Suffragettes - Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflins

In 1868, spiritualists and sisters, Tennessee Claflin and Victoria Woodhull arrived in New York City and established themselves at 17 Great Jones Street. The excerpt from the Buffalo Daily Courier ( below) was provided by the wonderful website dedicated to Victoria Woodhull (

   “We have seen one of the clairvoyants, and she is beautiful enough to cure anybody. She is young and childish in her manners, with Titian hair, which falls in rich masses about her head, blue eyes which wear an honest steadfast look, asymmetrical figure which is costumed in excellent taste and a pretty hand which sparkles with gems. Now we can’t see why a chronic case of heart disease should be cured at all, with such a healing medium. This lady’s name is Miss Tennessee Claflin, and while we admit that there is some power in this art of healing, we confess that we know nothing, only that hopeless people go there, and after a brief stay of days or weeks, return home cured... Perhaps of all the healing spots of the city, this is the most interesting to the curious speculator in mysterious things and is the prettiest hospital in New York. Their patronage is very extensive, and men and women who would deny their belief in the supernatural go slyly to Miss Tennessee to listen to her weird talk, and to look into her lovely eyes." 

Within months of their arrival, Victoria and Tennessee were soon popping up at suffragist events, hosting dinners with the city's newspaper publishers, and working under the tutelage of Cornelius Vanderbilt  to become  stockbrokers. But to a writer (i.e. me), attempting to make sense of their life, the early records are so outrageous, one is hard-pressed to separate myth from fact. What is known is this: Victoria married and started a family when she was little more than a girl, and Tennessee was supporting the rest of the family when she was only a little girl. They had an additional three sisters (their surviving brother remained in Ohio) who, with their parents, ran all kinds of interference. But Tennessee and Victoria were singularly gifted and driven to make their mark.

By 1870, they had established Woodhull and Claflin and Company, and by the spring of that year, Victoria had announced she would run for President of the United States. To promote Victoria's campaign, Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, debuted on May 14th of that year. 

With the exception of a few months during 1872, this weekly paper was part of the scene for the next six years.  It was lively, it was muckraking and it was read until the November 2nd issue of 1872, wherein it exposed the private life of some eminent citizens, and all hell broke loose. Election night for Victoria was spent in jail, together with her sister, Tennessee. The charge was for sending 'pornography' through the mail.  At that point, their story takes another sharp turn where they must contend with no longer being the toast of the town.

The Novel by author Carrie Hayes, Naked Truth or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit, covers the years that they were in New York City until they left for Great Britain in 1877.

Carrie Hayes

Since the age of nine, Carrie Hayes has most frequently been found somewhere lost, in the pages of a good book. A stalwart enthusiast of parts for girls and female characters, historical fiction is her very favorite genre. In addition to her being a passionate reader, Carrie is also a voracious eater, former schoolteacher, ex casting director, office administrator, retired decorator, and failed librarian. Carrie lives with her family in central New Jersey. Naked Truth or Equality the Forbidden Fruit is her first book. 

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