The Garden of Eden; or The Paradise Lost & Found
by Victoria Claflin Woodhull
Victoria Claflin Woodhull was a 19th century feminist, spiritualist, and advocate for free love. She was the first woman to run for president (in 1872), the first woman stockbroker, and published the first American edition of the Communist Manifesto. Her view that women should be free to marry and take lovers based on conscience, not compulsion, set her at odds with other feminists. She was convicted of sending obscenity through the mails when her newspaper ran an exposé of a sex scandal involving two prominent preachers. In her later years Woodhull moved to England, married a respectable banker, and spent a lot of effort attempting to backtrack over her radical past.
Like other 19th century feminists, Woodhull saw the dominant religion as one of the sources of women's oppression and made a rationalist critique of the Bible part of her intellectual armament. This pamphlet is a version of a lecture which she gave numerous times on the subject of the Garden of Eden, which she felt was an intricate symbol of the human body, rather than an actual historical location. While a few of the opinions in this essay are firmly planted in 19th century pseudo-science, (e.g., eugenics), her thesis that the kingdom of god is literally within us, and nothing pertaining to the body is obscene, still seems fresh and relevant today.