Des Moines – Since her school days, Hillary Clinton
has chased success, earning honours and accolades that could fill a bookcase.
The ambitious Midwesterner has managed it all in her lengthy career – all
except the presidency, her decades-long obsession.
Clinton might have been forgiven for expecting a
glide path to her party's nomination in 2016, after losing out to Barack Obama
eight years earlier.
She and husband Bill Clinton have not just endured
but suffered and thrived in symbiotic tandem under the political spotlight
since 1977, the year before Bill's election as governor of Arkansas.
Now she is in the fight of her life against chief rival
Bernie Sanders, who is seeking to imitate Obama and snatch victory from
Clinton's grasp in Iowa, the state that votes first in the presidential
Clinton has changed tack for this new campaign. She
promotes her status as a new grandmother, but also as the torchbearer of
America's women, a commitment that dates back to her early years as a lawyer
and child advocate.
Embracing her reputation as a "fighter,"
Clinton is keen to shed the has-been label and emerge as the nation's first
From middle class to
Hillary Diane Rodham was born October 26, 1947 and
raised in a middle-class household in Chicago suburb Park Ridge.
She adored her mother Dorothy but described her
father Hugh Rodham, born from Welsh immigrants, as a stubborn and rigid
He imposed his work ethic on young Hillary, but
also his frugality. She still puts uneaten olives back in the jar and is loath
to waste anything, she wrote in her 2003 autobiography, "Living
Clinton shared her father's Republican convictions
in adolescence, as well as his thunderous laugh. The family is Methodist, and
to this day Hillary Clinton remains in the church.
From age 13, she took odd jobs to help finance her
studies. Smart and ambitious, Hillary was admitted in 1965 to Wellesley, an
elite women's college near Harvard where she was eventually elected president
of her class.
It was the social tumult of the sixties, and
Clinton's eyes were opened to the struggle for civil rights, the explosive
debate over Vietnam and the fight for gender equality.
When she was accepted in 1969 at prestigious Yale
Law School, she met Bill Clinton, the "Viking" from Arkansas who
would change the course of her life.
After working for the influential Children's
Defense Fund, and a period in Washington in 1974 on the commission
investigating the Watergate scandal, she gave in and joined Bill in Arkansas.
He was soon elected Arkansas governor and Hillary
Rodham joined a prestigious law firm, eventually becoming its first female
partner. Chelsea, their only daughter, was born in 1980.
Political first lady
She soon dropped her maiden name and became Hillary
Clinton, first lady of Arkansas and then the nation after her husband's White
House election victory in 1992.
Her assertive style contrasted with that of her
predecessors. She played an active political role, symbolised by the location
of her office in the West Wing.
Her relations with lawmakers and journalists
quickly soured, particularly over her efforts to reform the health care system,
a role bestowed on her by her president husband. Republicans branded her a
She suffered intense humiliation when news of
Bill's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky surfaced in 1998. But her
popularity has never been higher than the 67% approval rating she enjoyed in
December 1998, according to a Gallup poll at the time.
Pressured by friends and associates in Hillaryland,
the first lady launched herself into politics, winning a US Senate seat for New
York in 2000.
She laid low during the 2004 presidential race, but
four years later she entered the fray to challenge fellow senator Barack Obama,
who savaged her vote supporting the Iraq war.
Clinton chose to run on her experience, refusing to
campaign on gender. But Americans opted instead on the 40-something political
neophyte Obama, bringing hope of change after eight years of George W Bush.
After a detente with his party rival, Obama
appointed Clinton secretary of state.
Her critics argue she can claim no major diplomatic
successes, but her four globe-trotting years in the post cemented her image as
a powerful statesperson.
In 2007, in his definitive Clinton biography,
journalist Carl Bernstein cited his subject's dominant characteristic as
"passion," exuded in her "enthusiasm, humour, tempestuousness,
inner strength," and her "lethal (almost) powers of
A Machiavellian image, one painted by her many
enemies, clings to Clinton, especially in the eyes of voters who remember the
turmoil of the 1990s.
Her use of a personal email account instead of an
official government one proved a crippling scandal for her last year, fuelling
suspicions that the Clintons see themselves as above the law.
In 2014 Hillary Clinton said she and Bill were
"dead broke" when they left the White House, even though they owned
two million-dollar homes. They subsequently made several million dollars each
from speaking fees.
But her years of diplomacy have cemented her image.
For the last 14 years, she has remained the most "admired" woman in
America in an annual Gallup survey.