The Renegade Queen
Victoria Claflin is a woman for the ages: this would be true except for the fact that her role in history, if not women’s history, hadn’t been sanitized, or even scrubbed out. She is at the forefront of the women’s suffrage movement along with the likes of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But this is getting ahead of the book at hand, The Renegade Queen. Our protagonist is the sixth of ten children, conceived in a tent during a revival. She is given the gift of clairvoyance, yet exploited and abused by her huckster pimp father. She is seen as the Sybil of the Midwest. Her wretched future is derailed by the seeming good nature of Canning Woodhull, who frees her from the captivity of her abusive father. Victoria marries the dashing Canning and immerses herself in the anti-slavery movement, but is subject to the drudgery of her new husband’s drinking and womanizing. She sees parallels between the move for freedom of African Americans and women in the United States. She also equates the handicap of her son with her husband’s lust for drink. Victoria throws herself fully into the woman’s equality movement along with her sister Tennessee. They are iconoclasts who are not willing to tread lightly in their path towards the vote, but will burn every bridge if necessary. That is what ultimately sets them apart from those in the history books.
Eva Flynn’s work is powerful in its portrayal of a renegade suffragette. Victoria Woodhull is a multifaceted character who evokes empathy, the occasional laugh, and ultimately sympathy for the plight of the hardworking woman. Victoria is not your conventional heroine, but in this time of the United States, conventions mattered little.