Annotated biographies , Historical Fiction and Young Adult Material about The Claflin Sisters.

“Victoria Woodhull awaits a dispassionate biography, so secondary sources must be used with care. “ — Anne Braude, Radical Spirits, 2001.

“I am a profound believer that all history is false. The people who are alive are prejudiced in their accounts of things and after those people are dead, the testimony they leave is the only thing other writers have by way of foundation for what they say." -- Carrie Chapman Catt, discussing Victoria Woodhull in 1927

America’s Victoria: Remembering Victoria Woodhull.

DVD. 1998. This documentary included interviews with Professor Ellen DuBois and Gloria Steinem as well as with a gentleman who knew Victoria in England.

Condray, Suzanne E.

“Victoria Claflin Woodhull (1838-1927), a radical for woman’s rights,” Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Biographical Source Book, Karilyn Kors Campbell, ed, Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 1993.

Darwin, M.F.

One Moral Standard For All: Extracts from the lives of Victoria Claflin Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin. New York, n.d.

Gabriel, Mary.

Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books. 1998. 336 pp. Available online at Review of Gabriel from School Library Journal: A fine biography of a little-known 19th-century suffragette. Woodhull’s achievements read like fiction, especially considering her times...Young adults will enjoy her story, and marvel at 19th century morals. A highly readable addition to biography and women’s rights shelves. (Catherine Noonan, Fairfax County Public Library, VA. Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Goldsmith, Barbara.

Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1998. 531 pp. Available online at Although written in an engaging style, Goldsmith’s book is fraught with problems, including problematic sources.

Professor emerita of Smith College, and Woodhull scholar Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz [italics editors]:

When she focuses on her primary subject, Goldsmith reveals much of the method and intent that Sachs conveyed to [Benjamin R.] Tucker. Goldsmith wants her subject to be vivid above all. When Goldsmith has an unsubstantiated rumor or intuition, she, like her predecessor, feels free to state it as fact. She, too, turns rhetorical devices from later speeches, articles, and court testimony into conversation and places them in the mouths of participants. When faced with a choice between a political explanation and a personal one, Goldsmith, like Sachs, goes for the personal and, if available, the sexual.

To be fair, Goldsmith and Sachs share a belief in the importance of the sexual element in history … at times both writers tend to do so in a manner appropriate to a scandal sheetalmost everything that newspaper reviewers have praised in Goldsmith’s account of Spiritualism can be traced to [Ann] Braude’s pathbreaking work … In Goldsmith’s account, recent scholarship coexists with the books of the 1920s and this poses difficulties for the reader. The dramatic, vivid works of the 1920s … do not provide reliable accounts with accurate citations that can be retraced by historians. Can we depend on them? With a subject such as Victoria Woodhull, who has known to refashion her life story to suit the needs of the moment, can we (as did Sachs) believe the major source of her early life, Theodore Tilton’s account written from material that Woodhull provided in 1871? … Goldsmith has mined the same sources, enlarging the tale with additional records and an even more powerful imagination. The result is a book filled with fascinating and salacious material, narrated in an engaging style. However, many of the most interesting statements cannot be verified … This is the stuff of good drama, but it is outside the craft of history.

Intimate Portrait: Victoria Woodhull (Turner Classic Movies, 2000).

Hosted by Meredith Vieira and narrated by Ann Richards. Among those interviewed were Geraldine Ferraro, Mary Gabriel, Lois Beachy Underhill, and journalist Linda Ellerbee was the writer.

Johnston,  Johanna.

Mrs. Satan: The Incredible Saga of Victoria C. Woodhull. New York: Putnam's. 1967. 319 pp. Available online at Drawn primarily from Tilton and Sachs as well as some contemporary newspaper articles, Johnston’s work’s primary flaw is a lack of source notations, although she did include a fairly sizable bibliography for the time. In the text, the writer often made bold statements that should have been supported by a source note; the reader is left guessing if she is surmising, supposing, or indulging in fancy.

MacPherson, Myra.

The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in the Gilded Age.  New York: Twelve, Hachette Book Group, 2015. MacPherson was a panelist in the April 2018 Phoenix Rising Round table called “Journalistic Truths, Speaking Truth to False Rhetoric.” She is also the author of Long Time Passing and All Governments Lie. She was an acclaimed journalist at the Washington Post, was one of the first women to cover the Indianapolis 500 and she covered the “Miracle Mets” in their 1969 World Series bid.

The Scarlet Sisters is one of the few examinations that includes Tennessee Claflin as equal to Victoria on the stage of women’s history. That, and MacPherson’s extensive research, makes this one of the more important books on Woodhull in print today.

