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Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  223 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Barbara Goldsmith's portrait of suffragette Victoria Woodhull and her times was hailed by George Plimpton as "a beautifully written biography of a remarkable woman" and by Gloria Steinem as "more memorable than a dozen histories." A highly readable combination of history and biography, Other Powers interviews the stories of some of the most colorful social, political, and ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published March 24th 1999 by Harper Perennial (first published December 28th 1998)
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Robert Stewart
I had a real problem with this book. In the introduction, the author tells us that while the records concerning many of the events she depicts were sketchy, contradictory and supremely suspect, she assures us that the reality she depicts was verified through letters, documents, etc. (though these these are never footnoted).

But the text often depicts speculation as fact. At one point, Goldsmith tells us that Tennessee Claflin resented being used by her father to defraud people rather than using t
...more
Bops
What a great read. Historians might bristle at the lack of footnotes, but Goldsmith wrote a diverting tale. I love the American history from 1865- 1890, what a heady time America vacillated between mystical discoveries from the spiritualist and scientists. It was also the first time women had a sustained presence in the public sphere. Goldsmith really nails Susan B. Anthony on her Racism and anger at the 14th amendment. She also doesn't spare the Suffragist men who connived and delayed the movem ...more
Kathleen Hagen
Other Powers: the age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull, by Barbara Goldsmith, Narrated by Margaret Daly, Produced by Audible Inc., downloaded from audible.com.

A highly readable combination of history and biography, Other Powers provides
the stories of some of the most colorful social, political, and religious figures of America's Victorian era with the courageous and notorious life of
Victoria Woodhull - psychic, suffragette, publisher, presidential candidate, and se
...more
Simon
Holy fright! This is a highly readable account of an incident in American political history (the Henry Ward Beecher adultery scandal), and if Goldsmith had stuck to just that, it would have been riveting. But she has also taken a pass at Victoria Woodhull's career --- which defies any normal standards of belief and yet actually happened! And she wasn't alone! Goldsmith also gives the reader Victoria's sister, the notorious Tenney C. (her actual first name was Tennessee, which is pretty hard to d ...more
Allison
I wasn't sure what I'd think of this book, having had it recommended to me by my boss before I left for Christmas break. I found it through an interlibrary loan, though, and buzzed through the 500 pages of it in just a few days. I've read a lot of history this school year, but Other Powers is history as an insane primetime drama with a more than notable supporting cast. This is a book about the suffrage movement by way of intense personal drama. There's so much material here involving blackmail, ...more
Kate Lawrence
I enjoyed learning how the stranger-than-fiction life of Victoria Woodhull intertwined with the beleaguered movement to win women the vote. In addition we get the long-running scandal of celebrity preacher Henry Ward Beecher's adulterous affair with Elizabeth Tilton, culminating in a mistrial even though there was no doubt of the affair. (Mrs. Tilton's appeal to be heard in court was denied.) The connection? Elizabeth Tilton's husband Theodore was one of Victoria Woodhull's lovers, and Woodhull ...more
Susan Ozmore
I've read this book twice, because I enjoyed it so much. I would say it is more a history book than a biography although I put it in both categories. Victoria Woodhull appears throughout the book, but the main focus is on the suffrage and spiritualism movements. You become acquainted with other personalities that are important in this period in history such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Henry Ward Beecher, Harriot Beecher Stowe, among others. Definitely a good choice if you're int ...more
Pilouetta
the first woman to run for president? not wilma mankiller or hillary rodham clinton, but victoria woodhull. this book was excellently researched and compelling to read. most significantly, goldsmith points out the controversy between establishing the right to vote for blacks versus women, and how the pitting of minority interests allows the majority to continue to hold and abuse power. imagine if frederick douglass, elizabeth cady stanton, harriet beecher stowe, susan b. anthony and victoria woo ...more
Christy B
Victoria Woodhull is one of the most fascinating people I've ever read about. The first woman to run for president, she was an incredibly intelligent woman with opinions and views far ahead of her time. And because of the great double-standard of society against women of that time, she was shunned because of them.

Woodhull lived the same kind of life that many men did at that time, but her reputation suffered because of it, while most men got off with just a slap on the hand. She was jailed for t
...more
Kate
Aug 16, 2010 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history fans
Recommended to Kate by: Burnable Book Club, Erin G
Shelves: biography, history
I finally finished this amazing, long and intensely detailed book! I never took a women's history class or a history class that covered the time period after the Civil War, so this book was a real eye opener for me. I recognized the names Frederick Douglass, Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but I didn't really know anything about them and the movements they were so passionately involved in. I enjoyed learning about them and their work.

I vaguely knew that the Suffrage movement grew ou
...more
Jerry Peace
Riveting book, Ms. Goldsmith. No angels, one devil (nah, make that two), and a marvelous collection of women whose indefatigable passion and stamina astound me. And Victoria Woodhull? Well, all I can say is that I sure would have loved to have known her. Even her quoted words are contagious and in the flesh she must have been like a burning bush. Oddly, though, the most haunting quote is from Frederick Douglass-"The moral atmosphere is more than tainted, it is rotten. Avarice, duplicity, falseho ...more
Laura
While the author may choose to think of this as a biography of Victoria Woodhull, in reality it is so much more. This book ties together the emerging suffrage movement, the Great Awakening, Free Love, the Civil War and just about every major event/movement in Victorian Era America. Woodhull is one of the major players, but Horace Greeley, Susan B. Anthony, the Beecher clan and Frederick Douglass (among others) all play equally vital roles in this story.

