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Brie Larson is playing a very important figure in feminist history


Brie Larson is set to play the first woman to run for president of the United States in a new biopic.

The Oscar-winning actor will star as Victoria Woodhull – a leader of the American women’s suffrage movement – in the film, which is fittingly titled Victoria Woodhull. Deadline reports that Larson will also produce the picture.

If you’ve never heard of Woodhull, her biography makes for impressive reading. Born to desperately poor parents in rural Ohio, she was allegedly sexually abused as a child and forced to leave school at 11.

Despite her lack of formal education, Woodhull was fiercely intelligent and held views lightyears ahead of her time, from supporting women’s sexual autonomy to campaigning for the right to divorce.

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She and her sister Tennessee Claflin were the first female stockbrokers in the US, and opened their own brokerage firm on Wall Street in 1870. Dubbed “the Queens of Finance”, they made a fortune on the stock exchange by advising male clients such as the railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt (who was also rumoured to have been Tennessee’s lover).


An illustration showing Victoria Woodhull testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee on the matter of women's right to vote, January 1871.

Woodhull soon became involved in the women’s suffrage movement, arguing in front of the House Judiciary Committee in 1871 that women technically already had the right to vote under the 14th and 15th Amendments. Her nomination as a presidential candidate was ratified in 1872, when Woodhull was 34, and she and her sister launched their own feminist newspaper in part to support her bid.

Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly was the first publication to print Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto in English, and covered several topics that were seen as taboo at the time – from vegetarianism to sex education, spiritualism, short skirts and licensed prostitution.

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But while the newspaper was intended to help Woodhull’s presidential run, it ended up being used against her. A few days before the presidential election, Woodhull, Claflin, and Woodhull’s second husband were arrested on charges of “publishing an obscene newspaper”, after they dedicated an issue to highlighting the sexual double standard between how adulterous men and women were treated. The sisters were held in jail for a month, meaning that Woodhull could not vote in the election.

Unsurprisingly, Woodhull’s bid for the presidency was unsuccessful, but that didn’t stop her from trying to gain nominations for the role twice more, in 1884 and 1892. She eventually moved to England, and died in Worcestershire at the ripe old age of 88 (although some newspapers at the time cited her age as 80).


Brie Larson refused to clap when Casey Affleck - who has been accused of sexual harassment - received the Best Actor Oscar at this year's Academy Awards.

The part of Woodhull seems a fitting one for Larson, a woman whose feminist ideals – and actions – are well-documented. Larson worked extensively with sexual assault survivors both before and after winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2016 (for her performance in Room, about a woman imprisoned and sexually abused by her father), and famously refused to clap for Casey Affleck when he was awarded an Oscar at this year’s ceremony.

Larson also supported Hillary Clinton in the most recent presidential election, urging her fellow American women to go out and vote, and has been an outspoken and articulate critic of President Donald Trump’s administration on social media.

In a recent interview with Jane Fonda, the actor spoke about her commitment to political activism.

“It can get wild out there when you start speaking up,” said Larson. But, she added: “I’d put it all on the line and be an activist for the rest of my life because it doesn’t feel right to me to be quiet.”

Images: Getty Images, Rex Features



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