Her political life began long before she married the man who would later on hold the highest political seat in the United States of America as its 42nd President. Hailing from the suburbs of Illinois, Hillary was a political paradox. While being raised by parents who maintained a conservative view in politics, Hillary grew up an activist.
In her senior year, she volunteered to campaign for the presidency of Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. That was her first experience in actively participating in a political cause that would eventually shape her life and career.
In Wellesley College, people saw in her a rare kind of skill in leadership. She was elected president of the Wellesley Young Republicans when she was a freshman student. As a senior student, she sat in the Wellesley College Government Association as its president.
Hillary completed her Political Science degree with departmental honors. Not only that, she was the school’s first commencement speaker. After her compelling speech which was basically a tirade challenging their guest speaker’s take on politics, she received a seven–minute standing ovation. It landed her a story in Life Magazine and an interview in a widely syndicated talk show.
She met Bill Clinton at the Yale University library. She introduced herself to him after noticing his keen interest in her. His political career began soon after they were married. Her husband’s government post did not stop her from joining a law firm. Even when she became a mother to their only daughter Chelsea and First Lady to the Arkansas people, Hillary managed to champion children’s advocacies and led an impressive private practice.
Bill Clinton’s presidency was Hillary’s leadership too. She became her husband’s campaign associate, and together—amidst the Gennifer Flowers scandal—the couple made it to the White House.
But Hillary’s political career did not end when her husband left the Oval Office. We see Hillary elected to Senate twice and later on appointed to hold the Secretary of State post after Condoleezza Rice.
She proved herself worthy of her country’s trust as she lived her entire life serving the United States of America. But aside from her unquestionable patriotism, we also know about Hillary’s devotion as a wife to Bill Clinton. This woman who stayed beside her husband through ups and downs can absolutely handle anything that life throws at her.
Hillary Diane Rodham is the eldest daughter of Hugh Ellsworth Rodham and Dorothy Emma Howell. Dorothy gave birth to their first child at Chicago Illinois in a hospital named Edgewater on 26 October 1947. Prior to her birth, Dorothy had already decided that she would name her first baby Hillary regardless of its gender. She liked how the name Hillary sounded—strong and genderless.
Hugh was a textile businessman whose ability to handle his finances made him into a successful investor in the 60s. She spent the first three years of her life in Chicago. After Hugh, the second child of the Rodham couple, was born, the family relocated to Park Ridge. Tony, the third among the Rodhams’ brood, was born there.
Hugh trained all his children to manage their finances well. He was the kind of man who had so much respect for every penny he earned. The old Hugh taught his kids not to put any resources to waste and to do their best to make every penny count.
When the family moved to Park Ridge, Hillary had a taste of what it’s like to be a child surrounded by giant elm trees. She recounted in some interviews how she spent most of her daily life playing chase with her childhood friends.
Although an only daughter, Hillary was not exempted from her father’s “tough love.” She grew up with great respect for her old man and was very close to Dorothy, too. Her mother had a very radical view about women’s involvement in society. She trained her daughter to be the strong person she envisaged her to be way before she was even born.
Hillary was trained from childhood to speak out her mind and not be easily intimidated by anyone. This sort of upbringing gave Hillary a surplus of self–confidence often mistaken as conceit by people who don’t really know her well.
In 11th grade, Hillary was elected class President. She was also a contributor in her primary school’s paper. As a teenager, her interest in politics became evident as she took great interest in Margaret Chase Smith, a female Senator. Before she heard of Margaret, Hillary was initially interested in pursuing a career in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA. She wanted to be an astronaut so badly that she wrote NASA, informing them of her intention. To be fair with NASA, they wrote Hillary back and told her that they do not accept women.
Religion was also given considerable attention in the Rodham household. Hillary was an active youth member in her Methodist church headed by Rev. Donald Jones. Reverend Jones was considered by Hillary as her spiritual mentor. It was through her active participation in church that she met Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hillary went to Maine East High School and again became an active student leader. She was selected for National Honor Society and was later on moved to Maine South High School where she graduated in the top five percent of her class.
Hillary’s Activism Begins in Wellesley
After high school in 1965, Hillary headed to the East to enroll in a private school for women, the Wellesley College. A month after Hillary left, Reverend Jones received a letter from his mentee. The letter was about the internal turmoil bothering the young Hillary. She was not happy about racial discrimination and how some people treat the marginalized population of the society.
Hillary did not enter Wellesley quietly. She became instantly famous and was elected President of the Wellesley Young Republicans in her first year there. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Hillary did not waste time and immediately organized a two–day strike at Wellesley College that sought to have more black faculty in the institution.
