Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton (/ˈhɪləri daɪˈæn ˈrɒdəm ˈklɪntən/; born October 26, 1947) is an American politician who was the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001, U.S. Senator from New York from 2001 to 2009, 67th United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, and the Democratic Party‘s nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election.
Born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, Clinton graduated from Wellesley College in 1969 and earned a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1973. After serving as a congressional legal counsel, she moved to Arkansas and married Bill Clinton in 1975. In 1977, she co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She was appointed the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation in 1978 and became the first female partner at Rose Law Firm the following year. As First Lady of Arkansas, she led a task force whose recommendations helped reform Arkansas’s public schools.
As First Lady of the United States, Clinton was an advocate for gender equality and healthcare reform. Her marital relationship came under public scrutiny during the Lewinsky scandal, which led her to issue a statement that reaffirmed her commitment to the marriage. In 2000, Clinton was elected as the first female Senator from New York. She was re-elected to the Senate in 2006. Running for president in 2008, she won far more delegates than any previous female candidate, but lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama.
During her tenure as Secretary of State in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013, Clinton responded to the Arab Spring by advocating U.S. military intervention in Libya. She helped to organize a diplomatic isolation and international sanctions regime against Iran in an effort to force curtailment of that country’s nuclear program; this would eventually lead to the multinational Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement in 2015. Upon Leaving her Cabinet position after Obama’s first term, she wrote her fifth book and undertook speaking engagements.
Clinton made a second presidential run in 2016. She received the most votes and primary delegates in the 2016 Democratic primaries and formally accepted her party’s nomination for President of the United States on July 28, 2016 with vice presidential running mate Senator Tim Kaine. She became the first female candidate to be nominated for president by a major U.S. political party. Clinton lost the presidential election to Republican opponent Donald Trump despite winning a plurality of the popular vote. Following her loss, she wrote her sixth book and started Onward Together, a political action organization dedicated to fundraising for progressive political groups.
Early life and education
Hillary Diane Rodham was born on October 26, 1947, at Edgewater Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Clinton was raised in a United Methodist family that first lived in Chicago. When she was three years old, her family moved to the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. Her father, Hugh Rodham, was of English and Welsh descent, and managed a small but successful textile business. Her mother, Dorothy Howell, was a homemaker of Dutch, English, French Canadian (from Quebec), Scottish and Welsh descent. Clinton has two younger brothers, Hugh and Tony.
As a child, Rodham was a favorite student among her teachers at the public schools that she attended in Park Ridge. She participated swimming and softball and earned numerous badges as a Brownie and a Girl Scout. She has often told a story of being inspired by U.S. efforts during the Space Race and sending a letter to NASA around 1961 asking what she could do to become an astronaut, only to be informed that women were not being accepted into the program. She attended Maine East High School, where she participated in the student council, the school newspaper and was selected for the National Honor Society. She was elected class vice president for her junior year, but then lost the election for class president for her senior year against two boys, one of whom told her that “you are really stupid if you think a girl can be elected president”. For her senior year, she and other students were transferred to the then new Maine South High School, where she was a National Merit Finalist and was voted “most likely to succeed”. She graduated in 1965 in the top five percent of her class.
Rodham’s mother wanted her to have an independent, professional career, and her father, who was otherwise a traditionalist, felt that his daughter’s abilities and opportunities should not be limited by gender. Rodham was raised in a politically conservative household, and she helped canvass Chicago’s South Side at age 13 after the very close 1960 U.S. presidential election. She saw evidence of electoral fraud (such as voting list entries showing addresses that were empty lots) against Republican candidate Richard Nixon. She then volunteered to campaign for Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in the U.S. presidential election of 1964. Rodham’s early political development was shaped most by her high school history teacher (like her father, a fervent anti-communist), who introduced her to Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative and by her Methodist youth minister (like her mother, concerned with issues of social justice), with whom she saw and afterwards briefly met, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. at a 1962 speech in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall.
Wellesley College years
In 1965, Rodham enrolled at Wellesley College, where she majored in political science. During her freshman year, she served as president of the Wellesley Young Republicans. As the leader of this “Rockefeller Republican“-oriented group, she supported the elections of moderate Republicans John Lindsay to Mayor of New York City and Massachusetts Attorney General Edward Brooke to the United States Senate. She later stepped down from this position. In 2003 Clinton would write that her views concerning the American Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War were changing in her early college years. In a letter to her youth minister at that time, she described herself as “a mind conservative and a heart liberal”. In contrast to the factions in the 1960s that advocated radical actions against the political system, she sought to work for change within it.
