HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
(b. Oct. 26, 1947, Chicago, Ill., U.S.)
The American lawyer and politician Hillary Rodham Clinton served as a U.S. senator (2001–09) and secre-tary of state (2009– ) in the administration of Pres. Barack Obama. She also served as ﬁrst lady (1993–2001) during the administration of her husband, Bill Clinton, 42nd president of the United States.
The ﬁrst president’s wife born after World War II, Hillary Diane Rodham was the eldest child of Hugh and Dorothy Rodham. She grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, where her father’s textile business pro-vided the family with a comfortable income. Her parents’ emphasis on hard work and academic excellence set high standards.
A student leader in public schools, she was active in youth programs at the First United Methodist Church. Although she later became associated with liberal causes, during this time she adhered to the Republican Party of her parents.
She campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964 and chaired the local chapter of the Young Republicans. A year later, after she enrolled at Wellesley College, her political views began to change.
Inﬂuenced by the assassinations of Malcolm X, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., she joined the Democratic Party and volunteered in the presidential campaign of antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy.
After her graduation from Wellesley in 1969, Clinton entered Yale Law School, where she came under the inﬂu-ence of Yale alumna Marian Wright Edelman, a lawyer and children’s rights advocate. Through her work with Edelman, she developed a strong interest in family law and issues affecting children.
Although Hillary met Bill Clinton at Yale, they took separate paths after graduation in 1973. He returned to his native Arkansas, and she worked with Edelman in Massachusetts for the Children’s Defense Fund.
In 1974 Hillary participated in the Watergate inquiry into the possible impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon. When her assignment ended with Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, she made what some people consider the crucial decision of her life—she moved to Arkansas.
She taught at the University of Arkansas School of Law, and, following her marriage to Bill Clinton on Oct. 11, 1975, she joined the prominent Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she later became a partner.
After Bill was elected governor of Arkansas in 1978, she continued to pursue her career and retained her maiden name (until 1982), bringing considerable criticism from voters who felt that her failure to change her name indicated a lack of commitment to her husband. Their only child, Chelsea Victoria, was born in 1980.
Throughout Bill’s tenure as governor (1979–81, 1983–92), Hillary worked on programs that aided children and the disadvantaged; she also maintained a successful law practice.
She served on the boards of several high-proﬁle corporations and was twice named one of the nation’s 100 most inﬂuential lawyers (1988, 1991) by the National Law Journal.
She also served as chair of the Arkansas Education Standards Committee and founded the Arkansas Advo-cates for Children and Families. She was named Arkansas Woman of the Year in 1983 and Arkansas Young Mother of the Year in 1984.
In Bill’s 1992 presidential campaign, Hillary played a crucial role by greeting voters, giving speeches, and serving as one of her husband’s chief advisers. Her appearance with him on the television news program 60 Minutes in January 1992 made her name a household word.
Responding to questions about Bill’s alleged 12-year sexual relationship with an Arkansas woman, Gennifer Flowers, Bill and Hillary discussed their marital problems, and Hillary told voters to judge her husband by his record—adding that, if they did not like what they saw, then, “heck, don’t vote for him.”
With a professional career unequaled by any previous presidential candidate’s wife, Hillary was heavily scrutinized. Conservatives complained that she had her own agenda, because she had worked for some liberal causes.
During one campaign stop, she defended herself from such criticism by asserting that she could have “stayed home and baked cookies.” This impromptu remark was picked up by the press and used by her critics as evidence of her lack of respect for women who are full-time homemakers.
Some of Hillary’s ﬁnancial dealings raised suspicions of impropriety and led to major investigations after she became ﬁrst lady. Her investment in Whitewater, a real estate development in Arkansas, and her commodities trading in 1978–79—through which she reportedly turned a $1,000 investment into $100,000 in a few months—came under close scrutiny.
During the 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton sometimes spoke of a “twofer” (“two for the price of one”) presidency, implying that Hillary would play an important role in his administration.
Early indications from the Clinton White House supported this interpretation. She appointed an experienced staff and set up her own ofﬁce in the West Wing, an unprecedented move.
Her husband appointed her to head the Task Force on National Health Care, a centrepiece of his legislative agenda. She encountered sharp criticism when she closed the sessions of the task force to the public, and doctors and other health care professionals objected that she was not a “government ofﬁcial” and had no right to bar them from the proceedings.
An appeals court later supported her stand, ruling that presidents’ wives have “a longstanding tradition of public service . . . act[ing] . . . as advisers and personal representa-tives of their husbands.”
To promote the ﬁndings of the task force, she appeared before ﬁve congressional committees and received con-siderable and mostly favourable press coverage for her expertise on the subject.
But Congress ultimately rejected the task force’s recommendations, and her role in the health care debate galvanized conservatives and helped Republicans recapture Congress in the 1994 elections.
Hillary was criticized on other matters as well, including her role in the ﬁring of seven staff members from the White House travel ofﬁce (“Travelgate”) and her involve-ment in legal maneuvering by the White House during the Whitewater investigation.
As the 1996 election approached, she was less visible and played a more tradi-tional role as ﬁrst lady. Her ﬁrst book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us (1996), described her views on child rearing and prompted accolades from supporters and stark criticism from her opponents.
Revelations about President Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky brought the ﬁrst lady back into the spotlight in a complex way. She stood faithfully by her husband during the scandal—in which her husband ﬁrst denied and then admitted to having had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky—and throughout his ensuing impeachment and trial in the Senate.
In 1999 Hillary made history of a different sort when she launched her candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat from New York being vacated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
To meet the state’s residency requirement, she moved out of Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5, 2000, to a house that she and the president purchased in Chappaqua, New York.
After a bitter campaign, she defeated Republican Rick Lazio by a substantial margin to become the ﬁ rst ﬁ rst lady to win elective ofﬁ ce.
Although often a subject of controversy, Hillary showed that the ceremonial parts of the ﬁ rst lady’s job could be merged with a strong role in public policy and that the clout of the ﬁrst lady could be converted into a personal political power base.
Sworn into ofﬁ ce on Jan. 3, 2001, Hillary continued to push for health care reform, and she remained an advocate for children. She served on several senatorial committees, including the Committee for Armed Services.
Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, she supported the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan but grew highly critical of President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War.
In 2003 Hillary’s much-anticipated memoir of her White House years, Living History, was published and set sales records; she had received an advance of about $8 million for the book.
In 2006 she was easily reelected to the Senate. The following year Hillary announced that she would seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination for 2008.
She began the primary season as the front-runner for the nomination but placed a disappointing third in the ﬁrst contest, the Iowa caucus, on Jan. 3, 2008. Her campaign quickly rebounded, and she won the New Hampshire primary ﬁve days later.
On Super Tuesday, February 5, she won important states such as California, Massachusetts, and New York, but she failed to gain a signiﬁcant lead over Barack Obama in the number of pledged convention delegates.
Obama won 11 consecutive states following Super Tuesday to take over the delegate lead and become the new favourite for the nomination, but Hillary rebounded in early March with key victories in Ohio and Texas, and in April she added to her momentum by win-ning the Pennsylvania primary.
However, her narrow victory in Indiana and substantial loss in North Carolina in early May severely limited the possibility of her garner-ing enough delegates to overtake Obama before the ﬁnal primaries in June.
On June 3, following the ﬁnal primaries in Montana and South Dakota, Obama passed the delegate threshold and became the presumptive Democratic nom-inee.
He ofﬁcially secured the party’s nomination on August 27 at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and went on to win the general election on November 4.
In December 2008, Obama selected Hillary to serve as secretary of state, and she was easily conﬁrmed by the Senate in January 2009.