The Stunning Transformation Of Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton, whether you love her or hate her, embarked on a historical presidential campaign and it appears as though she's not going away anytime soon. Hillary came onto the national scene when her husband, Bill Clinton, ran for office in the early 1990s. Ushering in a new era of youth, vitality, and internet savviness to the White House, the Clintons were seen as nothing short of a power couple who embarked on a political dynasty all their own.

"I think that people who are married to politicians are under a tremendous strain," Hillary said back in 1979 when Bill was serving as the governor of Arkansas, "because unless you have a pretty strong sense of your own self-identity, it becomes very easy to be buffeted about by all the people who are around your husband" (via BuzzFeed News). Hillary does indeed have her very own identity — and passion for politics. And in her own right, Hillary — former first lady, former U.S. secretary of state, and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee — has gone through quite the transformation.

She is the oldest of her parents' three children

To truly get a sense of who Hillary Clinton is, we have to go all the way back to the beginning. She was born Hillary Diane Rodham on October 26, 1947 to her parents, Dorothy and Hugh Rodham. She had two younger brothers, Hugh and Tony Rodham, who were born shortly thereafter (we should've guessed, Hillary definitely has eldest sister energy).

She and her siblings were born and raised in Park Ridge, Illinois, and her parents established a "happy and disciplined" home, per the White House. Her parents "encouraged" their daughter to go after any career field she saw fit, and establishing that mentality certainly set her up for professional success. In addition to her parents' support, Clinton often spent time playing sports and going to church, the White House noted.

Hillary's brother, Tony, sadly passed away in 2019, as the politician confirmed on Twitter. "It's hard to find words, my mind is flooded with memories of him today," she wrote to a chorus of support from commenters. "When he walked into a room he'd light it up with laughter."

As a young adult, she considered herself a republican

With supportive parents, a place in the National Honor Society, and self-motivation, Hillary Clinton (then Rodham) made it to Wellesley University, where she pursued a degree in political science. Per the school's alumni page on the politician, Clinton was very involved in extracurriculars while in her undergraduate studies, but her on-campus affiliations might surprise you. Wellesley detailed that Hillary was the president of the Young Republicans Club (yes, you read that correctly) from 1966 to 1967. She even scored an internship in Washington, D.C. in 1968, working for the House Republican Conference. 

So what changed, politically, for the young Hillary? As noted by Biography, the undergraduate student was inspired by the words of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., as she heard a moving speech from the Civil Rights icon in Chicago. By 1968, she officially changed her political affiliation.

Hillary graduated from Wellesley in 1969, obtaining her political science degree with high honors. If her performance in school wasn't impressive enough, her alma mater noted that her peers chose her to be the "first-ever student commencement speaker." It was only uphill from there.

The future presidential candidate was one of 27 women in her law school class

Hillary Clinton's time at Wellesley propelled her into the world of graduate education, and by the fall of 1969, she was enrolled at Yale Law School. Pursuing her legal education amid the country's most promising students, Clinton made a name for herself as one of just 27 women who were accepted to the prestigious institution, and she addressed her time at the school during the class of 2018's commencement.

"I remember the first time I arrived on campus as an incoming law student in the fall of 1969 wearing my bell-bottoms, driving a beat-up old car with a mattress tied to the roof. I had no idea what to expect," she said. "When I came to Yale I was one of 27 women out of 235 law students. It was the first year women were admitted to the college," she continued, pointing out just how stunned her male classmates were that women were not only attending Yale, but outperforming them.

Pointing to a report from The New York Times, Hillary told the class of 2018 that she was "shocked" that her male counterparts were so taken aback by female success. 

She marched up and introduced herself to Bill Clinton in college

So many of us know what it's like to longingly stare at your crush from across the room, never harnessing the confidence to go up and introduce ourselves. Surprisingly, a young Bill Clinton was in this boat with us, and Hillary Rodham eventually grew tired of his longing from afar. During her 2018 Yale commencement speech, Hillary recalled the day at law school when she finally marched up to Bill to make herself known.

"We were in the Law Library one night, I was studying but I couldn't help but see occasionally as I lifted my head up that he was, again, looking at me," the former secretary of state said. "So finally I thought, 'This is ridiculous,' so I got up, went over to him, and I said, 'If you're going to keep looking at me and I'm going to keep looking back, we at least ought to be introduced. I'm Hillary Rodham. Who are you?'" The two started dating, and have been together since.

