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Victoria Woodhull Martin Papers

 Collection — Container: MS 2001
Call Number: MS 2001

Scope and Contents

The letters in this collection document the relationship between Victoria Woodhull Martin and her husband, John Biddulph Martin and date from 1883-1927. Through newspaper clippings, manuscript fragments, and  Zula Martin’s notes of her attempted biography of her mother, the collection also documents Woodhull’s life long interests in equal rights, women’s issues, and marriage and divorce, and provides glimpses into Woodhull’s character through quotes from many famous authors, among them Walt Whitman.

The correspondence from Victoria Woodhull Martin to John Martin contains many recurrent themes, such as her emotional and physical well being, daily activities and social engagements, work on The Humanitarian, and of her affection for her husband. The collection also includes correspondence from Woodhull’s admirers and colleges either expressing their condolences over Martin’s death, or commenting on her work in various publications and requesting copies of articles, portraits, photographs, or speeches. In addition, there are letters from friends and family members, particularly from her nephew Robert Martin Holland. These letters include information on family events, the running of the residences while Woodhull was away, and details of Martin’s sudden illness and death. Lastly, there are letters from professional organizations; for instance, the Stratford Company, which sent multiple requests for manuscripts, the Literary Bureau of the National Spiritual Association sent notes of gratitude for support, and the Automobile Club discussed organization information, which included the beginning of a ‘ladies’ chapter of the club.

The majority John Martin’s correspondence to his wife recounts his daily routine in Tewkesbury, news of his parents and other family members, and of his love for her. The remainder of Martin’s correspondence is made up of letters to his parents. In the letters to his father, Robert Martin, the main focus is on financial and business matters, including keeping up payments of family annuities and banking matters.  In addition, there are letters from the associations he was involved with, such as the International Statistical Institute, of which he was president, the Statistical and Economic Section of the British Association, Council of the Society of Arts, and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The remaining letters are between Martin and his family.


  • 1883-1927


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Items in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. The Boston Public Library does not hold copyright on the material in this collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.

When reproducing material from this collection please include the credit line "Courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library/ Rare Books."

Biographical or Historical Information


1838 - Victoria C. (Victoria Claflin) Woodhull is born in Homer, Ohio.

1841 - John Biddulph Martin is born in England.

1853 - Marries Dr. Canning Woodhull.

1863 - John Martin graduates from Oxford and

1864 - Divorces Dr. Canning Woodhull.

1866 - Marries Colonel James Harvey Blood.

1868-1870 - Establishes Woodhull, Claflin & Company, a stock brokerage firm, with sister Tennessee.

1870 - Launches Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly.

1871 - Becomes first woman to deliver speech on women's right to vote before the House Judiciary Committee. Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly publishes first English translation of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. Publishes Origin, Tendencies and Principles of Government by Victoria Woodhull.

1872 - First woman nominated for president by the Equal Rights Party. Publishes scandal issue on Reverend Henry Ward Beecher. Imprisoned with Tennessee for sending "obscene" literature through the mail.

1873 - Gives lectures in Boston, Massachusetts.

1876 - Divorces Colonel Blood. Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly ceases publication.

1877 - Sails to England with Tennessee.

1883 - Marries John Biddulph Martin.

1888-1890 - Publishes Stirpiculture, or the Scientific Propagation of the Human Race, Garden of Eden - Allegorical Meaning Revealed, and The Human Body the Temple of God (with Tennessee Claflin).

1892 - Begins publishing The Humanitarian. Publishes Humanitarian Money - The Unsolved Riddle. Martin writes The Grasshopper in Lombard Street.

1897 - Martin dies in Las Palmas, Grand Canary.

1901 - Discontinues The Humanitarian.

1927 - Victoria Woodhull Martin dies in Worcestershire, England.

Historical Note:

Victoria Woodhull Martin was a campaigner for women’s rights and an advocate of sexual freedom. Woodhull was born Victoria Claflin in Homer, Licking County, Ohio in 1838. At the age of fifteen she married Dr. Canning Woodhull and had two children, Byron and Zulu/Zula Maud. Woodhull divorced her husband in 1866. Later that year, she married James Harvey Blood. Two years later, the family, along with Victoria's sister, Tennessee Claflin, moved to New York City where the sisters became spiritual advisers to Cornelius Vanderbilt who financed Victoria and Tennessee's business ventures on Wall Street.

The sisters started their own brokerage firm, Woodhull, Claflin & Company, in 1870. In addition to their financial business, they started Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, a newspaper that promoted women's suffrage and labor reform. In 1872, Woodhull was nominated  for President of the United States by the Equal Rights Party, making her the first woman to run for the Presidency. Also, in 1872, she published an issue of Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly that exposed the sexual scandals of Reverend Henry Ward Beecher and stockbroker Luther Challis. Consequently, the women were arrested and tried for sending obscene information through the mail, causing Woodhull to spend election night in jail. She eventually divorced Blood and in 1877, sailed to England with her children and her sister.

In England, Woodhull married her third husband, banker John Biddulph Martin, who she met at her lecture “The Human Body, the Temple of God”. Because of their involvement in different organizations, publication activities, and Martin’s work and family obligations, the couple did not often live together. As a result, they relied on correspondence to sustain their companionship.

When Martin graduated from Oxford in 1863, he entered the banking firm located on Lombard Street in London. Charing Cross Hospital, the Institute of Bankers, and the Council of the Society of Arts were among the institutions and organizations he belonged to. Martin also wrote and presented many papers on financial matters. Woodhull worked with various charities, gave lectures and founded The Humanitarian newspaper in1895. Also during this time, she perused new interests such as scientific farming, theosophy, and the latest educational methods. These new ideas were propagated in The Humanitarian, and were continued by her daughter Zula Maud Woodhull after Woodhull’s death in 1927.


515.00 Items

Language of Materials



This collection is composed of approximately 515 letters, dating from 1883-1927, that documents the relationship between Victoria C. (Victoria Claflin) Woodhull (1838-1927) and her third husband John Biddulph Martin (1841-1897). Many common themes run throughout the letters, such as the spouses’ emotional and physical well-being, daily events, and their publication activities. The collection also contains Woodhull and Martin’s correspondence from relatives and colleagues and a significant amount of newspaper clippings that document Woodhull’s life long interests, among them equal rights, sexual freedom, and marriage. Included in the collection are photographs, manuscript fragments and drafts, and newspaper clippings.

Arrangement Note

This collection is arranged into three series:

1. Victoria Woodhull Correspondence

2. John Martin Correspondence

3. Additional Manuscript and Printed Materials

Method of Acquisition

Purchased from Pickering & Chatto Ltd., in 1985.

Related Materials

MS Acc 87-206-209

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Jennifer Glazer, November 2009.
Victoria Woodhull Martin Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

About this library

Part of the Boston Public Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

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