Most readers may have heard of, or studied,
...more
Jenny
Goldsmith's book serves as a sort of guidebook through some of the more interesting social movements of the mid to late 19th century. She covers the Spiritualists, Free lovers, Oneidans, etc. with a great deal of humor and context. However, Goldsmith has a very bad habit of slipping in pure conjecture with absolute fact, mixing up the two so that casual readers will be unaware of just what is fact and what is fiction. The book is rife with instances of her presenting as fact, various theories an ...more
Christina
An interesting view of the late 19th-century women's suffrage movement in the USA. It centers on Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president in 1872, 48 years before women got the vote. This courageous woman expressed radical views of marriage, sexuality, and free love in an age when women could rarely speak for themselves. But the scandals that she provoked and that surrounded her divided the women's movement and threatened its progress. Another theme of the book is the trial of Rev. Henry Ward Be ...more
Sue Tincher
This book was about a very interesting character from Victorian-Era America--Victoria Woodhull. The first woman to address congress, advocating for woman suffrage, as well as the proprietor of an investment firm on Wall Street, she was also a professed spiritual medium, a friend of high-class madams, and an advocate of free love. The accompanying stories of the woman suffrage movement and the adultery scandal around famed minister Henry Ward Beecher are fascinating. A nice depiction of a time an ...more
Lisa Cattrone
Read this book after several dreams involving Victoria Woodhull. Wowow! This was a good read good reads.
Anandi
Six stars! Maybe 7! One of my favorite non-fiction books ever. SO GOOD!
Sigrid Ellis
Okay, I'm not quite done with the book, but it's a damn good read. Goldsmith makes clear the personal relationships between the early players in the sufferage, spiritualist, and abolition movements, as well as their connections to the dominant churches of the day. The fundamental thing I come away with is that there is nothing new under the sun. The people of the 1860s were just as concerned with sex (Free Love, adultery, homosexuality,) drugs (laudanum, alcohol,) and rock-and-roll (spiritualism ...more
Karla
A totally engrossing book about the intersecting lines of spiritualism, the suffragist movement, and Gilded Age sexual politics, with the Henry Ward Beecher scandal and the outrageous Victoria Woodhull and sister Tennie Claflin being the highlights. Goldsmith writes in a real page-turning style and I was through it in record time. If you're interested in some of the fringe movements of 19th c. America, what the headlines screamed in bold type, and the beginnings of the women's suffrage movement, ...more
Beth Olson shultz
A good history of the women's movement in 19th century America. An interesting read.
Starbubbles
This is an awesome book! The tangled web of lives involved with Woodhull sucks you in and doesn't let you escape until the very end. I found myself almost yelling at the book multiple times while reading, and desperatly wanting a happy ending with justice for those involved. It's a great story even if you have no interest in history or Spiritualism.
Val Sanford
I learned so much from this book. Not just about Victoria Woodhull, but about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Comstock, Tilten, Henry Beecher, and all the major players in suffrage, free love, religious revivalism, and spiritualism. The incredible research brings to live 50 years of women fighting for emancipation.
Cissa
Universal suffrage! Spiritualism! Scandal!

OK, rather more suffrage and scandal than Spiritualism, which was a bit of a disappointment. Still, a fascinating read of a very turbulent time in history, with lots of detail about a couple of related circles of influence, mostly in New York City and Boston.
Liddy Barlow
Meticulously researched with lots of great details about an age only superficially different from ours. This book certainly gave me a new impression of Susan B. Anthony! Sometimes Goldsmith did seem to belabor feminism and lose sight of Woodhull. [Reviewed in the "book journal" I kept throughout 1999.]
Ainsley
The early chapters are fascinating and a pleasure to read, but -- much as she spent too much time reproducing the trial proceedings in Little Gloria..., Goldsmith is too apt to let her text get bogged down with tedious recitations of speeches and debates.
Bgordonsgirl
One of my favorite non-fiction books of all time. I have read it 3 or 4 times and learned something new each time. It is a beautiful picture of life at the beginning of the suffragette movement, a look at Vitorian America that is spectacular.
Melissa
I wrote my women's studies thesis on Victoria Woodhull, who is the subject of this book. She's an interesting woman, the first woman to run for U.S. president, and it has some great stories about other historical figures of that time period.
Wendy
This is an exciting time in American history with LOTS of scandal! Many people do not realize that Hilary Clinton was not the first woman to run for president, and have completely forgotten Victoria Woodhull in 1873!
Hannah
Victoria Woodhull was the Kim Kardashian of her time.
Myles
What a great read! Victoria Woodhull was Cornelius Vanderbilt's lover, a spiritualist, and the first woman to run for President of the United States. It doesn't get juicier than that.
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