Accomplishments and Records

It’s Pretty Bad When Your Own V.P. Won’t Vote for You

Victoria Woodhull Frederick Douglass Election First Female Candidate
1872 Presidential candidate Victoria Woodhull (upper left) and her running mate, Frederick Douglass (upper right).

History was made on May 9, 1872 when the National Woman’s Suffrage Association nominated Victoria Woodhull as their candidate for President of the United States. Even the most casual observer would have to acknowledge that she faced an uphill battle to the White House.

For one thing, women would not have the right to vote in the United States for another 48 years. Consequently, Mrs. Woodhull would not even be able to vote for herself. As it turns out, her vote — or lack thereof — was a moot point, since she spent election day in jail on an obscenity charge.

Another obstacle was that if she had been elected, she would have been seven months shy of her 35th birthday on inauguration day. The Constitution limits the presidency to those who have already reached their 35th birthday.

These factors all conspired to deny her the election of 1872. While her name did appear on the ballot in several states, it is unclear how many popular votes she received; they were too few to be counted.

What had to be even more discouraging for her was that she received absolutely no votes in the Electoral College. The reason this was so remarkable was that her running mate was named as an elector to the Electoral College and cast his vote for Ulysses S. Grant, instead.

In his defense, Frederick Douglass did not seek the nomination as Woodhull’s running mate. He did not attend the convention, and he did not acknowledge the nomination. It is questionable whether he even gave Woodhull a thought as he joined with his fellow New York electors to cast all of the state’s votes for President Grant.


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