Hillary was a very promising student. She obviously outgrew her interest in NASA and became a very eager Political Science major. Her school was very appreciative of her efforts to keep Wellesley College student strike and activism in order. Raised in a family with conservative political views, it was not Hillary’s intention to go against the government. On the contrary, what she wanted to do way back in college was transform the system by taking part in it.
Because of her outstanding ability to lead, she won the student body elections and became president of the Wellesley College Government Association from 1968 to 1969. Her professor Alan Schechter saw in her a potential leader.
To cultivate her political knowledge, he assigned her to join the House Republican Conference. Hillary also flew to Miami to attend the 1968 Republican National Convention. She was not happy about the way Richard Nixon mud–slung Nelson Rockefeller. Her disgust eventually led to her becoming a Democrat, which became her party ever since.
Hillary’s Speech Receives a Standing Ovation and Makes News
In 1969, Wellesley administration agreed to start the practice of having a student speak during the commencement exercise. It was decided that Hillary would do the honors since she was the incumbent President of the student government. A friend helped her draft her speech.
Their guest speaker that time was Senator Edward Brooke. At a time of so much political unrest, Hillary was expecting to hear a substantial message from him. Unfortunately, Senator Brooke had nothing to say but clichés and so when it was her turn to speak, she disregarded the ready–made speech they wrote and instead gave a full–blown extemporaneous address questioning and challenging everything that the Senator said.
The crowd was mesmerized by the beautiful lady fearlessly delivering a compelling speech on stage. Consequently, Wellesley’s College first student Commencement Speaker made history. The audience responded to her message with a standing ovation that lasted for a good seven minutes.
People never looked at her the same way again. Hillary so impressed some of her classmates that they seriously believed with all their heart that Hillary was going to be the first female president of the United States of America. She was featured in Life Magazine and was a guest on a talk show. Hillary’s controversial speech also appeared in some tabloids.
The summer before enrolling in Law School, Hillary went to Alaska and worked as a dishwasher at the Mount McKinley National Park. She also worked at a salmon cannery. Her activism cost Hillary her first job after she complained of the unsanitary handling of pre–canned salmon.
Meeting Bill Clinton
Going back to school, Hillary enrolled in Yale University to complete her Law degree. At Yale, she was a member of the editorial board of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action. When she was a sophomore Law student, she started working at the Yale Child Study Center and the Yale–New Haven Hospital. She was particularly interested in children and was saddened by how some kids receive poor health care and insufficient attention. In 1970, she was recruited by Anne Wexler to help an aspiring Senator’s campaign. Hillary considers that as her formal initiation to politics.
The following year, while Hillary was getting a soda from a vending machine, she overheard someone say, "Not only that, we grow the biggest watermelons in the world." That made her turn around and she saw a good–looking guy talking animatedly to someone. She asked her friend if she knew him and that’s when she heard of Bill Clinton and his watermelon anecdotes.
One day, while she was at the Yale Library, Bill—along with his friends—sat opposite her table. From across the hall, Hillary and Bill exchanged furtive glances. Not a patient woman, Hillary came up to Bill’s table and told him: "If you keep looking at me and I keep looking back, we could start at least knowing each other. I'm Hillary Rodham."
That did it! Hillary and Bill promptly started dating and soon lived together. Their first political collaboration was campaigning for the presidency of Democratic candidate, George McGovern.
She completed her Law degree in 1973 and stayed with Bill until he graduated the following year. Bill reportedly proposed to her soon after graduating, but she did not say “yes” right away. When both of them became lawyers, Bill decided to go back to his hometown in Arkansas. Hillary did not go with him and instead went to Washington. There, she worked with other activists and co–founded the Children's Defense Fund. She was also a consultant in the Carnegie Council on Children.
During that same year, Hillary became one of the only three women attorneys among the 43 lawyers handpicked to help in the investigation of the Watergate Scandal. She spent the next eight months researching impeachment procedures and sitting on hearings.
When the case finally came to a close, all 43 of them who helped in the investigation were offered high positions in prestigious law firms. Hillary refused offers and went to Arkansas to be with Bill. However, it was not her intention to stay in Arkansas for good. She thought it would not hurt to spend a year there and see if she liked it. She took the Bar Examinations in Arkansas and taught Political Science at the University of Arkansas’s School of Law. Bill, on the other hand, despite securing a job as a professor, ran for Governor and lost to his opponent.
The one–year ultimatum she gave herself was over before she knew it. Bill tried to convince Hillary to stay but she wanted to think things over carefully. She went back to Illinois and lived with her parents. While away from Bill, she realized that she had a bright future ahead of her. But her love for Bill outweighed the lure of a promising career and she decided to go back to him.
When Bill picked her up at the airport, he told her, “You know, I bought that house you liked. So you better marry me.” What sane woman would say no to that? They were married in a private Methodist ceremony in Arkansas on 11 October 1975. Only two of their closest friends were invited.
