This article examines several millennialist claims made in speeches and writings by Victoria Woodhull, the alternately celebrated and scandalous proponent of Spiritualism, Free Love, and women's suffrage in the nineteenth century. It focuses particularly on a utopian vision detailed in a speech, ““The Elixir of Life,”” that Woodhull addressed to the tenth annual meeting of the American Association of Spiritualists, in which Woodhull predicted a swiftly arriving millennium that would unite heaven and earth, bringing eternal life to the living and restoring the dead to an earthly but perfect existence. This millennial vision centered on the perfectability of the human body at the intersection of the discourses of medicine, politics, and religion. This utopia would be ushered in by society's embracing of the principles of Free Love, the reform movement that espoused that emotional and physical romantic relations should be governed by mutual love alone without interference from legal or religious authority.
This speech is read against the backdrop of contemporaneous social movements in Spiritualism, Free Love, and alternative forms of medicine. The article argues that Woodhull defied both normative Christianity and the mainstream of Spiritualist believers by refusing to subordinate the body to the soul. The millennial impulse toward progress, seen so keenly in Spiritualist circles, was transformed here to refer to the individual rather than society at large. Social perfection would follow corporeal perfection. Arguing for a natural immortality of the body, Woodhull maintained an essential union and interreliance between the body and soul rather than a disjuncture between them.
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