Tuesday, July 26, 2016

SPOTLIGHT - Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina - plus, 10 Stranger Than Fiction Things About Victoria Woodhull's Life




Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books.

Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to “become ruler of her people.”

But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.

Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it’s not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they’ve so long fought to protect.

Those who support her laud “Notorious Victoria” as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, “Mrs. Satan’s” radical views on women’s rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.

This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time – a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century – but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.


Teaser from Madame Presidentess....

With James’s support and my newfound conviction, I approached the second day of the conference not as the wide-eyed innocent of yesterday but as a potential future leader. The urge to speak out, to give voice to all of those whom society silenced hummed in my veins. The only remaining question was how.
Among the morning’s speakers was my old friend from St. Louis, Virginia Minor. After she was introduced, Mrs. Minor wasted no time in getting to the point of her speech. “You may know that my husband and I are vocal proponents of the idea that the Constitution already gives us the right to vote. But we are willing to put before you an additional piece of supporting evidence, found in the Fourteenth Amendment, that I believe gives all women the right to vote.
“As persons born in the United States, women are citizens. Nowhere in the text does it specify ‘males’ or ‘men,’ only ‘persons,’ which is a term without gender and therefore should include both men and women. The Constitution gives all citizens the right to vote. Therefore, as citizens, we already have the right to vote. The next line of the amendment elaborates, noting that no state is allowed to legally deprive citizens of their rights or deny them equal protection.”
I followed Mrs. Minor’s words closely, taking in each argument and dissecting it carefully. I was not trained to debate the finer points of law, but I could find no flaw in the woman’s logic. In fact, the longer I listened, the more I found myself agreeing. Around us, women whispered to each other, nudging husbands and companions in agreement with Mrs. Minor’s peaceful call to arms.
“Therefore, if the right is already ours, all we need do is take it back. Yes,” her voice rang out like the peal of an Easter church bell, “I mean we must take action. Perhaps you have heard of the Spiritualist town of Vineland, New Jersey? There, late last year, nearly two hundred women cast their votes. They pledge to do so annually until they are acknowledged. This is what I call on you to do.
“What I am asking of you is revolutionary, this I know. It goes against all we are raised to believe and how society demands we behave, but I urge you to open your minds to the idea. As a group, we have the power to change state laws, something which Miss Anthony, Mrs. Stanton, and other leaders of this group will be working to put into action. But each of us bears personal responsibility as well. So on your next election day, I ask that you hand over your ballot, not meekly but with pride, and demand to be counted among the citizens of this fine country. Only in that way can we hope to affect change in time to cast our votes for the next president in 1872.”
The crowd roared with applause, and I leapt to my feet, clapping as loud as my hands would let me. This woman was onto something.
“We should do this,” I mouthed to Tennie, who nodded enthusiastically. I would have to discuss the possibilities taking shape in my mind with James.
“They’ve got motivation now,” said a man in the row behind me. “Too bad they don’t have the money to see it through.”
His offhand comment snagged my attention. The party needed money, and I needed a way into its upper echelons. If Josie’s stock tips had taught me anything, it was that there was money to be made in the stock market—lots of it. Perhaps that could be my entry into suffrage society. I mulled over the thought as other people spoke. By the time Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivered the closing address, I was determined to work with Tennie to see how our budding business relationship with Mr. Vanderbilt might help advance our work for women.
When Mrs. Stanton said, “The need of this hour is a new evangel of womanhood to exalt purity, virtue, morality, true religion, to lift man up into the high realms of thought and action,” a chill raced down my spine. Those words were meant for me.
My sight blurred, and I blinked as a vision took over my consciousness. I stood in the center of a spotlighted stage, speaking to throngs larger even than the crowd gathered for this convention, as Demosthenes had promised.
A flash, then I sat on a platform next to the three Fates who ran the organization. I was the golden child sent to breathe new life into a movement desperately in need of new energy.
The next thing I knew, Miss Anthony was announcing me as president of the National Women’s Rights Convention.
Another shift and the vision began to fade, but not before a newspaper headline blared the fulfillment of the highest of Demosthenes’ prophecies: “Victoria Woodhull Makes History as First Woman President.”
Yes! I will bring this movement to the masses. I will show them that a woman like them, raised in the dirt, who works for a living, can be an agent of change. Then they shall see one Victoria sitting on the throne of England while her namesake guards the interests of women in the United States. Less than four years from now, I shall be president.


Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Madame-Presidentess-Nicole-Evelina-ebook/dp/B01ERT1AJO?ie=UTF8&keywords=Nicole%20Evelina&qid=1461776990&ref_=sr_1_5&sr=8-5

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/madame-presidentess-nicole-evelina/1123724822?ean=2940156766956

iTunes: https://itun.es/us/Ebvbcb.lhttps://itun.es/us/Ebvbcb.l

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/632328

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/madame-presidentess-1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29995537-madame-presidentess











10 Stranger Than Fiction Things About Victoria Woodhull's Life
As Madame Presidentess makes its way into the world (it was published yesterday), it's suddenly occurred to me that there are quite a few elements in it that might be taken as implausible fictions on my part, but are actually true, at least according to Victoria's biographers (and I stand by my sources). The truth of Victoria's life is hard to pin down, at least in part because later in life she often contradicted herself or outright denied what she'd previously said or done in order to change her reputation. I spell out what is real and what is not in the Author's Notes at the end of the book, but I thought I'd list 10 things here so I could talk about them a bit.
  1. The grist mill fire and its consequences - The Claflin's grist mill did burn to the ground when Victoria was young. The cause is up for debate. Some people speculate that it was insurance fraud on Buck's (Victoria's father) part, as he was known to be a swindler, but her mother, Annie, maintained it was a terrible accident. Regardless of the cause, the Claflin family was run out of town, with the church taking up a collection to help speed them on their way. (Barbara Goldsmith even goes so far as to suggest the townspeople were considering tarring and feathering Buck.)
  2. Canning Woodhull's philandering - Victoria's first husband was well-known for his love of brothels. She told a story that she found him in one a mere three days after their wedding. Her biographers also say he received a letter from a former mistress who he shipped off to another town so he could marry Victoria asking if he married Victoria because she, too, was pregnant.
  3. Victoria's daughter Zula almost died at birth - This is a crazy one. Canning claimed to be a doctor, but he really didn't have much training. The story goes that he was so drunk/stoned when Zula was born that he either cut the umbilical cord too short or didn't tie it off properly, and then left to go to the local tavern. When Victoria awoke with the baby in her arms, she was covered in blood. She was alone and didn't know what to do, so she had to beat on the wall with a piece of broken furniture (not sure why that's what she picked) to get the neighbors' attention. They came running, but the doors were locked and Victoria was too weak to get up and unlock them. Finally, one of the neighbors climbed in through a grate in the basement.
  4. Annie's antics - Victoria's mother did some pretty outrageous things. She took her own son-in-law (Victoria's second husband, James) to court on the grounds he stole Victoria and Tennie's affection from him. Annie and Victoria's sister Utica were known to raid Victoria and Tennie's clothes and jewelry and pawn them even though Victoria paid all of their expenses. Annie also was a known serial blackmailer.
  5. Victoria's clairvoyant and healing powers - Victoria maintained all her life that she had been in contact with the spirits since she was a child. Her mother also convinced her that she was a healer. Her father put her and her sister, Tennie (also a healer), to work at a young age using those skills to make money. This may well have been an extension of his other illegitimate activities. But accounts of the sisters' healing and psychic sessions exist and at least some of their clients believed in their abilities. Obviously, we have no way of proving whether or not they were real, but Victoria seemed to believe they were.
  6. The strange men at Victoria and Tennie's opening day on Wall Street - This was another detail too crazy not to include. According to a contemporary account reported in The Sun and reprinted in Gary Gabriel's biography Notorious Victoria, Mr. Edward Van Schalck and several friends made multiple visits to the firm on its opening day for apparently no good reason. Each time they would come it would be in a different sized group from 1-4 people and the would change their clothing, and sometimes their appearance (one time Mr. Van Schalck was freshly shaved and how he wore his hair varied). They would ask a question or chat with those in the office, leave, and come back again 20 minutes to a few hours later. This went on throughout the day until they made a visit after office hours and were told the office was closed. No reason is given for this odd behavior. (I have a reason in my book, but that's where fiction comes in.)
  7. Victoria's meeting with President Grant - There is no written record of her meeting with the President, but biographers are pretty sure it did occur at some point when she was in Washington D.C. Victoria never told anyone what happened during the meeting, but somehow it is tradition that the President said "you will one day occupy this seat," referring to the Presidential chair. Also, in the book when the President talks about his views on suffrage, I took that from things he is known to have said.
  8. Victoria's conversations with Reverend Henry Beecher - Perhaps the most dramatic dialogue in the novel comes from Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. Where possible, it is taken from actual accounts of Victoria's conversations with him as written in various biographies, especially "Other Powers" by Barbara Goldsmith. If these accounts are to be believed, he was rather melodramatic in his pleading with her to be excused from the responsibility of introducing her at a speech she was planning to give on Free Love.
  9. Victoria's love affair with Theodore Tilton - Depending on which biography you read, Victoria is rumored to have had up to four affairs while she was married to Col. James Blood. Whether or not they were actually affairs is up for debate, because Victoria and James practiced Free Love - not open promiscuity, but rather the belief that one should be able to take and leave one's partners as the heart dictates without interference from the state. If this was like having an open marriage, then there is no guilt, no affair. Anyway, the one affair most biographers agree upon is with Theodore Tilton, who worked for Victoria's paper and wrote her biography. The two are an unlikely couple, especially what she knew about his wife's claims of verbal abuse, but I guess love really is blind.
  10. Victoria's running mate - Strange as it may seem, Victoria's running mate was Frederick Douglass. He was nominated by her Equal Rights Party (I never did find a definitive answer on whether or not she picked him or the party picked him for her.) Either way, having a ticket with a woman and a black man in 1872 was unheard of. For his part, Mr. Douglass never asked to be taken off the ballot, but he never agreed to it, either. As the 1872 election drew near, he publicly came out in favor of President Grant.
You’ll see each one of these in context if you chose to read the book, but even if this post is all you read, I hope you’ll walk away a little better acquainted with an amazing woman who strangely isn’t in our history books. Maybe my little novel will do something toward changing that.

