Her father, Hugh Rodham, was of English and Welsh descent, and managed a small but successful textile business, which he had founded.
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 in 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.
|Hillary Rodham's elementary school|
picture. Eugene Field Elementary
School. Park Ridge, Illinois.
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.
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 Beach. 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.
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).
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 fellow law student Bill Clinton. 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. 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.
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; after her request to be relieved of the assignment failed, 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 an Arkansas congressional race, facing incumbent Republican John Paul Hammerschmidt. Rodham and Bill Clinton bought a house in Fayetteville in the summer of 1975 and she 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.
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, 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. On February 27, 1980, Rodham gave birth to her only child, daughter Chelsea.
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. 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.
From 1982 to 1988, Clinton was on the board of directors, sometimes as chair, of the New World Foundation, which funded a variety of 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.
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).
In 1992, she campaigned widely for her husband, who was elected U.S. President that November. For eight years, she served as an active First Lady, working on health care reform, children’s issues, and women’s rights.
In 1999, when senior New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced his retirement, Hillary Rodham Clinton joined the race to succeed him. On November 7, 2000, she prevailed with 56 percent of the vote against New York Republican Representative Rick Lazio.
Senator Clinton’s work focused on creating great economic development opportunities for her constituents; increased access to health care and education; energy independence through development of alternative fuel and energy resources; and security at home and abroad. She won support for legislation to clean up industrial pollution for economic development, to ensure the safety of children’s medicine, and to repair and modernize schools. After the September 11, 2001, attacks, Senator Clinton worked tirelessly to enable New York to recover, including ensuring adequate federal funds for rebuilding. She also won passage of legislation improving communication for federal and local emergency first responders. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Clinton led the bipartisan effort to extend health care benefits to members of the National Guard and Reserve.
In the fall of 2006, Hillary Rodham Clinton was re–elected to a second term in the Senate, winning 64 percent of the vote against Republican candidate John Spencer. In 2007, Senator Clinton declared her candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. In an historic primary season, she lost the nomination to Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. Following his presidential election victory, President–Elect Obama nominated Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State on December 1, 2008. On January 21, 2009, following Senate approval of her nomination, Clinton resigned her Senate seat to assume her duties as Secretary of State.
Clinton served as Secretary of State in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013, the first former First Lady to serve in a cabinet role. On April 12, 2015, she announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. Clinton won the Democratic primary and, when she accepted the nomination on July 28, 2016, became the first woman chosen to head the presidential ticket of a major party.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.