Jim Lehrer, former host of PBS NewsHour: The Scarlet Sisters has everything—from history and intrigue, to sex and money. Myra MacPherson has written this book with the care and professionalism of the great reporter she is but also with the wit, wisdom, and flair of the great novelist she definitely could be. A fabulous delight of a read.

Lynn Sherr, author of Failure is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words: Read the epilogue first, to understand immediately why The Scarlet Sisters resonates so richly in today’s political world. Myra MacPherson’s rich understanding of the threads connecting these colorful pioneers to our contentious twenty-first century issues is wonderfully instructive.

Carl Bernstein, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, co-author (with Bob Woodward) of All the President’s Men: Ordinarily, one would look to the fiction of Twain or Dickens to find a nineteenth-century tale to match the real-life saga of the sisters Claflin-Woodhull. Happily, Myra MacPherson has rediscovered these proto-feminists. Their rebellion against Victorian sexual enslavement and the power of white males captivated and infuriated their contemporaries for good reason, and left a mark that resonates today.

Marberry, M. M.

Vicky: A Biography of Victoria C. Woodhull. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. 1967. 344 pp. Out of print.

Perry, Michael W.

Lady Eugenist: Feminist Eugenics in the Speeches and Writings of Victoria Woodhull. Seattle: Inkling Books, 2005. The book is more about the history of eugenics than Woodhull and will appeal more to students of that history than Woodhull scholars, however his points about Woodhull are on message..

Sachs, Emanie N.

The Terrible Siren Victoria Woodhull. New York: Harper & Bros.. 1928. 423 pp. Currently out of print and not available online. Despite its problems, Sachs’ biography must be read for a number of reasons. It was the first biography of Woodhull, after Tilton’s, to be published. The writer did do extensive research. However, she also relied heavily on Tilton and a paid-for account by Benjamin R. Tucker (allegedly one of Woodhull’s lovers). By Sachs’ own admission, she did not intend to write a serious work, but was looking for something easy and light. Unfortunately, her work has entered the lexicon as seminal research.

Victoria’s daughter Zula Maud and her cousins desperately tried to publish a biography of Woodhull to counter-act this work, but were unsuccessful. Zula’s trustees, after her death, noted that Sachs’ work had already become the standard. Indeed it had. In 190 years after its publication Siren has directly or indirectly infiltrated nearly every modern work about Woodhull.

Schrupp, Antje.

Das Aufsehen erregende Leben der Victoria Woodhull. [The Sensational Life of Victoria Woodhull], (German Edition) Buch & Netz, 2015. Schrupp is a German political scientist and journalist with an interest in the history of political ideas of women.

Unfortunately, she falls into the many pitfalls of her predecessors in that she relies far too much, and attempts to extrapolate far too much, from Tilton’s and Sachs’ unsubstantiated and often fictionalized accounts of Woodhull’s life. She outright calls Woodhull a ‘courtesan’ though there is no evidence Woodhull was even a prostitute, much less a high-class one.

One thing Schrupp does, however, is to deal far more extensively than the others with Woodhull’s interest in Karl Marx, the First International, and the Paris Commune. Schrupp is not afraid to discuss Victoria’s socialist leanings. She is also remarkably sympathetic to Woodhull and recognized the connection to James H. Blood and Demosthenes (that Blood was, to Victoria, the Greek orator).

Schrupp, in part because of the lack of hard research and in part because of opinion, found Woodhull’s happiness in England a “betrayal” and “irritating.” For that she gets a cautionary caveat emptor.

-----. Vote for Victoria!: Das wilde Leben von Amerkas erster Präsidentschaftskandidatin Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927)[Vote for Victoria!: The Wild Life of America’s first [female} Presidential Candidate], (German Edition), Ulrike Helmer Verlag, 2016. Similar to Schrupp’s 2015 work, drawing on similar source materials.

Stinchcombe, Owen.

American Lady of the Manor, Bredon's Norton: The Late Life of Victoria Woodhull Martin. Cheltenham, England: Self-published. 2000. 140pp.

Strock, Ian Randal.

Victoria C. Woodhull: Ideas Ahead of Her Time: A Collection of Speeches and Writings by one of the Foremost Thinkers of Her Era. Gray Rabbit Publications, 2016. We would refer readers to Cari Carpenter’s work as an alternative.

Tilton, Theodore.

Biography of Victoria C. Woodhull. The Golden Age Tracts No. 3, New York, The Golden Age, 1871.  Available at The only biography that includes Woodhull’s early years, researchers must remember it was dictated to him by Woodhull herself. Much of it is embellished, and not substantiated by primary records. Woodhull was a master of self-promotion, and in Tilton’s case, she had much to promote including public sympathy. Her childhood, while not one of advantage, was likely more like other children of the age. The problem with Tilton’s biography is that it has, as fact, become the basis for Woodhull’s early years, not only by Sachs, but almost every other biographer. Caveat emptor.

