Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evalina
The first woman running for president is a tale filled with intrigue, scandal, enemies and lurid newspaper accounts, sexual innuendoes, financial scandals and marital woes. Biographical accounts are often brutal and vindictive.
You might think I am writing about Hillary Clinton but she in fact was not the first woman to run for President. Victoria Woodhull ran for the office in 1872 on the Equal Rights Party, supporting women’s and workers rights. Writing about her run for president, Woodhull noted, “The truth is that I am too many years ahead of this age…and the unenlightened mind of the average man.”
Nicole Evalina brings us a vivid portrait of Woodhull in her historical novel. She told me, “My portrayal of her comes from how I think she saw herself… I think she believed the ends justified the means.” A constant headline maker in her own time, because of later conflicts with suffragettes, Woodhull became a footnote, mostly written out of their accounts of the decades’ efforts to gain the right to vote for women. Yet Woodhull’s accomplishments were many: with only 3 years of formal education before 11, Woodhull published a newspaper, co-owned the first woman owned Wall Street brokerage firm with her sister, addressed Congress, gave speeches at rallies nation wide and was one of the charismatic leaders of the suffrage movement.
Like many politicians of her time and ours, Woodhull had affairs, used scandal to her advantage and made lots of money during her political career. Eventually, Woodhull and her sister moved to England, married there and worked for women’s suffrage, albeit with a lower profile.
Wonderful portraits of historical figures with whom Woodhull interacted give a true feel for the era—a few are Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, President Ulysses Grant, Walt Whitman, Henry Ward Beecher, Horace Greely and Cornelius Vanderbilt.
A real rags to riches story, Woodhull was raised by abusive, emotionally unstable and thieving parents. Married at 15, she escaped one abusive home only to enter another. Taking her destiny into her own hands, Woodhull escaped, struggled and despite a scandal-ridden life, succeeded in many ways few women could have. “I think the abuse Victoria suffered from her father and first husband could have been an obstacle and could have turned her into a meek woman, more like Lib Tilton. But instead, Victoria allowed her negative experiences to turn her blood to iron and to feed her determination to overcome them and ensure other women didn’t have to endure the same thing. It’s one of the things I admire most about her.”
Now, a time when American laws give woman equal rights, including the hard fought woman’s suffrage, we can look back at a time when despite few rights, Victoria Woodhull, among others, fought for equal rights legislation, which we often take for granted today. Woodhull has many obstacles placed in front of her. “Then there was the fact that she was a woman in a man’s world. This affected everything…. That is part of what made her so controversial in her own time and I think it is one of the things we can related to in our time now.”
A great roasted garlic tomato soup and a great story about our first woman candidate for president almost being thrown out of Delmonico’s.
“Yes, the Delmonico’s incident is real. According to the first woman candidate for president’s biographers, it really was one of her favorite restaurants and they actually were nearly removed for not having a man with them. Tennie’s solution to bring in the carriage driver is accurate as well, as is the ‘tomato soup for three’ comment.” Nicole Evalina
Tomato Soup à la “Delmonico’s”
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 large onion, cut into large wedges
1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes, whole peeled or crushed
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups stock
1/2 head garlic, roasted and peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
- Melt butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Add onion wedges and let cook a few minutes until bottom is golden. Add can of tomatoes with their juices, wine, roasted garlic, stock, salt, oregano and basil. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. Stir occasionally and add additional salt as needed.
- Blend the soup with an immerser or a blender until velvety smooth or leave a little texture according to your taste.
Expand the Table
- Make it light and creamy: Add 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half after soup is blended for a heavenly flavor.
- Make it creamy but keep it vegan: Use margarine or vegetable oil in place of butter. Substitute non-dairy milk, such as coconut, almond or soy.
- Do be cheesy: Grate Parmesan cheese on top of heated soup and serve.
- Spice it up: Grind pepper on top of bowl before serving.
Find out more about the author at her website:
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