- Paperback: 428 pages
- Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing (July 24, 2016)
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.
That Victoria Woodhull made it out of childhood alive is nothing short of a miracle. Her father was a con man. A town got together and bought her mother and siblings a wagon load of goods and told them they were no longer welcome in town. Such was the fear of the father on the family that when he sexually assaulted Victoria, the mother and rest of the family huddled in horror in the corner of the room.
Later, he exploited the spiritualist abilities of Victoria and one of her sisters. And when they weren't entertaining the townfolk and their dearly departed, their father had them entertain the men of the town in quite another fashion.
Is it any wonder Victoria dreamed of escaping such a life, of having power and strength in her own right and of making life better for all women? Had I had such an early life, I would also be passionate about making sure no one else suffered such a fate.
And her husband, the man to whom she looked to 'take her away' ... well, he was no prize either. He was in various bars and brothels, leaving Victoria alone in a poor apartment to give birth. Ugh.
Most people would point to her insistence that an angel told her she was destined to be a ruler of the people indicated she was 'not in possession of her faculties', but then if she could sway the opinion of a Vanderbilt and various famous early members of the Women's Movement ... she was more than able (and maybe better than most) to function in her society.
I found it intriguing ... and maybe disturbing ... that while I consider myself fairly well-educated, I had never heard of Victoria Woodhull before this point. But you don't get to be the head of a Wall Street investment firm, brought to the attention of the highest echelons of the women's movement and becoming the first woman candidate for the US Presidency without rubbing a few people the wrong way. And when the powers that be turn their backs on you, you tend to disappear from recorded history, as did Victoria.
Historical fiction, with a basis in historical fact is fast becoming one of my two favorite genres. Ms. Evelina did a wonderful job at bringing 'life' to stories that had previously just been printed words on dusty pages. And such a timely topic, given that a woman was candidate of a leading party for the office of US President this year.
And I am truly grateful to Ms. Evelina and authors like her who are bridging the gaps in recorded history, which often includes most to only information the rich, the powerful, the victors, and the men want to have preserved.
Madame Presidentess is a fascinating portrayal of a woman who should have been in US History books from the beginning.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Nicole Evelina is an 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.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers in exchange for my honest review.)