Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton was born on October 26, 1947, in Chicago and spent her childhood in Park Ridge, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. She is the eldest daughter of Hugh Rodham and Dorothy Howell Rodham. Clinton has two younger brothers, Hugh, Jr. and Anthony.
Hillary Rodham engaged in politics early. As a preteen in 1960, she canvassed for Richard Nixon in Chicago. When she was 14 in 1962, she saw the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., speak in Chicago on a youth group trip. His speech inspired her to be a public servant. Her high school history teacher encouraged her early conservative ideals, and in 1964 she campaigned for Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in the presidential campaign.
Rodham attended Wellesley College, an all-female college near Boston, Massachusetts, from 1965 to 1969. She participated in student politics and served as president of the Young Republicans Club. Rodham changed her political outlook after witnessing Vietnam War protests, Civil Rights riots, the struggle of her black classmates and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy. By the end of her undergraduate career, she identified as a Democrat.
Rodham’s graduating class recognized her impressive leadership and elected her as Senior Class President for the 1968-1969 school year. Rodham’s classmates also chose her to be the first student to speak at a Wellesley graduation commencement ceremony. Rodham’s political speech received public praise and Life magazine featured her in an article. After graduating Wellesley, Rodham attended Yale Law School, where she met Bill Clinton and they started dating.
Rodham took her studies seriously and enthusiastically embraced every opportunity for learning. She spent her summers following her passion for public service and politics. In the summer of 1971, she traveled to Washington, D.C., to work on U.S. Senator Walter Mondale’s subcommittee on migrant workers, and in the summer of 1972 she campaigned for Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern. Rodham always displayed a dedication to helping children. Rodham spent an extra year at Yale Law School to study children and after graduating Yale, she worked for the Children’s Defense Fund in Massachusetts.
In the spring of 1974, Rodham joined the impeachment inquiry staff advising the Judiciary Committee for the House of Representatives during the Watergate Investigation. After President Richard M. Nixon resigned in August of 1974, she joined the faculty at the University Of Arkansas Law School in Fayetteville, where Bill Clinton taught as well. In 1975, she founded the university’s legal aid clinic and worked with prison advocacy. Her clinic served over three hundred individuals the first year it opened, and the clinic continues its operations today.
In 1976, Rodham joined the Jimmy Carter campaign for President in Indiana as a field coordinator. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton ran for Attorney General of Arkansas and accepted an invitation from the Carter campaign to chair the campaign in Arkansas. When Arkansas elected Clinton as Attorney General, Rodham and Clinton moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1977, President Carter appointed Rodham to be the first woman to serve on the board of directors of the Legal Service Corporation. That same year, Rodham joined the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, the oldest law firm west of the Mississippi, and in 1979 she became the first female partner of the firm.
In June of 1975, Rodham traveled out of Arkansas to visit family and friends. As Bill Clinton drove her to the airport, they passed a small house on California Boulevard with a For Sale sign out front. Rodham remarked that the house was pretty. Clinton, encouraged by the offhand statement, purchased the home for $17,200 with a $3,000 down payment. When Rodham returned from her visit, Clinton took her to the house and proposed, saying, “Remember that little house you liked so much? I bought it. You have to marry me now because I can’t live there alone.” Rodham accepted, and she and Clinton were married on October 11, 1975, in the living room of their home in Fayetteville in front of family and close friends.
In 1980, Rodham gave birth to Chelsea Clinton. Bill Clinton lost his 1980 re-election bid for governor, after unpopular policy decisions during his first term. Some traditional Arkansan voters also admitted to not voting for Clinton because Rodham had retained her own last name after their marriage. In 1982, Rodham announced that she changed her name to Hillary Rodham Clinton. She added Clinton to her name in an effort to help Bill Clinton in his re-election bid for Governor. Arkansas re-elected Bill Clinton to Governor in 1982 and he went on to serve four consecutive terms.
As First Lady of Arkansas for five terms, from 1979 to 1981 and 1983 to 1992, Hillary Rodham Clinton remained a dedicated professional and served the people of Arkansas in both public and private capacities. Clinton became the first woman to serve on the Wal-Mart board of directors. She also served on TCBY and Lafarge boards. In 1988 and 1991, The National Law Journal named her one of the 100 Most Powerful Lawyers in America.
Clinton’s knowledge of early childhood development allowed her to be a powerful ally for Arkansas women and children. Starting in 1977, Clinton co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, an organization that continues to fight for economic equality, early childhood education and children’s healthcare. In 1983, she chaired the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee and in 1985 introduced the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth, or HIPPY, a program aimed at preparing preschool children for school. In 1986, she served on the board of the Children’s Defense Fund, and in 1988 served on the board of the Arkansas’ Children’s Hospital Legal Services.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, Hillary emerged as a dynamic partner to Bill Clinton and continued to be an ally for health care reform and children’s rights. As president, Bill Clinton named her to head the Task Force on National Health Reform in 1993. She also worked with Senators Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch to pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, a program that provided health insurance to low income children, in 1996.
After leaving the White House in January of 2000, Hillary Clinton announced in February that she would seek the New York Senate seat. Despite criticisms that Clinton had never lived in New York, she defeated popular Republican Rick Lazio 55 to 43 percent, becoming a United States Senator in 2001. She worked to rebuild and secure New York City in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. Clinton became the first First Lady to win elected office and the first female New York Senator. New York re-elected her in November 2006, and she served as Senator until 2009 when she resigned from the Senate to begin her duties as United States Secretary of State. In 2020, she remarked, “Well, I know I was a good public servant”, and “I hope that I’ve made it a little bit easier for more women to enter the public sphere.”
In early 2007, Hillary Clinton announced her plans to attempt another first — to be the first female President. After a combative primary campaign, Clinton conceded the election in 2008 when nominee Barack Obama held a majority of the Democratic Party delegate vote. Shortly after Obama won the U.S. presidential election, he appointed Clinton to Secretary of State in his Cabinet. She accepted the nomination, and was officially approved by the Senate on January 21, 2009. During her tenure as Secretary of State, she visited 112 countries, the most that any Secretary of State has visited, continued her fight for the rights of women and children worldwide and supported the risky, but ultimately successful, mission to kill Osama bin Laden. She served as Secretary of State until 2013.
In 2015, Secretary Clinton announced that she was running for president again. In 2016, she accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination as the first female candidate for a major political party. She ran against real estate mogul Donald Trump. After a brutal and controversial campaign, Clinton won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College and conceded to Donald Trump. In September 2017, she released her analysis of the campaign in her bestselling book What Happened.