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Historic Women - W-Z

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Jemima Warner (17??-1775) - Probably the first woman to be killed in action during U.S. wars, Jemima was the teen-aged wife of Private James Warner of the Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion during the American Revolution. Fearing he might become sick or wounded along the campaign trail, she wanted to be with him if such an event occurred. Unfortunately, that would be the case as the troops marched towards Quebec, Canada. Supplies were scarce and smallpox was rampant through the troops. In Maine, an ailing James Warner  fell behind the rest of the troops and Jemima stayed with him.  When he died, she buried his body under some leaves, took up his rifle and powder, and ran 20 miles to catch up with the battalion. Serving as a cook for the troops, the company tried to approach Quebec under a white flag to discuss terms with their enemy. However, they were driven off by British cannons. Changing strategies, they then dressed Jemima Warner in a borrowed formal gown and the woman marched through some 800 yards of deep snows to deliver a proposal to the British, which was promptly torn up and Jemima was imprisoned. Five days later, she was released. She returned to the battalion. However, a short time later during the Siege of Quebec, she was killed by British guns on December 11, 1775.

 

Laura Ingalls WilderLaura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) -  Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder is a celebrated American Author whose childhood in the Old West led her to write a series of what is known as the "Little House" books, including "Little House on the Prairie" for which a popular television show in the 1970's and early 80's about her writings would be named. Read our Full Article HERE.

 

Victoria Claflin Woodhull (1838-1927) - Born in Homer, Ohio on September 23, 1838, she was one of several children whose parents ran a traveling medicine show, doing faith healings, telling fortunes, and selling medicines. She received no formal education and was self taught. When she was just 15, she married 28 year-old Canning Woodhull, who practiced as a doctor at a time when medical education and licensing were not required in Ohio. She soon learned that her new husband was an alcoholic, a womanizer, and often didn’t work. Though the couple had two children, she divorced him in 1864, a time when "divorce,” itself was a scandal.  A couple of years later, Victoria remarried a Colonel James Blood and in 1868, the pair, along with her younger sister, Tennessee "Tennie” Claflin, moved to New York City.

 

Victoria Claflin WoodhullVictoria and Tennie soon set out to make their fortunes and the pair became the first female Wall Street brokers in 1870. With the help of wealthy benefactor, her admirer, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Woodhull, Claflin & Company began and the two women were hailed as "the Queens of Finance."

 

The sisters also established a newspaper the same year, which published controversial opinions advocating women's suffrage, short skirts, spiritualism, free love, sex education, and licensed prostitution. Widely criticized for promiscuity, she answered these charges in her own weekly newspaper.

 

Due to her radical views, she was not accepted by many known suffragists of the time, such as Susan B. Anthony, but in 1872, she was nominated for the U.S. presidency at the New York convention of the minor Equal Rights Party, running against incumbent Ulysses S. Grant.  Although laws prohibited women from voting at the time, there were no laws stopping women from running for office. Obviously, she wasn’t a threat, but does have the fame of being the first woman to run for the job.  

 

Friends of President Ulysses Grant decided to attack her character and she was accused of having affairs with married men, brought up her first husband’s alcoholism, and said one of her sisters was a drug addict. Fighting back, she was convinced that popular minister of time, Henry Ward Beecher, was behind the attacks and she published a story in her newspaper that the minister was having an affair with a friend’s wife.

 

 

 

On November 2, 1872, just days before the presidential election, Victoria, her husband, James Blood, and her sister, Tennie were arrested for sending obscene material through the mail. Held for the next month, she was in jail on election day and her name did not appear on the ballot because she was one year short of the mandated age of 35. Over the next seven months Woodhull was arrested eight times and had to go through a number of trials for obscenity and libel. She was eventually acquitted of all charges but the legal bills forced her into bankruptcy. Though extremely controversial, the newspaper stayed in publication for six years, finally ceasing to exist in 1876. That same year, she obtained her second divorce from James Blood.

Woodhull tried to secure nominations for the presidency again in 1884 and 1892 but was unsuccessful. She eventually married the English banker John Biddulph Martin and left the United States for England in 1878. There, she continued to campaign for women's rights and in 1892 she established the Humanitarian newspaper which lasted until 1901. She died on June 9, 1927.

 

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated August, 2017.

 

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