Last week, news spread that Amazon Studios is set to produce a biopic starring Brie Larson as Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to officially run for U.S. president.
But before the marketing push goes into full swing on this one, it’s worth hitting the pause button: Woodhull’s legacy is many things, but a hero for contemporary feminists should not be one of them. We cannot overlook her harmful work as an eugenics advocate just because we’re desperate for vintage female mascots.
You might remember a post from awhile back about my hunt for the first American woman to get a passport. (The answer: we don’t know, but she was probably listed as “and wife” on her husband’s passport.)
Well, over the past couple of months, that post evolved into a piece for Atlas Obscura, which went live yesterday. Here’s the lead:
The 1920s Women Who Fought For the Right to Travel Under Their Own Names
The current U.S. passport includes 13 inspirational quotes from notable Americans. Only one belongs to a woman, the African-American scholar, educator, and activist Anna J. Cooper. On pages 26-27 are words she wrote in 1892: “The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class—it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.”
If equality is a journey, then it should come as no surprise that passports have helped American women to cross some of society’s most entrenched cultural borders for more than a century.