Although already married, Hillary kept ‘Rodham’ as her last name in order to keep her identity. She did not want to get lost in the shadow of her husband’s political career. Hillary remained to be called Hillary Rodham to the annoyance of Dorothy and Bill’s mother.
A year after they were married, Bill was elected Attorney General of Arkansas, so the couple had to move to Little Rock, the state’s capital. In Little Rock, Hillary pursued her private practice and became one of the attorneys of Rose Law Firm, a small but well–respected law office. While she specialized in patent infringement and intellectual property law, Hillary did not altogether let go of her first love. She worked pro bono in cases concerning children’s rights.
Between 1977 and 1979, Hillary published two scholarly articles, “Children's Policies: Abandonment and Neglect” and “Children's Rights: A Legal Perspective,” respectively. Her articles were highly regarded by other lawyers and were even deemed important resource by the American Bar Association Chairperson in shaping children and family laws.
Becoming First Lady of Arkansas and a Mother to Chelsea
During the 1978 elections, Bill tried his luck in politics again. He ran for office and won not because he got more popular, but because his wife played the traditional partner people wanted to see her as. She became Hillary Rodham Clinton and sported a more conservative look.
Hillary became Arkansas First Lady following Bill’s getting elected as Governor. The year after that, she became the first woman to be made a partner in the Rose Law Firm, considerably increasing her earnings. In a long time since then, Hillary would earn more than Bill did. She also invested in trading cattle future contracts and made a 1,000–dollar investment grow into a 100,000–dollar profit after six months.
Hillary would have a child of her own after five years of marriage on 27 February 1980. She named her baby Chelsea and became a hands–on mother to her. Bill won the gubernatorial race again in 1982. As First Lady, Hillary was named Arkansas Woman of the Year in 1983 and Arkansas Mother of the Year in 1984. In 1985, she spearheaded the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth that aided children who were about to enter pre–school.
The following year, her husband won the elections and she remained Arkansas First Lady for the third time in a row. During Bill’s tenure in office, Hillary has been just as busy as her husband in the social and civic work. She sat on the board of the New World Foundation from 1982 to 1988 and from 1987 to 1981 became chair of the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession.
Due to her achievement as a lawyer, the National Law Journal included Hillary in their list of 100 Most Influential Lawyers of America in 1988 and 1991.
While practicing, Hillary also took part in seating as a board member of private entities, such as Wal-Mart, TCBY Yogurt, and Lafarge. Aside from that, Hillary also held a seat on the Board of Directors of nonprofit organizations, like Arkansas Children's Hospital Legal Services. She became the Chairperson of the Children’s Defense Fund, which she co–founded while in Washington prior to marrying Bill.
Her husband’s last gubernatorial bid was in 1990 when he again won for the fourth time. He would no longer finish his term as he later on became the Democrat Party’s Presidential candidate in the 1992 elections.
Hillary becomes US First Lady
From Arkansas First Lady, Hillary officially became First Lady of the United States following Bill’s successful presidential campaign. The Clintons moved to the White House in January 1993. Like Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton was a very visible political figure deemed to have held more power than what was entitled to a First Lady.
Hillary’s fervent work in health care was one of the primary factors why the State Children's Health Insurance Program went underway. She focused on making healthcare available to people who needed it most. As a result, the National Institutes of Health received handsome funding to back up research on prostate cancer and children’s asthma.
It was then clear that much of Hillary’s work centered on what she herself highly valued—family. What she considers to be her greatest achievement as the United States First Lady was the Adoption and Safe Families Act. Hillary also paid attention to what most people tended to oversee. For instance, she was instrumental in the enacting of the Foster Care Independence Act that looked into the rights of aging orphans.
Indeed, she was one busy First Lady. Another organization she helped to establish was Vital Voices. Basically, the organization helps women get more politically involved in their respective countries. Conservation of American history was also included in her priorities. Hillary was both the chairman and founder of the Save America's Treasures program created to manage funding received from private corporations for the preservation of historical sites.
Going against Barack Obama for Presidential Endorsement
When Bill Clinton’s family left the White House, Hillary stayed in power. She became successful when she ran for Senatorial office in 2000 and 2006. However, her political career did not end there. During the 2008 Presidential elections, Hillary fought neck–to–neck against Barack Obama for the Democrat Party’s endorsement. Hillary was a strong contender and almost won the Presidential campaign if not for the many controversies unearthed and used to discredit her.
Barack Appoints Hillary as Secretary of State
When Barack Obama was finally chosen to be the Democrat Party’s Presidential candidate, Hillary conceded graciously and was then seen zealously campaigning for him. Barack assumed office replacing George W. Bush and appointed Hillary as the Secretary of State, succeeding Condoleezza.
