February 5, 1870: The First Female-Owned American Stock Brokerage Opened On Wall Street

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Victoria California Claflin, later Victoria Woodhull, hailed from the rural frontier town of Homer, Ohio. She came from a physically abusive home and married, divorced, and remarried young. 

By 1868, she and her family had moved to New York City, where Victoria and her sister, Tennie, became spiritual advisors for railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Backed by Vanderbilt, Victoria and Tenny opened Woodhull, Claflin & Company in 1870 on 44 Broad Street.

Newspapers such as the New York Herald hailed Woodhull and Claflin as "the Queens of Finance" and "the Bewitching Brokers."

Yet, Woodhull made a fortune on the New York Stock Exchange by advising clients like Vanderbilt and Jay Cooke.

Woodhull supported legalized prostitution and the idea that women should have the choice to leave unbearable marriages.

Woodhull and Claflin used profits to start a newspaper called, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly.

It advocated controversial opinions on sex education, free love, women's suffrage, short skirts, spiritualism, and vegetarianism.

Woodhull was nominated for President of the United States by the newly formed Equal Rights Party on May 10, 1872.

She spoke publicly against an all-male government and proposed developing a new constitution; she received no electoral votes.

The firm slowly lost clients; by 1873, Victoria and Tennie were out of money and the firm existed in name only.

Vanderbilt’s son, William Henry, paid Woodhull and her sister $1,000 ($24,000 today) to move to Great Britain in August 1877. Woodhull remarried banker John Martin and lived out the rest of her life in Great Britain. Later in life, she took on more conservative views on religion and eugenics; she died in 1927.

It would be another 94 years before the next woman, Muriel Siebert, would work on male-dominated Wall Street.

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