman’s right to “marry, divorce, and bear children without government interference; legalizing prostitution and even for raising the hemline on women’s skirts, so tired were they, she said, of dragging long and heavy material through New York’s muddy streets. This was a time before the pantsuit, let us not forget.
All these years later and although Hillary Clinton may have secured significantly more votes than her feminist foremother, in many ways the recent election saw history repeat itself quite spectacularly, with, ultimately, the same result. Both women ran with equal rights at the core of their campaigning, including equal pay for equal work and help for working mothers raising children (yep, we’re still fighting for these things). And both women, in their attempts to enter the male-dominated political sphere, were subjected to a seemingly inevitable tirade of misogynistic abuse, each compared to the generic sexist trope “witch“.
Meanwhile, the double standard against which Woodhull so vociferously campaigned is, as Trump’s victory attests, still very much alive. While Woodhull was publicly disgraced for her supposedly salacious sexual past — it was revealed that at one point she shared a house with two of her ex-husbands, scandal! — more than 100 years later, no amount of “pussy grabbing” could stop Trump from entering the White House.
So, the timing then could not be more apt for a film seeking to revive the history of America’s extraordinary first female-candidate for president. Larson, who has been a vocal champion of women’s rights throughout her career, will also serve as a producer on the film, according to Deadline.