As Joe Biden wins the presidency in the 2020 US election, Vogue takes a closer look at his wife Dr Jill Biden.
She has always been protective of her own career
“Being a teacher is not what I do but who I am,” Dr Jill Biden wrote in her 2019 memoir, Where the Light Enters. She’s dedicated her entire life to her chosen profession, so much so that she broke with tradition in continuing to teach English full-time at a Northern Virginia community college during her eight years as SLOTUS (Second Lady of the United States), when her husband Joe Biden served as Barack Obama’s vice-president, becoming the first woman to simultaneously hold the position and a paid job. And the 69-year-old has already made one thing clear: now that Biden has ousted Donald Trump from the White House, making her First Lady, she will continue to teach.
She earned four degrees while raising her family
“From an early age, I knew I wanted my own money, my own identity, and my own career,” Biden told Vogue in 2008. To that end, she earned no fewer than four degrees. Having first graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Delaware in 1975, she later studied for two master’s degrees, one from West Chester University, and another from Villanova University. At the age of 55, she gained a doctoral degree in education from the University of Delaware.
She has a close relationship with Michelle Obama
While Barack Obama and Joe Biden had a famed “bromance” when they worked together in the White House, Michelle and Jill struck up a firm friendship, too. To date, they’ve teamed up on several educational initiatives together. “Jill is not just brilliant, but she is kind. She is very funny, and she is one of the strongest people I know,” Michelle said during their final joint event in office. “And I love and admire her with all my heart.” As the presidential campaign continued to heat up, Michelle consistently used her public platform to support her “partner-in-crime”. “There’s not a doubt in my mind that Jill will make a wonderful First Lady,” she recently said on Instagram.
She’s dealt with heart-wrenching loss
In 2015, Jill’s stepson, Beau Biden, sadly died from brain cancer, leaving behind his wife, Hallie Biden, and two children: Natalie and Robert. “My life changed in an instant. All during his illness, I truly believed he was going to live, up until the moment that he closed his eyes, and I just never gave up hope,” Jill later said. Beau’s death was especially difficult for the family given that, in 1972, Joe’s first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden (his college sweetheart) and his daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car crash. His two young sons, Beau and Hunter, had also been in the car at the time, but survived the collision.
During the presidential campaign, Jill has pointed to her husband’s strength in the face of adversity as evidence of his ability to lead a divided America through current crises, and insisted his “strength of will is unstoppable”. “How do you make a broken family whole?” she asked. “The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding, and with small acts of kindness. With bravery. With unwavering faith.”
She’s her husband’s biggest defender
Jill and Joe have been married for 43 years – but she made Joe propose five times before she said yes. New Jersey-born Jill married Bill Stevenson, a former college football player, in 1970, but they divorced in 1975 when she was just 24.
Jill and Joe met after Joe’s brother, Frank, set them up on a blind date in 1975 – but it wasn’t love at first sight. “The guys I had dated had bell bottoms and clogs. When Joe showed up at my door, I took one look at his perfect suit and his leather loafers and I thought: ‘Thank God it’s only one date,’” she previously told The New York Times. However, Joe managed to impress her, and Jill, as reported by Vogue, told her mother: “Mom, I finally met a gentleman.”
Still, Joe was forced to propose several times, as Jill wanted to make sure it would work. “By that time, of course, I had fallen in love with the boys, and I really felt that this marriage had to work. Because they had lost their mom, and I couldn’t have them lose another mother,” Jill told Vogue. They married in 1977, and they have one daughter together, Ashley.
While Jill is a self-confessed introvert, she’s never been shy about championing her husband’s political career. That said, when Biden was contemplating a presidential run back in 2004, his wife wasn’t initially on board. When a group of supporters showed up at their home in Delaware, she walked into the room wearing just a bikini, with the word “no” written across her body. “That got his attention. I won’t tell you who was sitting in that room, but they got the message,” she told Vogue earlier this year. When George W Bush went on to be re-elected in 2004, her opinion changed. She urged Joe to run in 2008, and she’s still right behind him now that he has won the presidency in 2020.
She will be sure to define the role of First Lady on her own terms
While Jill was hesitant to speculate on the outcome of the 2020 election when she was interviewed by Vogue earlier this year, she did say this: “The beauty of it is that you can define it however you want. And that’s what I did as Second Lady – I defined that role the way I wanted it to be. I would still work on all the same issues. Education would be right up there – and military families. I’d travel all over this country trying to get free community college.” Rest assured she will be a First Lady like no other.
Originally published on Vogue.co.uk