Underhill, Lois Beachy.

The Woman Who Ran for President: The Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull. New York: Penguin. 1995. 347 pp. Introduction by Gloria Steinem. Available online at Publishers Weekly: Drawing on newly available material, Underhill, a former advertising executive, has written an outstanding study of controversial feminist Woodhull (1838-1927) … Underhill argues convincingly that, although Woodhull was deliberately left out of histories written by Susan B. Anthony and others, she was an important figure in the struggle for women’s equality.

Historical Fiction

Brough, James.

The Vixens: A Biography of Victoria and Tennessee Claflin. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1980. 288 pp. This “biography” is more of an historical novel rife with inaccuracies and filled with fictitious embellishments despite his declaration that no license has been taken. “They lived, behaved, believed, and in print or recorded word expressed themselves in the manner reported here.”

Evelina, Nicole.

Madame Presidentess: A novel of Victoria Woodhull. Lawson Gartner Publishing, 2016. Cindy Safronoff (author of Crossing Swords): Nicole Evelina beautifully illustrates in her historical novel Madame Presidentess the major events, philosophical influences, and relationship dynamics at play in the extraordinary life of Victoria Woodhull as a significant forerunner for our generation’s feminist movement. This highly engaging story of Woodhull’s 1872 Presidential run is so timely and relevant.

Hicks, Karen J.

The Coming Woman: A Novel Based on the Life of the Infamous Feminist. Brandon, MS: Sartoris Literary Group. 2014. Reviews are all about her writing style and from those just learning about Victoria. It is rather simple writing and simply a stream of fictitious dialogue.

Katz, Neal.

Outrageous: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume One: Rise to Riches. Vista: Top Reads Publishing, 2015. While Katz’ book has received glowing praise for his writing, the reader should beware.  From the outset, this is a fanciful interpretation of the life of Woodhull, from an author who believes he channeled her. The book opens up with glaring accusations that Buck regularly sexually assaulted Victoria which is untrue.  It is a dark and over-sexualized telling of her story and should not be regarded as a credible source.

As one reader said in her review: “Interesting story but dark and disturbing. The constant rapes and abuse of women was, I thought, too much, and unnecessary.”

 ——. Scandalous, the Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume Two: Fame, Infamy, and Paradise Lost. Vista: Top Reads Publishing, 2018. Sequel to the above.

Flynn, Eva.

Renegade Queen.  New Jersey: Omega Press, 2016. Complete fabrication.  From the first sentence, the reader will see the fictitious fabrication of the Claflin story.  National events are conflated incorrectly and family information is erroneous.

Meade, Marion.

Free Woman: The Life and Times of Victoria Woodhull. New York: Open Road Media, 2014. Inaccurate fictionalized account of Woodhull’s life that offers few sources.


Brody, Miriam.

Victoria Woodhull: Free Spirit for Women’s Rights (Oxford Portraits). 2004. This is a clearly written introduction of Victoria for kids, but she relies heavily on  Tilton as the backbone of the book. She lists in her bibliography Gabriel, Goldsmith, Marberry, Sachs, and Underhill, but there are no footnotes to them.  She includes a chronology in the back, but it is not complete.

Havelin, Kate.

Victoria Woodhull: Fearless Feminist (Trailblazer Biographies). Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2006, Grades 7-10. Gillian Engberg, American Library Association: Havelin’s prose, while sometimes bland and straightforward, is serviceable and never sensationalizing, and Woodhull is such an inherently interesting figure that the very facts of her life will spark interest in readers. The numerous quotes from primary sources, including Woodhull’s own words, and archival images enhance the text, as do Havelin’s attempts to put Woodhull’s complicated story into cultural context. A list of source notes closes this welcome title in the Trailblazer Biography series.

Krull, Kathleen, illustrations by Jane Dyer.

A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull. New York: Walker & Company, 2006. Available online at  The illustrations, taken from known photographs and cartoons of Woodhull are wonderful.

Cokie Roberts, The New York Times Book Review: “It’s about time that this remarkable woman’s life is made available to young readers.”

 McLean, Jacqueline and Jacqueline A. Kolosov.

Victoria Woodhull: First Woman Presidential Candidate. Greensboro: Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 1999. Available online at McLean is a professor of English at Texas Tech University and has written numerous books about notable women.  This is book is very simple and clear, and possibly could be called one of the more accurate biographies.  McLean uses Gabriel, Underhill and Meade and does have a few end notes per chapter.