The young lawyer made a name for herself during the Watergate trial

If one political case stands out from the rest, it's the Watergate scandal — the infamous break-in at the DNC headquarters that was the beginning of the end of Richard Nixon's presidency. So what does that have to do with Hillary Clinton (then Rodham)? Oh, well, Watergate was one of her first cases out of Yale Law. As noted by AP News, Hillary had only recently left the prestigious university when she was encouraged by a professor to attach herself to the impeachment inquiry. Of course, the role propelled her to the front of national politics, and a handful of the country's leading lawyers got a look at Clinton's skills up close.

"Hillary was a star from the beginning,″ Dagmar Hamilton, Clinton's former colleague and now professor at the University of Texas, told AP News. Even Clinton herself recalled the case years later, describing it as "one of the greatest personal and professional opportunities I've ever had."

"The staff that was put together was so professional, experienced. They were some of the greatest lawyers I've ever worked with," Hillary recounted. "I was just a fresh, young law school graduate, and I got to work with these people, and it was such an historic experience."

Bill Clinton proposed to Hillary using a house

So where was Bill Clinton throughout Hillary Rodham's rise to the top of the legal world? He was both teaching and pursuing political avenues in Arkansas, but he knew he had to seal the deal with Hillary at some point. The two fresh-out-of-law-school professionals were both faculty members at the University of Arkansas School of Law, and on one day in June 1975, the young couple were on their way to the airport when they drove past a cute little brick home for sale, located not too far from school. Per the Clinton House Museum website, Hillary subsequently went out of town, and Bill bought the house. Dropping $17,200 for the house, he got all the details in order before his then-girlfriend came home.

When Hillary returned, Bill not only proposed but presented her with a house, too! (Ladies, a friendly reminder to keep those standards high.) "Remember that little house you liked so much? I bought it," Bill said, per the museum's website. "You have to marry me now because I can't live there alone." They got married shortly thereafter in the home's living room.

Hillary worked as a corporate lawyer during Bill's early political career

Hillary Rodham, of course, became Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the brilliant legal mind continued to rise the ranks of the professional world. By the time Bill Clinton was thriving in the local Arkansas political scene, Hillary was working as a corporate lawyer for Rose Law Firm, Arkansas' "most prestigious law firm and the oldest one west of the Mississippi," as reported by The New York Times. Representing clients such as Walmart and Tyson Foods, Hillary continued to thrive in the corporate legal world, with her professional fate lining up with Bill's in a unique way.

The New York Times noted that when Bill became governor of Arkansas in 1979, Hillary was made a full partner at Rose — an extremely impressive feat. The working couple continued to prioritize their careers, with Hillary spending long nights in the office and coined the acronym "RTDD" and the phrase "read the damn documents."

By the time Bill's 1992 bid for the White House came, Hillary's time at Rose was put under the microscope by those looking for political dirt and interest conflicts. Oh, politics.

The future first lady controversially hit the 1992 campaign trail

By the time the early 1990s rolled around, Bill Clinton had become a household name. In the words of John Mulaney, he was the first "cool politician," playing the saxophone, going on MTV, and appealing to the young voter in a way that hadn't really been done before. As for Hillary Clinton, she was right out there alongside her husband, but her role on the campaign — while revolutionary these days — was unlike any political spouse the country had arguably seen, as detailed by Politico.

Bill reportedly had a wandering eye, and when it hit the headlines that a singer by the name of Gennifer Flowers claimed to be Bill's longtime mistress, the news and the campaign turned to Hillary to clear things up. The couple conducted a now-infamous CBS interview in the wake of the allegations, with Hillary saying, "You know, I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I'm sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together." She continued, saying, "And you know, if that's not enough for people, then heck — don't vote for him."

Hillary was put in charge of health care reform during Bill's first term

The world of politics — and the voters — clearly overlooked the controversial interview and Bill Clinton's rumored infidelity, because the young Arkansas Democrat won the 1992 presidential election, kicking incumbent George H.W. Bush out of office. It was a big deal, to say the very least, and Bill wasn't planning on halting the controversial brakes.

As noted by ABC News, Bill made the then-shocking decision to put his wife and the country's new first lady, Hillary Clinton, in charge of overhauling the country's healthcare infrastructure — not a small order. While her efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and the project tabled after a year, the move made it clear that Hillary's focus was not White House dinner sets or designing the Christmas decorations — she was a corporate lawyer, and a good one at that, and she ushered in a new understanding of the first lady's role (all while wearing some great pantsuits).

