What compels a woman and her youngest sister to overcome abject poverty and violent abuse to grow up to defy convention and obliterate every barrier to become the first women to own and operate a Wall Street brokerage firm and publish their own newspaper?
How did Victoria Claflin Woodhull (1838 – 1927) become the first woman invited to speak to the United State Congress, and then the first female to run for president. What made Tennessee Celeste Claflin (1845 – 1923) so beguiling that the richest man in America, Cornelius Vanderbilt, fell completely in love with her?
What caused the sisters to live out their long lives as royalty and peerage in Europe. Victoria living as landed gentry outside of London, and Tennessee in a huge castle like a queen? Why aren’t these empowered and independent women iconic in our culture?
Volume One of The Victoria Woodhull Saga tells the poignant, lascivious, and compelling inside story of how the sisters worked closely with Cornelius Vanderbilt, who at age 74 fell in love with the beguiling 24-year old Tennessee. Victoria provided the titan of industry “Inside Her Information” gathered through the soiled sisterhood, the ladies of the evening working at the top seven brothels servicing the rich and famous of New York City.
This relationship resulted in the great lion of industry having his last public roar as together they manipulated the financial markets and created the impending collapse of the U.S. economy in the gold scandal of 1869. To avert the crash, President Ulysses S. Grant provides the richest man in America insider information on the gold market and telegrams Vanderbilt that his railroad company is “Too Big To Fail!” Vanderbilt was proclaimed “The Savior of the American Economy” for intervening in a crisis he helped create.
View Victorian America through the eyes and thoughts of one of its leading heroines., Victoria Woodhull. Watch as the infighting and elitism of the earliest suffrage women denigrating, castigating, and denouncing other passionate suffrage rights women delayed woman suffrage and equal legal standing for five decades. Learn wonderful anecdotes of the origins of products and phrases used today. Learn the story of Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, the most popular man in America, who transformed Christianity from his father’s “fire and brimstone” theology to one of a compassionate and loving Jesus, who will redeem all who turn to salvation with complete confession of their sins. The reverend’s personal life did not imitate his lofty and popular theology of his weekly sermons at Plymouth Church. He was a notorious womanizer, often bedding, and sometimes impregnating the wives, sisters, and daughters of his most ardent trackers and deacons of the church.
Written in the first person from Victoria’s viewpoint, Neal Katz weaves a compelling page-turning story that cleverly unfolds history while providing a wonderfully entertaining ride. Katz has pledged one half of book sale proceeds to charities dedicating to the empowerment and sustainable economic improvement of women, especially single mothers.
The story of Victoria's early life is nothing short of a horror story. It starts with her being *ahem* deflowered forcibly by her father, with the rest of the family in the room. Then she wonders what she did to 'deserve' such treatment. It made me want to sit her father down and have what is called a "come to Jesus meeting" with him. Later that night she 'meets' a guardian angel, who tells her she is destined for greatness.
And Victoria is going to need to hold on to that, because before she breaks from her family, her father turns her and her sisters out to other men in order to make money. The family is not well-thought of in the town (go figure), and when the father is out of town, the townfolk come to the house one evening, and pack the family up to cart them out of town.
Her only 'escape' is to get married. But all the kind attention she had received from her husband before their marriage evaporated shortly thereafter. They lived in terrible conditions. The husband went out every night drinking and to the brothels. If a kindly neighbor had not helped out, Victoria would have delivered her child all alone in a hovel.
The heartbreaking story of her early child- and womanhood is starkly and masterfully told by Neal Katz. At the same time, the writing was sensitive because the first chapters are difficult to read due to the way Victoria (and her sisters) were treated.
Especially fascinating is that Victoria did not crumble under the weight of her past. Childhood sexual abuse is not a new phenomenon (unfortunately), neither is a single mother raising a child with developmental disabilities. What is different is the way in which Victoria thrived and improved her situation until she was rubbing shoulders so to speak with the movers and shakers in business and politics. I mean, Cornelius Vanderbilt gave her a check for $50,000.00 (which would be like millions in today's dollars) - and Victoria had given him this idea and told him to pay her what she thought it was worth. Eventually this woman (whose family had been run out of town in the dark of night when she was a child, if you remember) would rise to become the first woman to fun for US President.
More's the pity that her history is absent from the classes taught to our young people. While my daughter is a little young to read this just yet, I certainly will suggest it to her in a couple of years. I want her to see that she need not be limited to what society says she should do or be.
If you are interested in the condition and status of women (and you need not be a 'feminist' to be so concerned), you owe it to yourself to read this book.
MEET THE AUTHOR
The saga of Victoria Woodhull appeales to Neal, as it serves three purposes. First, the story provokes public awareness of the historical and continuing denigration and subjugation of gender prejudice. Second, the tale exposes the historical basis for the manipulation of the free markets of stocks, bonds and commodities. Third, the story shows how existing financial and political power structures used prison and seizure of assets to prevent innovation and social change. Victoria Woodhull overcame all these obstacles in a remarkable life
Neal chose to write in first person using Victoria s words, thoughts, and point of view to tell the tale, inviting the reader to see through her eyes. The style is magic realism along the lines of Allende, Marquez, and Kathleen McGowan (The Magdalene Trilogy). This is an expression of the HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality championed by Emma Watson, and Neal proudly proclaims himself a male feminist!
Neal has pledged fifty percent (50%) of his author’s royalties from book sales and all ancillary revenues, including foreign print distribution and Hollywood rights to a foundation formed in tribute to Victoria Woodhull and her passion for woman rights. The foundation will promote and prove programs for the empowerment and sustainable economic improvement of women, especially single mothers.
For more information visit Neal's Website. You can also follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my objective review. This post contains affiliate links.)