Hillary Clinton Bio

The Political and Personal Life of a Former First Lady

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton is a former first lady, secretary of State and U.S. senator who ran for president in 2008 and 2016. James Devaney/Getty Images News

Hillary Clinton is a Democrat and the party's nominee for president of the United States in the 2016 election. Clinton is also one of the most polarizing figures in modern American politics. She is a former first lady who launched her own political career after leaving the White House.

Her primary opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 was U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described Democratic socialist who drew large crowds after building a solid following among young voters. 

If elected, Clinton would be the first woman president in history. 

Many progressive Democrats, however, were lukewarm toward her candidacy because they believed her to be too tied to Wall Street. And Republican Party leaders cheered her candidacy because they believed their nominee would easily beat a scandal-plagued candidate in a general election in which trust would become a major issue. 

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Here are some key facts about Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton's Campaigns for President

Clinton has run for the Democratic presidential nomination twice, once in 2008 and again in 2016. She lost the primary race in 2008 to Democratic U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, who went on to win the presidency that year by defeating the Republican nominee, U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Clinton won 1,897 delegates in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, short of the 2,118 needed to win the nomination. Obama won 2,230 delegates.

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She was widely seen as the presumptive nominee even before the 2016 campaign began, and she lived up to those expectations in many of the early primaries, including her substantial victories on Super Tuesday of that year.

Key Issues

When she announcer her candidacy in April of 2015, Clinton made it clear that the biggest issue of her campaign would be the economy and helping the vanishing middle class.

In a short video posted on the Internet by her campaign that month, Clinton said:

"Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion so you can do more than just get by. You can get ahead, and stay ahead. Because when families are strong, America is strong."

Related Story: Hillary Clinton on the Issues

At Clinton's first campaign rally, held in June of 2015, she continued to focus heavily on the economy and the struggles of the middle class hit hard by the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

"We’re still working our way back from a crisis that happened because time-tested values were replaced by false promises. Instead of an economy built by every American, for every American, we were told that if we let those at the top pay lower taxes and bend the rules, their success would trickle down to everyone else.
"What happened? Well, instead of a balanced budget with surpluses that could have eventually paid off our national debt, the Republicans twice cut taxes for the wealthiest, borrowed money from other countries to pay for two wars, and family incomes dropped. You know where we ended up."

Professional Career

Clinton is an attorney by trade. She served as counsel to the House Judiciary Committee 1974. She worked as a staffer investigating the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon amid the Watergate scandal

Political Career

Clinton's political career began before she was elected to any public office. 

She served as:

  • First Lady of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981 and 1983 to 1993: She served in this capacity when her husband served as the 40th and 42nd governor of the state.
  • First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001: She served in this capacity after her husband was elected president and served two terms.
  • U.S. Senator from New York from Jan. 3, 2001, to Jan. 21, 2009
  • U.S. Secretary of State under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013

Major Controversies

Clinton became a polarizing figure in American politics before even being elected. As first lady, she helped draft and propose sweeping changes to the nation's health care system, earning the ire of congressional Republicans who believed she was unqualified to oversee the changes and a public that was skeptical of her involvement.

"The health-reform debacle was critical in framing Hillary's public image, and despite her years of accomplishment in her own right, she still carries the burdens of that failure," wrote The American Prospect.

But the most serious scandals surrounding Clinton was her use of a personal email address and server instead of a more secure government account as secretary of State, and her handling of the attacks in Benghazi

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The email controversy, which first surfaced in 2015 after she had left the position, and lingering questions over her preparedness as secretary of State during the Benghazi attacks both plagued her 2016 presidential campaign.

Critics alleged Clinton's behavior in both cases raised questions about whether she could be trusted if elected to the most powerful position in the free world.

In the email scandal, her political foes suggested her use of a private email served opened up classified information to hackers and foreign enemies. There was no evidence it had, however.

In the Benghazi attacks, Clinton was accused of doing too little, too late to prevent the deaths of Americans at a U.S. diplomatic compound there, then covering up the administration's bungling of the attacks.


Clinton attended public schools in Park Ridge, Illinois. In 1969 she earned a bachelor of arts degree from Wellesley College, where she wrote her senior thesis on Saul Alinsky's activism and writings. She earned a law degree from Yale Law School in 1973.

Personal Life

Clinton is married to former President Bill Clinton, who served two terms in the White House. He is one of only two presidents who have been impeached in U.S. history. Clinton was accused of misleading a grand jury about his extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and then persuading others to lie about it.

Their permanent address is Chappaqua, a wealthy suburb of New York. 

The couple has one child, Chelsea Victoria. She appeared with Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in 2016.

Hillary Clinton was born Oct. 26, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. She has two brothers, Hugh Jr. and Anthony.

She has written two books about her life: Living History in 2003, and Hard Choices in 2014.

Net Worth

The Clintons are worth between $11 million and $53 million, according to financial disclosures. 

The last time Clinton filed financial disclosures as a member of the U.S. Senate, in 2007, she reported a net worth of between $10.4 and $51.2 million, making her the 12th wealthiest member of the U.S. Senate at the time, according to the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics.

She and her husband have earned at least $100 million since leaving the White House in 2001, according to published reports. Much of that money comes from speaking fees. Hillary Clinton is said to have been paid $200,000 for each speech she's given since leaving the Obama administration.


Sources for this bio include: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Living History, [New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003], Center for Responsive Politics.

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Murse, Tom. "Hillary Clinton Bio." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/hillary-clinton-profile-3984058. Murse, Tom. (2023, April 5). Hillary Clinton Bio. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hillary-clinton-profile-3984058 Murse, Tom. "Hillary Clinton Bio." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hillary-clinton-profile-3984058 (accessed June 6, 2023).