By her junior year, Rodham became a supporter of the antiwar presidential nomination campaign of Democrat Eugene McCarthy. In early 1968, she was elected president of the Wellesley College Government Association and served through early 1969. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Rodham organized a two-day student strike and worked with Wellesley’s black students to recruit more black students and faculty. In her student government role, she played a role in keeping Wellesley from being embroiled in the student disruptions common to other colleges. A number of her fellow students thought she might some day become the first female President of the United States.
To help her better understand her changing political views, Professor Alan Schechter assigned Rodham to intern at the House Republican Conference and she attended the “Wellesley in Washington” summer program. Rodham was invited by moderate New York Republican Representative Charles Goodell to help Governor Nelson Rockefeller‘s late-entry campaign for the Republican nomination. Rodham attended the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami. However, she was upset by the way Richard Nixon’s campaign portrayed Rockefeller and by what she perceived as the convention’s “veiled” racist messages and left the Republican Party for good. Rodham wrote her senior thesis, a critique of the tactics of radical community organizer Saul Alinsky, under Professor Schechter. (Years later, while she was first lady, access to her thesis was restricted at the request of the White House and it became the subject of some speculation. The thesis was later released.)
In 1969, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, with departmental honors in political science. After some fellow seniors requested that the college administration allow a student speaker at commencement, she became the first student in Wellesley College history to speak at the event. Her address followed that of commencement speaker Senator Edward Brooke. After her speech, she received a standing ovation that lasted seven minutes. She was featured in an article published in Life magazine, due to the response to a part of her speech that criticized Senator Brooke. She also appeared on Irv Kupcinet‘s nationally syndicated television talk show as well as in Illinois and New England newspapers. That summer, she worked her way across Alaska, washing dishes in Mount McKinley National Park and sliming salmon in a fish processing cannery in Valdez (which fired her and shut down overnight when she complained about unhealthful conditions).
Yale Law School and postgraduate studies
Rodham then entered Yale Law School, where she served on the editorial board of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action. During her second year, she worked at the Yale Child Study Center, learning about new research on early childhood brain development and working as a research assistant on the seminal work, Beyond the Best Interests of the Child (1973). She also took on cases of child abuse at Yale–New Haven Hospital and volunteered at New Haven Legal Services to provide free legal advice for the poor. In the summer of 1970 she was awarded a grant to work at Marian Wright Edelman‘s Washington Research Project, where she was assigned to Senator Walter Mondale‘s Subcommittee on Migratory Labor. There she researched various migrant workers‘ issues including education, health and housing. Edelman later became a significant mentor. Rodham was recruited by political advisor Anne Wexler to work on the 1970 campaign of Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Joseph Duffey, with Rodham later crediting Wexler with providing her first job in politics.
In the spring of 1971, she began dating Bill Clinton, who was also a law student at Yale. During the summer, she interned at the Oakland, California, law firm of Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein. The firm was well known for its support of constitutional rights, civil liberties and radical causes (two of its four partners were current or former Communist Party members); Rodham worked on child custody and other cases.[a] Clinton canceled his original summer plans in order to live with her in California; the couple continued living together in New Haven when they returned to law school. The following summer, Rodham and Clinton campaigned in Texas for unsuccessful 1972 Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern. She received a Juris Doctor degree from Yale in 1973, having stayed on an extra year to be with Clinton. He first proposed marriage to her following graduation but she declined, uncertain if she wanted to tie her future to his.
Rodham began a year of postgraduate study on children and medicine at the Yale Child Study Center. In late 1973 her first scholarly article, “Children Under the Law”, was published in the Harvard Educational Review. Discussing the new children’s rights movement, the article stated that “child citizens” were “powerless individuals” and argued that children should not be considered equally incompetent from birth to attaining legal age, but instead that courts should presume competence except when there is evidence otherwise, on a case-by-case basis. The article became frequently cited in the field.
From the East Coast to Arkansas
During her postgraduate studies, Rodham served as staff attorney for Edelman’s newly founded Children’s Defense Fund in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and as a consultant to the Carnegie Council on Children. In 1974, she was a member of the impeachment inquiry staff in Washington, D.C. and advised the House Committee on the Judiciary during the Watergate scandal. Under the guidance of Chief Counsel John Doar and senior member Bernard W. Nussbaum, Rodham helped research procedures of impeachment and the historical grounds and standards for impeachment. The committee’s work culminated with the resignation of President Richard Nixon in August 1974.
