She shared a name with the famously repressive era she resisted, making Victoria Woodhull’s stance against sexual oppression as poignant as it was progressive. “I am a free lover,” Woodhull wrote at the height of the Victorian era, when dust ruffles were the norm on parlor room chairs, lest the sight of four connected “limbs” ignite unclean thoughts. “I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please.”
Much has changed in the hundred-plus years since Victoria Woodhull asserted her sexual rights, and at first glance, 21st century America might look like the embodiment of her ideals. Hold that glance a moment longer, though. Push your gaze past relaxed standards and liberal-leaning media. Notice that while the grasp on sexuality has been loosened, it’s still largely conditional. Those whose sexual choices, expression and views run counter to ever-shifting mainstream acceptance are regularly stigmatized, systematically discriminated against, even brutally victimized. Sexual health care and information – fundamental human rights – remain shackled to the moral leanings of the political majority; they’re distributed unevenly, and subjectively, as political tides change.
The first female candidate for United States President (before women had the right to vote!) and an ardent advocate of positive attitudes about sexuality, Victoria Woodhull’s voice was as crucial in the early 1900s as it is today. As part of our commitment to affirm and aid those continuing her quest for sexual freedom, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation honors individuals and organizations annually with the “Vicki” Sexual Freedom Awards, awarded to those working on behalf of individuals whose sexual choices and expression deviate from socially-mandated norms: