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Victoria Woodhull,(TM)the Spirit to Run the White House



July 1, 2001

Victoria's Ghost Gets Even?

The spirit of Victoria Woodhull must be laughing at Jackson, Michigan, the birthplace of the Republican Party. In 1873, Jackson was scandalized by the speeches of America's first female presidential candidate. Victoria advocated equality for women in the boardroom and the bedroom. She told the people of Jackson that "Women must rise from their position as ministers to the passions of men to be their equals....They must be the companions of men from choice, never from necessity." She wanted a married man to think of his wife's pleasure and satisfaction, and not his alone. She also predicted that "Free Love will be an integral part of the religion of the future." She and her husband, Col. Blood, sold pamphlets of her speeches to the people of Jackson. The Sheriff arrested Victoria for selling "obscenity."

Fast forward 128 years and actor Jeff Daniels ended up in Jackson's jail, too, but not as an inmate. He was filming in the jail for "Super Sucker," a movie filled with sexual innuendo that would make even Victoria Woodhull blush. The film is set in the fictional town of Johnson City (pun intended) and features the "Super Sucker" vacuum cleaner with its "housewives' little helper" attachment. If you use your imagination, you'll know exactly what the attachment does.

One of the great-granddaughters of Col. Blood's step-son was an extra in the film. She learned that history does, indeed, repeat itself but in twisted and ironic ways. She was part of a crowd of about 1,000 women who were clamoring for the "housewives' little helper." The scene was reminiscent of the crowd her ancestor Col. Blood witnessed when Victoria Woodhull was put on trial at Jackson's courthouse: "The largest and most uproarious crowd we ever saw assembled, filled every inch of the office, even climbing on the roof to look through windows...The vast assemblage composed of the same elements that usually congregate on such occasions when the 'dirty-minded' expect to be entertained....The women buzzed around like bees and laughed at the coarse jests."


The Super Sucker extras were just as rowdy and rambunctious, climbing on vehicles and craning for a view of the 'dirty-minded' entertainment.  They not only laughed at the coarse jests, they made them. 

In the movie's climatic scene, Daniels' character, vacuum cleaner salesman Fred Barlow, climbs on top of a red van to make a speech to a thousand housewives about the Super Sucker attachment and its unconventional use by his fictional wife. Unintentionally echoing Victoria Woodhull, Fred Barlow preaches sexual freedom. He calls sexual pleasure "the American way" and says the Super Sucker attachment "puts the free back in freedom."

"Super Sucker" also puts the jack back in Jackson. Thanks to Jeff Daniels' movie Jackson will be the butt of numerous sexual jokes. The town will become synonymous with Johnson City. It's not hard to imagine Victoria Woodhull's ghost shouting in glee, "Take that Jackson!"

Ironically, Daniels next role is General Joshua Chamberlain, a man Col. Blood unsuccessfully attempted to arrest for disobeying orders.

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