By then, Rodham was viewed as someone with a bright political future. Democratic political organizer and consultant Betsey Wright had moved from Texas to Washington the previous year to help guide Rodham’s career. Wright thought she had the potential to become a future senator or president. Meanwhile, boyfriend Bill Clinton had repeatedly asked Rodham to marry him, but she continued to demur. After failing the District of Columbia bar exam and passing the Arkansas exam, Rodham came to a key decision. As she later wrote, “I chose to follow my heart instead of my head”. She thus followed Clinton to Arkansas, rather than staying in Washington, where career prospects were brighter. He was then teaching law and running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in his home state. In August 1974, Rodham moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas and became one of only two female faculty members in the School of Law at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Early Arkansas years
At the university, Rodham taught classes in criminal law, where she was considered to be a rigorous teacher who was tough with her grades. She became the first director of a new legal aid clinic at the school, where she secured support from the local bar association and gained federal funding. In one of her cases, the court required her to serve as defense counsel to a man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. Clinton used an effective defense and directed her client to plead guilty to a much lesser charge. Decades later, the victim said that the defense counsel had put her “through hell” during the legal process; Hillary Clinton has called the trial a “terrible case”. During her time in Fayetteville, Rodham and several other women founded the city’s first rape crisis center. Rodham still harbored doubts about getting married; she was concerned that her separate identity would be lost and that her accomplishments would be viewed in light of someone else.
In 1974, Bill Clinton lost a congressional race. Rodham and Bill Clinton bought a house in Fayetteville in the summer of 1975 and she finally agreed to marry him. The wedding took place on October 11, 1975, in a Methodist ceremony in their living room. A story about the marriage in the Arkansas Gazette indicated that she decided to retain the name Hillary Rodham. Her motivation was threefold. She wanted to keep the couple’s professional lives separate, avoid apparent conflicts of interest, and as she told a friend at the time, “it showed that I was still me.” The decision upset both mothers, who were more traditional.
In 1976, Rodham temporarily relocated to Indianapolis in order to serve as an Indiana state campaign organizer for the presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter. In November 1976, Bill Clinton was elected Arkansas Attorney General, and the couple moved to the state capital of Little Rock. In February 1977, Rodham joined the venerable Rose Law Firm, a bastion of Arkansan political and economic influence. She specialized in patent infringement and intellectual property law while also working pro bono in child advocacy; she rarely performed litigation work in court.
Rodham maintained her interest in children’s law and family policy, publishing the scholarly articles “Children’s Policies: Abandonment and Neglect” in 1977 and “Children’s Rights: A Legal Perspective” in 1979. The latter continued her argument that children’s legal competence depended upon their age and other circumstances and that in serious medical rights cases, judicial intervention was sometimes warranted. An American Bar Association chair later said, “Her articles were important, not because they were radically new but because they helped formulate something that had been inchoate.” Historian Garry Wills would later describe her as “one of the more important scholar-activists of the last two decades”, while conservatives said her theories would usurp traditional parental authority, would allow children to file frivolous lawsuits against their parents, and exemplified critical legal studies run amok.
In 1977, Rodham cofounded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, a state-level alliance with the Children’s Defense Fund. Later that year, President Jimmy Carter (for whom Rodham had been the 1976 campaign director of field operations in Indiana) appointed her to the board of directors of the Legal Services Corporation, and she served in that capacity from 1978 until the end of 1981. From mid-1978 to mid-1980,[b] she was the chair of that board, the first woman to have the job. During her time as chair, funding for the Corporation was expanded from $90 million to $300 million; subsequently, she successfully fought President Ronald Reagan‘s attempts to reduce the funding and change the nature of the organization.
Following her husband’s November 1978 election as Governor of Arkansas, Rodham became that state’s First Lady in January 1979. She would hold that title for twelve nonconsecutive years (1979–81, 1983–92). Clinton appointed his wife to be the chair of the Rural Health Advisory Committee the same year, where she secured federal funds to expand medical facilities in Arkansas’s poorest areas without affecting doctors’ fees.
In 1979, Rodham became the first woman to be made a full partner of Rose Law Firm. From 1978 until they entered the White House, she had a higher salary than her husband. During 1978 and 1979, while looking to supplement their income, Rodham engaged in the trading of cattle futures contracts; an initial $1,000 investment generated nearly $100,000 when she stopped trading after ten months. At this time, the couple also began their ill-fated investment in the Whitewater Development Corporation real estate venture with Jim and Susan McDougal. Both of these became subjects of controversy in the 1990s.
Later Arkansas years
Two years after leaving office, Bill Clinton returned to his job as Governor of Arkansas after he won the election of 1982. During her husband’s campaign, Hillary began to use the name “Hillary Clinton”, or sometimes “Mrs. Bill Clinton”, to assuage the concerns of Arkansas voters; she also took a leave of absence from Rose Law to campaign for him full-time. During her second stint as First Lady of Arkansas, she made a point of using Hillary Rodham Clinton as her name.[c] She was named chair of the Arkansas Education Standards Committee in 1983, where she sought to reform the state’s court-sanctioned public education system. In one of the Clinton governorship’s most important initiatives, she fought a prolonged but ultimately successful battle against the Arkansas Education Association to establish mandatory teacher testing and state standards for curriculum and classroom size. It became her introduction into the politics of a highly visible public policy effort. In 1985, she introduced Arkansas’s Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth, a program that helps parents work with their children in preschool preparedness and literacy. She was named Arkansas Woman of the Year in 1983 and Arkansas Mother of the Year in 1984.
