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.
Paperback: 428 pages
Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing (July 24, 2016)
Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing (July 24, 2016)
I had heard the name Victoria Woodhull before, but I confess that I knew little about her beyond the fact that she was a leader of the American Woman's Suffrage Movement and that she had fun for President, while fighting to give women the right to vote. What a fascinating and multifaceted woman she was and what an interesting life she lead. Nicole Evelina did an excellent job of bringing her to life from her dirt-poor and abusive childhood working as a spiritualist and magnetic healer, to her abusive first marriage, to her rise in finances and prestige as she and her sister became the first female stockbrokers and opened a brokerage firm with the help of Cornelius Vanderbilt, to fighting for women's rights, running a newspaper, and her eventual run for Presidency as part of the Equal Rights Party. She was a colorful character, involved and intersecting with many people who went on to become far more well-known in the pages of history like Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglas, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher and his sister Harriet Beecher Stowe--to name a few. Her first marriage, along with the plight of the prostitutes and downtrodden women she met building her healing business made her a proponent of free love--the movement to separate the government from regulating sexual matters like marriage, adultery and birth control, saying that women deserved the same sexual freedoms as men and should not be trapped into loveless marriages and abusive situations without the means of escape. Her opinions and politics would not be popular with everyone today, so imagine how they were taken in the late 1800s when she was called everything from Notorious Victoria to Mrs. Satan and even arrested and jailed multiple times. It is shameful, but not surprising that more isn't taught or known about her life and her accomplishments.
The book's 428 pages are well-researched and the drama unfolds like a movie, which works most of the time in relaying the story, but does lean to the melodramatic. There were times that the language and conversations seemed too dramatic and peppered with awkwardly-worded declarations that occasionally pulled me out of the story and felt less 'real' that the rest of the book. But, I will say that when I was pulled out, I immediately was brought back in by this not always likable, often controversial, but consistently fascinating and inspiring woman--who was way ahead of her time. If you are a historical fiction fan, you enjoy books with political and feminist themes and about strong females, or you just like a great story, you will likely enjoy this one.
Author Notes: Nicole Evelina is an award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her most recent novel, Madame Presidentess, a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America’s first female Presidential candidate, was the first place winner in the Women’s US History category of the 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.
Her debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, was named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews, took the Grand Prize in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, won a Gold Medal in the fantasy category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. Been Searching for You, her contemporary romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests. You can connect with Nicole on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
There was no a lot of food in Madame Presidentess, but there was some like a July 4th picnic with plates of ham, turkey, and "all manner of casseroles and several desserts," cider, soup and bread, tea and sandwiches, chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne in the brokerage office for female clients, a dinner of tomato soup, pheasant, and custard pie for dessert, donuts and whiskey, a meal of soup and fish, and a picnic lunch including a rare beef in creamy mayonnaise sauce.
There were a few mentions of toast--coffee and toast, buttered toast and tea, nibbling on a crust of toast. Since toast didn't seem like enough of a book-inspired dish, I decided to top it with something more fun--Presidential creamy scrambled eggs. Why are they Presidential? Well according to several different sources, these eggs were the favorite of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and were made by Eleanor at the table at family dinners.
From a Gourmet article from 2009 entitled "FDR's Anti-Epicurean White House" Laura Shapiro says, "It was a Roosevelt family tradition to have scrambled eggs on Sunday night, and Eleanor used to make them herself in a chafing dish, right at the table. In a lifetime packed with servants, this was the only meal she regularly cooked. The rest of the menu—“cold meat and salad, a cold dessert and cocoa” as she described it once—was probably assembled by other hands. But Eleanor scrambled the eggs."
Hopefully, had she been elected President, Victoria Woodhull would have had someone to cook her favorite dish!
I have cooked these eggs before--for a book about Eleanor Roosevelt but I wanted to try them again for fun. They are full of cream cheese and cream, so not a healthy option, but I made a single serving and it does make a tasty indulgence when you want soft, creamy eggs and go well with buttered slices of light rye toast. Two things: I used a garden vegetable cream cheese spread I had on hand and I goofed a bit and used half the cream cheese and cream amounts, but used 1/3 the amount of the eggs. (I forgot I got hard-boiled egg happy and used all up all but two of my eggs over the weekend!) So my eggs are a tad lighter, creamier and less 'eggy' than the ones I made last time, but they have a delicious flavor and it still seemed to work.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's Scrambled Eggs
Source: Portsmouth, Ohio-Times, Thurs., 12/28/49 via Antilope at recipesecrets.com
1 (3 oz) package Philadelphia cream cheese, softened (I used Garden Vegetable cream cheese)
1/2 cup cream or top milk
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
few grains of pepper
Mash the cream cheese with a fork into a frying pan. Add cream or top milk, and heat until cheese has melted and cream is bubbling.
Break eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Add salt and pepper to beaten eggs and mix all ingredients with the cream cheese mixture in the frying pan. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly and scraping bottom of pan, using long, folding strokes.
Remove from heat when consistency is creamy and serve at once. Do not overcook.
Notes/Results: These are rich and decadent eggs, ultra soft and creamy so they melt in your mouth. I used the garden vegetable cream cheese spread because I needed to use it up but it actually added another layer of flavor to the eggs so if you have a favorite bagel schmear that goes with eggs, I say go ahead and use it. I was originally going to top these eggs with chives, but they had seen better days, so I sliced some green onions for color. I ate these eggs on toast for breakfast, but I can always see the appeal of breakfast for dinner, or any time of day really. Although I wouldn't make them often, I would definitely make them again.
I am linking this review and recipe pairing up to Novel Food #28, hosted by my friend Simona at briciole and where books, poems, short stories and other literary works are paired with dishes inspired by them.
I'm also linking up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "Madame Presidentess" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.