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Raised by English and Welsh immigrants from a coal mining background, her father Hugh attended Pennsylvania State College and then worked for his dad's company for a short time before sneaking off to Chicago. He didn't tell his parents when he left, but when he found work in the textile industry, he did send them his wages to help support them.
Her mother Dorothy, of mixed European ancestry, spent her early years in a crowded boarding house where her parents mainly left her and her sister to fend for themselves. After an occasionally violent and certainly dysfunctional marriage came to an end, Dorothy was shipped off to live with her grandparents when she was only eight years old. They, too, turned out to be neglectful and unloving.
Hugh and Dorothy met when she applied for a typist job at a textile company, and went on to have three children. One of them, the subject of this piece, became a teacher's pet and participated in the student council. She went on to Wellesley College, where she became politicized, and later attended Yale Law School.
She, in turn, was able to move that bit further up the ladder. Until, of course, she soared above it, changing her story from one that could be about many of us to something extraordinary.
Hillary Clinton, born Rodham, has spoken about her mother Dorothy rather a lot during her campaigns, while mentioning her father only, really, when she wanted to make it clear that she understands the lives of hard-working middle-class people all too well. What hides behind the public stories about Clinton's parents? What kind of people were they really, and how did they impact her life?
Hugh Rodham, it turns out, wasn't just hard-working, but also very strict and at times violent. He spanked his children, chucked tubes of toothpaste out the window if Hillary forgot to screw on the cap, and reacted to her good report cards by saying that her school must be pretty easy.
Not only was Hugh a tough disciplinarian, he was also, as Clinton said, a
"rock-ribbed, up-by-your-bootstraps, conservative Republican and proud of it".
Indeed, he was the kind of Republican that carried prejudices against black people and Catholics, and thought the Democratic Party was one step shy of communism. (Mark these words, political animal parents: research has shown that going on and on about your political views might leave a political spark in your kids' minds, but also that if you bore them by insisting they adopt your views, they're more likely to abandon them. Hillary Clinton certainly seems to be a case in point!)
As for Dorothy, who Hillary considered "the best mother in the world", Hillary's first cousin Oscar Dowdy claimed she frequently helped herself to anti-Semitic slurs and that she "poisoned Hillary's mind about Max", the Jewish man her maternal grandmother went on to marry.
Ultimately, we see a picture of a messed-up family with skeletons in the closest and also a picture of close ties: a family, perhaps, that sounds familiar to most of us. Hillary Clinton's family was clearly the origin of her fighting spirit, one that must have resulted from both the good and the bad.