During the 1992 campaign, Hillary said that her dedication was the result of both professional and personal goals. "Most of us are doing the best we can to find whatever the right balance is," she said, per White House History. "For me, that balance is family, work, and service."

The Monica Lewinksy scandal dominated the late 1990s for Hillary Clinton

When many recall Bill Clinton's time in office, it's safe to say that the name Monica Lewinsky comes to mind. Of course, Lewinsky was the young White House intern that Bill had an affair with while serving as president of the United States, and his testimony surrounding his infidelity became the cornerstone of his impeachment hearing, as seen in the official House Document from independent investigator Kenneth Starr. But wrapped up in the scandal, obviously, was Hillary Clinton, who just years prior had said that she wasn't the kind of woman to just "stand by [her] man" without good reason. However, Bill and Hillary did remain together and the scandal has stayed with them ever since.

Per ABC News, Hillary categorized Bill's infidelity and the scandal at large as "the most devastating, shocking and hurtful experience of [her] life," recalling in her memoir, "Living History," that the couple sought counseling and guidance from friends and spiritual leaders alike. While the couple remained married, ABC News noted that Hillary emerged from the scandal with her political aspirations at the center of her public life, doing her best to leave the drama behind.

Hillary launched her own political career

After her husband's time in public office came to a close, it was Hillary Clinton's time to shine. Successfully running for the Senate, Clinton served the great state of New York, proving to the naysayers that she had what it took to walk the halls of political power. Although she had made it as a politician, Hillary's time in Congress was not without controversy. As noted by Politico, the then-senator voted in support of the war in Iraq, a controversial decision both at the time and certainly a call that didn't age well. Later calling her vote a "mistake," some experts have estimated that the war vote cost Hillary the 2008 presidential nomination.

"I made it very clear that I made a mistake, plain and simple. And I have written about it in my book, I have talked about it in the past," Clinton later said of the decision. "What we now see is a very different and very dangerous situation."

Although she walked back the call she made at the time, then-senator Barack Obama used the issue to skewer Hillary in the Democratic primaries in 2008, arguably paving the way for his nomination.

Hillary unsuccessfully ran for president in 2008, but launched herself into a new arena of politics

Hillary Clinton continued to climb the political ladder and launched a campaign for the presidency in 2008. It seemed as though she was a shoo-in, according to Politico, but then an unknown face made his way onto the political theater's stage: Barack Obama. The young congressman became the voice of a generation, and as an arguably once-in-a-lifetime candidate, Obama snatched the nomination away from Hillary and built a broad coalition of supporters. Going on to win the presidency in a historic election, Obama transformed the White House into the home of the first Black president in our nation's history.

But don't think Hillary's transformation was complete after her upset — not at all. While Obama clinched the nomination and the presidency, he didn't forget his former campaign opponent. The young president nominated Hillary as his secretary of state. The former congresswoman served in the role from 2009 until 2013, before John Kerry took over the title, with Britannica noting that Hillary's position greatly improved international relations.

The candidate returned to the trail in 2016

When Hillary Clinton hit the presidential campaign trail once again, she had an impressive resume: former first lady of the United States, former New York senator, former secretary of state — to say that she was a qualified candidate is an understatement. But in a year in which being the political insider sorely worked against her, Clinton had an uphill battle to face in 2016, taking on a newcomer — and a controversial one at that — former reality star and businessman Donald Trump.

As noted by History, Hillary accepted the Democratic party's nomination for the presidency in a historic moment, inciting the messages that her mother told her when she was young. "I'm so happy this day has come. Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between. Happy for boys and men, too — because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone," she said.

And while Hillary clinched the popular vote against then-Republican nominee Trump, she did not secure enough electoral votes to win the White House — an upset if there ever was once.

Hillary Clinton has said 'no' to running in 2024

With her wealth of experience and name recognition, it's not surprising to think of a third presidential campaign for Hillary Clinton — but would she ever run again? Given the trepidation surrounding President Joe Biden's intentions to run in 2024, it's no wonder that Clinton's name has been floated around as a possibility, as has Senator Bernie Sanders' name and Pete Buttigieg's — all distinct possibilities for a 2024 run. But during an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe," the politician cleared up any confusion (or hope on the side of supporters) with a resounding "no."

"I am certainly going to be active in supporting women running for office and other candidates who I think should be reelected or elected, both women and men," Clinton said, further adding that a debate surrounding the fate of our democratic institutions is upon us. "I will stay active in all those debates," she continued, while simultaneously crushing the hope of supporters across the country that she would seek office once again.