Clinton continued to practice law with the Rose Law Firm while she was First Lady of Arkansas. She earned less than the other partners, as she billed fewer hours, but still made more than $200,000 in her final year there. The firm considered her a “rainmaker” because she brought in clients, partly thanks to the prestige she lent it and to her corporate board connections. She was also very influential in the appointment of state judges. Bill Clinton’s Republican opponent in his 1986 gubernatorial re-election campaign accused the Clintons of conflict of interest, because Rose Law did state business; the Clintons countered the charge by saying that state fees were walled off by the firm before her profits were calculated.
From 1982 to 1988, Clinton was on the board of directors, sometimes as chair, of the New World Foundation, which funded a variety of New Left interest groups. From 1987 to 1991, she was the first chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, created to address gender bias in the legal profession and induce the association to adopt measures to combat it. She was twice named by The National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America: in 1988 and in 1991. When Bill Clinton thought about not running again for governor in 1990, Hillary Clinton considered running, but private polls were unfavorable and, in the end, he ran and was re-elected for the final time.
Clinton served as Chairman of the Board of the Children’s Defense Fund and on the board of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital‘s Legal Services (1988–92) In addition to her positions with nonprofit organizations, she also held positions on the corporate board of directors of TCBY (1985–92), Wal-Mart Stores (1986–92) and Lafarge (1990–92). TCBY and Wal-Mart were Arkansas-based companies that were also clients of Rose Law. Clinton was the first female member on Wal-Mart’s board, added following pressure on chairman Sam Walton to name a woman to it. Once there, she pushed successfully for Wal-Mart to adopt more environmentally friendly practices, was largely unsuccessful in a campaign for more women to be added to the company’s management and was silent about the company’s famously anti-labor union practices.
Bill Clinton presidential campaign of 1992
Clinton received sustained national attention for the first time when her husband became a candidate for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination. Before the New Hampshire primary, tabloid publications printed assertions that Bill Clinton had engaged in an extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers. In response, the Clintons appeared together on 60 Minutes, where Bill denied the affair, but acknowledged “causing pain in my marriage”. This joint appearance was credited with rescuing his campaign. During the campaign, Hillary made culturally disparaging remarks about Tammy Wynette‘s outlook on marriage as described in her classic song “Stand by Your Man“,[d] and later in the campaign about how she could have chosen to be like women staying home and baking cookies and having teas, but wanted to pursue her career instead.[e] The remarks were widely criticized, particularly by those who were, or defended, stay-at-home mothers and in retrospect, were ill-considered by her own admission. Bill said that in electing him, the nation would “get two for the price of one”, referring to the prominent role his wife would assume. Beginning with Daniel Wattenberg‘s August 1992 The American Spectator article “The Lady Macbeth of Little Rock”, Hillary’s own past ideological and ethical record came under attack from conservatives. At least twenty other articles in major publications also drew comparisons between her and Lady Macbeth.
First Lady of the United States
When Bill Clinton took office as President in January 1993, Hillary Rodham Clinton became the First Lady and her press secretary reiterated that she would be using that form of her name.[c] She was the first inaugural First Lady to have earned a postgraduate degree and to have her own professional career up to the time of entering the White House. She was also the first to have an office in the West Wing of the White House in addition to the usual first lady offices in the East Wing. She was part of the innermost circle vetting appointments to the new administration and her choices filled at least eleven top-level positions and dozens more lower-level ones. After Eleanor Roosevelt, Clinton was regarded as the most openly empowered presidential wife in American history.
Some critics called it inappropriate for the first lady to play a central role in matters of public policy. Supporters pointed out that Clinton’s role in policy was no different from that of other White House advisors and that voters had been well aware that she would play an active role in her husband’s presidency. Bill Clinton’s campaign promise of “two for the price of one” led opponents to refer derisively to the Clintons as “co-presidents” or sometimes use the Arkansas label “Billary”. The pressures of conflicting ideas about the role of a first lady were enough to send Hillary Clinton into “imaginary discussions” with the also-politically-active Eleanor Roosevelt.[f] From the time she came to Washington, Hillary also found refuge in a prayer group of the Fellowship that featured many wives of conservative Washington figures. Triggered in part by the death of her father in April 1993, she publicly sought to find a synthesis of Methodist teachings, liberal religious political philosophy and Tikkun editor Michael Lerner‘s “politics of meaning” to overcome what she saw as America’s “sleeping sickness of the soul”; that would lead to a willingness “to remold society by redefining what it means to be a human being in the twentieth century, moving into a new millennium.”