What Victoria Woodhull (Our True First Presidential Nominee) Can Teach Americans About Political Action (& How To Manage Politically Charged Talk In The Office)

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to head a majority party ticket as the Democratic nominee for President. But did you ever wonder why the press emphasizes the clause, “of a major party ticket”? It’s because almost 150 years ago, the United States witnessed its true first female candidate for President, Victoria Woodhull.

Never heard of her? It’s not surprising. Even in her own time, Victoria Woodhull was controversial.

Like most women of her era, Victoria Woodhull received no formal education. As one of 10 children, she dropped out of school—in favor of marriage—and eventually became a “clairvoyant.” It was through contacting sprits and selling life elixirs that she and her sister, Tennessee, eventually made a living.

Soon, Victoria and her sister caught the eye of railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was suspicious of medically-trained doctors. Tennessee would become Vanderbilt’s mistress, and this mutually beneficial relationship (and a few stock tips later) would help finance the women’s stock brokerage firm.

As a result, Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee became the first female brokers on Wall Street (and you thought a woman running for U.S. President in 1872 would be the most surprising part!).

In April 1870, two months after opening up the brokerage firm, Victoria Woodhull announced her candidacy for President of the United States. She advocated for women’s suffrage, regulation of monopolies, nationalization of railroads, an eight-hour workday, direct taxation, abolition of the death penalty, and welfare for the poor (read more on History’s “9 Things You Should Know About Victoria Woodhull“).

So, in many ways, this year wasn’t at all a “crack in the glass ceiling” as Hillary Clinton announced at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. In fact, based on the plethora of platforms for which Victoria Woodhull was already campaigning more than a century earlier, America seems to be behind, rather than ahead.

“While others prayed for the good time coming, I worked for it,” Victoria Woodhull once said. Today, as presidential election looms and Brexit blooms, let’s hope people are prepared for more than rhetoric—like notorius Victoria back in 1870 (read her incredible biography here).

Of course, a bombardment of information and opinions makes political chatter in the workplace inevitable.

But what happens when political talk interrupts workflow or escalates to bad behavior? As an employer trying to retain productivity, keep the peace, and avoid legal landmines can be more challenging than you may think.

In fact, there’s a host of legal concerns surrounding barring political talk or disciplining employees for engaging in political behavior.

Take C4CM’s webinar, “Politics in the Workplace: How to Legally Manage Politically Charged Activity at Work,” on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern.

During this practical and timely webinar, you will learn what employers can – and can’t do – to manage political activity in the workplace, including:

  • What employers can do to manage political discussions and fundraising
  • How to address political discussions in the workplace under federal and state laws
  • What employers should never do when it comes to political activities or chatter
  • How the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) applies
  • How the new SCOTUS ruling Heffernan vs. City of Paterson impacts employers
  • When an employee’s political discussion is protected by the First Amendment

By the end of the information-packed session, you will know more about:

  • When discipline for political-related behavior is appropriate and legal
  • What defines political harassment in the workplace
  • What constitutes business harm from employee’s political speech
  • How to handle controversial or political social media posts by an employee
  • How to handle office sponsored political functions supported by management
  • Dress code dos and don’ts

-WB

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