Sources:
Brody, Miriam. Victoria Woodhull, Free Spirit for Women’s Rights.
Frisken, Amanda. Victoria Woodhull’s Sexual Revolution.
Gabriel, Mary. Notorious Victoria.
Goldsmith, Barbara. Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull.
Havelin, Kate. Victoria Woodhull.
Krull, Kathleen. A Woman for President – The Story of Victoria Woodhull.
MacPherson, Myra. The Scarlet Sisters.
Tilton, Theodore. The Golden Age Tract No. 3 “Victoria C. Woodhull, a Biographical Sketch.”
Underhill, Lois Beachey. The Woman Who Ran for President.




Nicole Evelina is a multi-award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her most recent novel, Madame Presidentess, a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America's first female Presidential candidate, was the first place winner in the Women’s US History category of the 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.
                              
Her debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, was named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews, took the Grand Prize in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, won a Gold Medal in the fantasy category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction.  Been Searching for You, her contemporary romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.

Nicole is one of only six authors who completed a week-long writing intensive taught by #1 New York Times bestselling author Deborah Harkness. As an armchair historian, Nicole researches her books extensively, consulting with biographers, historical societies and traveling to locations when possible. For example, she traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.

Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for The Historical Novel Society, and Sirens (a group supporting female fantasy authors), as well as a member of the Historical Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Romance Writers of America, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Women Writing the West, Broad Universe (promoting women in fantasy, science fiction and horror), Alliance of Independent Authors, the Independent Book Publishers Association and the Midwest Publisher’s Association.

Her website is http://nicoleevelina.com.

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