The first time I felt remotely inclined to learn more about Hillary Clinton, I couldn’t go far because Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were simply more interesting to read about at the time. Eight years later, Hillary Clinton was running for president again and this time, she had my full attention.
And boy, did I learn things I should have known! How could I not have known this, I wondered over and over, feeling slightly ashamed of being so uninformed about a woman whose importance to womanhood and the world cannot be overemphasized. I didn’t know that:
1. She’s a firstborn and only daughter.
As a first child with no sister myself, I really should have known this.
2. She didn’t have an easy childhood.
Hugh Rodham was a successful businessman, but as a father, he was harsh and provocative, slow to praise his children, and constantly humiliated, embarrassed, and verbally abused his wife. However, he believed in hard work and education, and his notion that Hillary would not be limited in opportunity or skills because she was a girl, somewhat mitigated his unpleasantness. Thankfully, Hillary’s mother, an intelligent and gentle woman, was a nurturing and affirming parent, and bringing succour and comfort to her children.
3. She was once a Republican.
This was a total shock to me! Hillary Clinton, who served as president of the Wellesley Young Republicans club as an undergraduate, joined the Democratic Party in 1968.
4. Her views have always been liberal.
Once, she caused a stir on campus by bringing a black classmate (the university had only 10 black students at the time) with her to church. Even as a Republican she was antiwar, feminist and a strong believer in equal rights for all human beings. She was known for ideas, views, and assertions that were distinctively un-Republican especially in those days. It was only a matter of time.
5. She was a Sunday School teacher, and a member of the Altar Guild at United Methodist Church.
I’ve known for a long time that she was Methodist; I just never realized how deeply involved and devoted she had been as a young woman. Her longtime friend Sara Ehrman once said that Hillary carried her Bible almost everywhere, marking in it and underlining as she read.
6. She actually had a very active love life before marriage.
Somehow she always came across to me as someone who has never been interested in “all that stuff”. Her first serious boyfriend (they spent time with each other’s families during summers) was Geoff Shields whom she met in her first year at university and dated for 3 years. She also dated David Rupert for another 3 years; he was also introduced to Hillary’s family, and their relationship was described as an “intense love affair”. It was interrupted by a charming, long-haired fellow Yale student named Bill Clinton.
7. She was a university lecturer, and an excellent one.
Along with her husband, she taught law at the University of Arkansas- she relocated from Washington DC just to be with Bill Clinton.
8. She used to earn more than her husband.
After working as a lecturer for s while, she joined The Rose Law Firm less than a month after Bill Clinton was sworn in as attorney general of Arkansas. Every year after that first year, she earned more than he did, until he became president.
9. Hillary Clinton battled endometriosis until she reached menopause.
She wanted more than one child. However, endometriosis made conception difficult for her, and Chelsea was conceived after 2 years of trying. They looked forward to more children after Chelsea, but it didn’t happen. Somehow I always assumed they wanted just one child.
10. She was headed for the top long before she met Bill Clinton.
Most people who knew her as a young, brilliant and energetic lawyer working on various political campaigns, with different organizations, and even as a lawyer in the congressional impeachment investigation of Richard Nixon, were dismayed when she accepted Bill’s proposal. Betsey Wright expressed this to Bill when he told her of their engagement. “I really started in on how he couldn’t’ do that. He shouldn’t do that. That he could find anybody he wanted to be a political wife, but we’d [the women’s movement] never find anybody like her” (to run for political office). “Since her graduation from Wellesley, she had been speeding toward national prominence,” Carl Bernstein noted. However, she believed in Bill Clinton and often said he would become president of the United States someday.
Perhaps it’s not over; maybe, just maybe Hillary Clinton will become president someday. If she doesn’t, however, hers is undoubtedly a life well lived.