A Short Quiz on the Scandalously Progressive ‘Scarlet Sisters’

Scarlet Sisters in the Gilded Age
Victoria Woodhull | Caricature of American suffragist Victoria Woodhull © Library of Congress | Tennessee Celeste Claflin

"I have an inalienable, constitutional, and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law can frame any right to interfere."

If you think this sounds like something said outside Stonewall, think again. This brave declaration of the virtues of free love was made by Victoria Claflin Woodhull in 1871 at a lecture in New York City. Joined by her cherubic sister, Tennessee “Tennie” Claflin, the ladies shocked Victorians by both openly flaunting their lovers and loudly complaining, actions considered unfathomable at the time. For the first time, both sisters are given their due in The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage and Scandal in the Gilded Age, a new biography by award-winning journalist Myra MacPherson. Test your knowledge of two women way ahead of their time with the below mini-quiz. Answers follow on the second page (no peeking!)

1. Which of the following causes did the sisters champion?

A) Women’s reproductive rights

B) Suffrage

C) Training women for combat

D) All of the above

E) A and B only

2. One or both of the sisters boast:

A) Being the first women to open a Wall Street brokerage firm

B) Being the first women to run for office

C) Being the first women to swim the English Channel

D) All of the above

E) A and B only

3. A character in a book by which famous novelist was modeled after Victoria Woodhull?

A) Edith Wharton

B) Henry James

C) H. G. Wells

D) James Joyce

E) Mark Twain


Answers on the next page!