EXCLUSIVE: A century and a half before Kamala Harris became the first woman on an winning U.S. presidential ticket, Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president. The remarkable story of the feminist icon is the subject of a limited series, with Katherine Heigl (Firefly Lane, Suits) set to portray Woodhull and executive produce. The project, titled Woodhull, hails from Oakhurst Entertainment and is currently out to showrunners.
The series will be based on multiple biographies chronicling the life of Woodhull, which Oakhurst, founded by former Brillstein Entertainment manager Jai Khanna and producer Marina Grasic, acquired earlier this year.
In 1872, Woodhull became the first woman to run for president from the Equal Rights Party, supporting women’s suffrage and equal rights; her running mate was abolitionist leader Frederick Douglas. She was the first woman to address the U.S. Congress and, with her sister Tennessee, the two became the first women to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street. The sisters used the money they had made from their brokerage to found a newspaper. Woodhull was accused of blackmail and prostitution and, along with her sister, was arrested and charged on the eve of the presidential election for printing obscenities after their paper published an exposé of a renowned preacher, revealing that he had committed adultery. It was this arrest and Woodhull’s acquittal that propelled Congress to pass the 1873 Comstock Laws.
Woodhull butted heads with such pillars of society as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Susan B. Anthony. Early on, she had worked as a traveling clairvoyant in medicine shows. She preached – and practiced – the concept of free love, once living with her husband, her ex-husband and her lover at the same time in the same New York apartment. Woodhull was arguably the boldest voice for women’s rights in the 19th century, and she was taken seriously by her contemporaries and by the media in spite of her unconventional lifestyle. This isn’t just the story of one woman, it’s also the story of the time in which she lived and the many famous – and infamous – figures whose lives she touched.
“The moment I discovered the almost too big to be true story of Victoria I have been enthralled and deeply invested in bringing her life story to the screen,” Heigl said. “Victoria’s outrageous courage, determination, intelligence and hutzpah would be remarkable in our modern times but was downright revolutionary in hers. Her name and her story has not been celebrated nearly enough for the trails she blazed and the paths she forged for all the women who came after her. I cannot wait to tell the story of this woman who would not be stopped in a time that forbade her to even start.”
Heigl will produce Woodhull with her mother and producing partner, Nancy Heigl, via their Abishag banner.
An Emmy winner for ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, Heigl next stars in the Netflix series Firefly Lane. She recently co-starred on the final two seasons of USA’s Suits and also headlined CBS’ Doubt and NBC’s State of Affairs. Her feature credits include Knocked Up and The Ugly Truth. She is repped by Zero Gravity Management, Nancy Heigl and attorney Stephen Barnes.
“We are extraordinarily excited to have Katherine Heigl on board – we have always been a big fan of her work and was delighted to discover she was an avid Woodhull fan herself,” Khanna said.
Oakhurst also is behind the Michael Cera comedy Sacramento. The company recently closed a distribution deal for the Glenn Close-Mila Kunis starrer Four Good Days, and is a producer on the Aubrey Plaza starrer Black Bear, which released this past weekend on Amazon.