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Biographical fiction / American History
“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.”
How many Americans, let alone us Brits on this side of the Pond have heard of this extraordinary lady, Victoria Woodhull? I would guess at a mere handful only. Familiar with our own Ms Pankhurst and Women’s Suffrage here in Britain I was interested to discover this US equivalent theme, and ended the book by wholeheartedly wishing that Ms Evelina could stray into the realm of Alternative Fiction and place Ms Woodhull as elected President!
Do not be put off by the thought that this might be nothing more than a novel about political events and women’s rights – it is both these things but primarily it is about a little-known part of American history which is both intriguing and fascinating. Written in Ms Woodhull’s voice, Ms Evelina deftly weaves the historical facts into the fictional inventive via a highly enjoyable and talented style of writing which vividly echoes Ms Woodhull’s own courage and determination.
The inclusion of an author’s note outlining what was fact and what was fiction in this novel was as engrossing as the story itself. What a pity that today’s political upheavals cannot be equally as enthralling as this most excellent novel!
© Helen Hollick