In 19th century America, women didn’t have the right to vote, much less run for president. But in 1872, Victoria Woodhull did just that, and, much more recently, has inspired an opera based on her life. In the opera Mrs. President, composer Victoria Bond and librettist Hilary Bell have crafted a seething drama of ambition and betrayal, which tells the story of Woodhull’s visionary struggle to defy history and become the first female President of the United States.
Based on a real person, Victoria Woodhull’s life story reads like grand opera. Her run for president in 1872 was just the tip of the iceberg. She was a clairvoyant, publisher, jailbird, stockbroker and proponent of free love. Despite her courage and persistence, Woodhull was viciously attacked by the conservative society in which she lived, a movement which was spear-headed by the powerful and influential preacher Henry Ward Beecher. Woodhull spent Election Day in prison, jailed for revealing Beecher’s secret life, a sex scandal that ignited the public and the press.