Following her appointment, Hillary sought to push the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and also introduced the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative. Being the most travelled Secretary of State, Hillary saw how pollution was getting worse especially in developing countries. She popularized the use of cookstoves to lessen air pollutants, forming the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Since she left her post on 1 February 2013, Hillary never mentioned retiring yet.
At 65, Hillary is still invigorated by politics. Her endurance is perhaps her greatest legacy. Endurance she showed not only in serving her country and people, but also in staying by President Clinton’s side amidst scandals.
Organisations and Campaigns Supported
- American Foundation for AIDS Research
- American India Foundation
- Apne Aap
- Avoided Deforestation Partners
- Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes
- Clinton Foundation
- Clinton Global Initiative
- Friends of the High Line
- Heifer International
- HELP USA
- Human Rights Campaign
- It Gets Better Project
- My Good Deed
- Save America's Treasures program
- Stop Global Warming
- The Trevor Project
- US Doctors for Africa
- Vital Voices
- The Democratic Party
- Children's Defense Fund
- Carnegie Council on Children
- Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth
- New World Foundation
- American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession
- Adoption and Safe Families Act
- Child Care
- Early Childhood Development and Learning
- Children and Adolescents
- Conference on Teenagers
- Conference on Philanthropy
- Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
- 1965: Graduated in the Top Five percent of her high school class
- 1968: Became president of the Wellesley College Government Association
- 1969: Became Wellesley College’s first commencement speaker
- 1969: Completed her Bachelor of Arts Major in Political Science degree with departmental honors
- 1973: Graduate from Yale Law School
- 1973: Her article was published in Harvard Educational Review
- 1977: Co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
- 1978: Became the first legal chair of the Legal Services Corporation
- 1983: Arkansas Democrat named her Arkansas Woman of the Year
- 1983: Arkansas Press Association named her Headliner of the Year
- 1984: Bill and Hillary were named by Esquire The Best of the New Generation
- 1984: Bill and Hillary were named Public Citizens of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers Arkansas Chapter
- 1984: Arkansas Association of American Mothers named her Arkansas (Young) Mother of the Year
- 1988-1991: Named by National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America
- 1993-2001: Was the United States’ First Lady
- 1994: Received the Living Legacy Award from the Women's International Center
- 1994: A tulip variety was cultivated and named after her in the Netherlands
- 1998: Recipient of the United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize
- 1999: Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Children of Chernobyl Relief Fund
- 1999: Recipient of the highest award - the Mother Teresa Award - given by the Albanian Government
- 2000: Began public office as Senator
- 2004: Awarded by the University of Rochester School of Nursing with the Nursing Health and Humanity Award
- 2005: Recipient of the German Media Prize 2004
- 2005: Recipient of the American Medical Women's Association's President’s Vision & Voice Award
- 2005: Recipient of the Reserve Officers Association's National President's Award
- 2005: Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame
- 2006: Re-elected in Senate
- 2006: The Northeastern New York Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association awarded her the Remembrance Award
- 2006: The United States Energy Association's Energy Efficiency Forum awarded her the Energy Leadership Award
- 2007: Named Irish American of the Year
- 2008: Became NY1's New Yorker of the Year
- 2009: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change awarded her the Salute to Greatness Award
- 2009: Named the 13th most powerful person on the planet as well as the Most Powerful American Woman by Newsweek
- 2009: The Vital Voices Global Partnership awarded her the Global Trailblazer award
- 2009: Named by Time as one of the 100 influential people in the world
- 2009: Recipient of the Barnard Medal of Distinction
- 2009: Awarded by the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes
- 2009: Named by Forbes as the 36th most powerful woman in the world
- 2009-2012: Named by Americans in Gallup as the most admired woman
- 2009-2013: Held the Secretary of State post
- 2010: The World Food Programme awarded her the George McGovern Leadership Award
- 2010: Named by Time as one of the 25 most powerful women of the past century
- 2011: Recipient of the George C. Marshall Foundation Award
- 2012: Arkansas Airport was named Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in honor of the couple
- 2012: Included in the Time 100
- 2012: Recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service
- 2012: Recipient of the Champions for Change Award for Leadership given by the International Center for Research on Women
- 2012: Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award given by The Worldwide Ireland Funds
- 2013: Received Philippine Legion of Honor
- 2013: Received the highest Pentagon Award -- the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service
- Ranked among the world's most powerful people by prestigious publications
- 1993: Received an honorary doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania
- 1995: Received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the Mount Saint Vincent University
- 2004: Received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of Ulster
- 2005: Received an honorary doctorate Agnes Scott College
- 2007: Received an honorary doctorate in medicine at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden
- 2009: Received an honorary Doctor of Law degree at the Yale University
- Received an honorary doctorate at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock