Grant by Ron Chernow:
Grant was the first president to confront the feminist movement as a viable political force. The same fervor for equality that generated abolitionism had spurred on feminists, who created the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. While Grant showed sympathy for women’s rights, he didn’t cover himself with glory on the issue. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other feminist leaders had opposed the Fifteenth Amendment unless the sequel was a Sixteenth granting women the right to vote. They wanted black and women’s suffrage to advance hand in hand. In spring 1972, a New York conference composed predominantly of women, under the banner of the Equal Rights Party, nominated thirty-four-year-old Victoria Woodhull as its first female candidate for president—she was legally too young to be president—on a platform dedicated to female voting rights. Two years earlier, Woodhull, a prophetess of free love, and her sister Tennessee Claflin had opened the first female brokerage house on Wall Street, secretly aided, it was said, by Cornelius Vanderbilt. On Election Day 1872, Woodhull would up in jail, imprisoned for sending obscene materials through the mail, her paper having broadcast salacious details of Henry Ward Beecher’s alleged philandering.
When the Republican Party met in Philadelphia that June, Susan B. Anthony implored the platform committee to take a stand for women’s suffrage. She got a rhetorical nod in that direction, what she termed a “splinter” in the platform, urging “respectful consideration to the rights of women.” Anthony, a temperance advocate, associated Grant with drink. When a reporter asked if he was her favorite candidate, she replied, “So far, yes. Personally, I do not admire Grant, and do not care to see a ‘fast man’ at the head of the nation; but . . . principles to me are more than individual character.” When the reporter asked whether Grant was friendly to the women’s movement, she answered, “Yes, and his wife, who is said to influence him greatly, is with us heart and soul. Grant’s letter of acceptance pleases me, inasmuch as the last paragraph recommends ‘equal rights to all citizens,’ which is evidently a sop thrown to us women.” When Democrats met in Baltimore to nominate Greeley, an opponent of female suffrage, Anthony came out foursquare for Grant: “The mountain has brought forth its mole, and we are left to comfort ourselves with the Philadelphia splinter as best we may.”