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.
What Kind Of Mother Has Hillary Clinton Been?
Hillary Clinton's only child, Chelsea, was just 12 when her father was elected president of the United States and she moved to the White House with her parents. That seems like a far cry from a normal childhood and an immense amount of pressure, doesn't it? Life in the public eye with your parents' actions continuously scrutinized can't have been easy, and as Chelsea's mother and First Lady, it would have been Hillary Clinton to help Chelsea adjust to that strange life. The negative media attention didn't escape Chelsea, however.
Chelsea said of her mother:
"I think for better or worse, I don't remember a time when she wasn't being attacked by people who didn't want to see her succeed — whether she was fighting for early childhood education in Arkansas, or universal healthcare in the 1990s — so I think I'm quite accustomed to her being under attack."
(And we're not even mentioning her dad, who certainly grew accustomed to the same treatment!)
However, the Clintons did their best to shelter Chelsea from negative media attention and the public eye in general, and tried to provide her with as normal a childhood as possible. Her parents were "very firm about me always getting my homework done", she mentioned, adding that "I'd get to attend special musical performances and shows sometimes."
Chelsea always knew, she shared with the press, that she was living in a special place and occupied an extraordinary position, in that she was watching history being made right under her nose as a teenager. She also, mind you, talks about teaching her parents how to send text messages and having family dinners every night. In conclusion: "There was much about my life that also was normal."
In a campaign video, Hillary Clinton shared:
"When Chelsea was just a really little baby, and she was crying and crying all night, I couldn't figure out what to do and I was getting really upset and frustrated. So I was holding her, and I was rocking her, and I said to her, 'Chelsea, you've never been a baby before and I've never been a mother before. We are just going to have to work this out.'"
Working things out is something she and Chelsea have apparently never stopped doing. Today, her daughter is one of her staunchest supporters, saying that she's hoping to be able to offer her daughter Charlotte
"the same gift of imagination and kind of sense of possibility that my mom gave me."
It's hard to imagine a greater compliment to give your mother, isn't it?
It might be the twenty-first century, but we as a society are still, it appears, scared of high-flying women. Hillary Clinton has worked hard, throughout her campaign, to also portray that "other" side of herself — Hillary Clinton the mother, grandmother, and daughter next door — perhaps in an effort to remove some of that fear and make herself more relatable to voters. While the fact that women running for president clearly feel the need to talk about how they couldn't get their babies to sleep at night, something that really isn't expected of men, is questionable, Clinton has also uniquely shown that she understands the lives that the rest of us lead.