Jill Biden

Last updated

Jill Biden
Jill Biden official portrait 2.jpg
Second Lady of the United States
In role
January 20, 2009 January 20, 2017
Vice President Joe Biden
Preceded by Lynne Cheney
Succeeded by Karen Pence
Personal details
Jill Tracy Jacobs

(1951-06-03) June 3, 1951 (age 68)
Hammonton, New Jersey, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Bill Stevenson
(m. 1970;div. 1976)

Joe Biden (m. 1977)
Education University of Delaware (BA, EdD)
West Chester University (MEd)
Villanova University (MA)
Signature Jill Biden Signature.svg

Jill Tracy Biden (née  Jacobs, previously Stevenson; born June 3, 1951) is an American educator. She is the wife of the 47th vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, and served as second lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017.

Vice President of the United States Second highest executive office in United States

The vice president of the United States is the second-highest officer in the executive branch of the U.S. federal government, after the president of the United States, and ranks first in the presidential line of succession. The vice president is also an officer in the legislative branch, as president of the Senate. In this capacity, the vice president is empowered to preside over Senate deliberations, but may not vote except to cast a tie-breaking vote. The vice president also presides over joint sessions of Congress.

Joe Biden 47th Vice President of the United States

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is an American politician who served as the 47th vice president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. Biden also represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 2009. A member of the Democratic Party, Biden is a candidate for president in the 2020 election.

Second Lady of the United States Wife of the Vice President of the United States

Second Lady of the United States (SLOTUS) is the informal title held by the wife of the vice president of the United States, concurrent with the vice president's term of office. This title is less commonly used than the title first lady of the United States.


She was born in Hammonton, New Jersey, and grew up in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. She married Joe Biden in 1977, and became stepmother to his two young sons from his first marriage, Beau and Hunter, whose mother and baby sister died in a car accident in 1972. Joe and Jill Biden have a daughter, Ashley, born in 1981.

Hammonton, New Jersey Town in New Jersey, United States

Hammonton is a town in Atlantic County, New Jersey, United States, known as the "Blueberry Capital of the World." As of the 2010 United States Census, the town's population was 14,791, reflecting an increase of 2,187 (+17.4%) from the 12,604 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 396 (+3.2%) from the 12,208 counted in the 1990 Census.

Willow Grove, Pennsylvania Census-designated place in Pennsylvania, United States

Willow Grove is a census-designated place (CDP) in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. A community in Philadelphia's northern suburbs, the population was 15,726 at the 2010 census. It is located in Upper Dublin Township, Abington Township and Upper Moreland Township. Willow Grove was once known for Willow Grove Park, an amusement park that was open from 1896 to 1976, now the site of Willow Grove Park Mall. Willow Grove is considered an edge city of Philadelphia with large amounts of retail and office space.

A stepmother is the current wife of one's natural parent that is not one's biological mother.

Biden has a bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware, master's degrees from West Chester University and Villanova University, and a doctoral degree from the University of Delaware. She taught English and reading in high schools for 13 years, and also taught adolescents with emotional disabilities at a psychiatric hospital. From 1993 to 2008, she was an English and writing instructor at Delaware Technical & Community College. Since 2009, she has been a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College and is thought to be the first second lady to hold a paying job while her husband was vice president. She is the founder of the Biden Breast Health Initiative non-profit organization, co-founder of the Book Buddies program, co-founder of the Biden Foundation, is active in Delaware Boots on the Ground, and is co-founder of Joining Forces with Michelle Obama.

University of Delaware American university

The University of Delaware is a public research university located in Newark, Delaware. The University of Delaware is the largest university in Delaware. UD currently offers three associate's programs, 148 bachelor's programs, 121 master's programs and 55 doctoral programs across its eight colleges. The main campus is in Newark, with satellite campuses in Dover, Wilmington, Lewes, and Georgetown. It is considered a large institution with approximately 18,500 undergraduate and 4,500 graduate students. UD is a privately governed university which receives public funding for being a land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant state-supported research institution.

Villanova University Catholic university near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Villanova University is a private Catholic research university in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania. Named after Saint Thomas of Villanova, the university is the oldest Catholic university in Pennsylvania and the only Augustinian university in the United States.

Northern Virginia Community College education organization in Alexandria, United States

Northern Virginia Community College is a public community college composed of six campuses and four centers in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.. NOVA is the second largest multi-campus community college in the United States and the largest educational institution in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Early life

Jill Tracy Jacobs was born on June 3, 1951, in Hammonton, New Jersey. [1] [2] Moving several times while very young, she and her four younger sisters spent the majority of their childhood in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. [3] [4] Her father, Donald C. Jacobs (1927–1999), [5] was a bank teller who became head of a savings and loan in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. [6] His family name had originally been Giacoppa before her Italian grandfather anglicized it. [6] [7] Her mother, Bonny Jean (Godfrey) Jacobs (1930–2008), [3] was a homemaker. [5] The family was not particularly religious, but in ninth grade, Jacobs independently took classes in order to join the Presbyterian church. [6]

Bank teller employee of a bank who deals directly with most customers

A bank teller is an employee of a bank who deals directly with customers. In some places, this employee is known as a cashier or customer representative. Most teller jobs require experience with handling cash and a high school diploma. Most banks provide on-the-job training.

Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia Neighborhood of Philadelphia in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States

Chestnut Hill is a neighborhood in the Northwest Philadelphia section of the United States city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is known for the high incomes of its residents and high and real estate values, as well as its private schools.

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2018 census-estimated population of 1,584,138. Since 1854, the city has had the same geographic boundaries as Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

Jacobs always intended to have her own career. [8] She began working at age 15, which included waitressing at the Jersey Shore. [6] [8] She attended Upper Moreland High School, where she was somewhat rebellious and enjoyed her social life, but always liked English class. [9] She graduated in 1969. [10]

Jersey Shore coastal region of the U.S. state of New Jersey

The Jersey Shore is the coastal region of the U.S. state of New Jersey. Geographically, the term encompasses about 141 miles (227 km) of oceanfront bordering the Atlantic Ocean, from Perth Amboy in the north to Cape May Point in the south. The region includes Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic, and Cape May counties. Many New Jersey residents refer to it simply as The Shore. Most of the shore region is located in Central and South New Jersey.

Upper Moreland High School Public school

Upper Moreland High School is a comprehensive public high school, serving grades 9–12, located in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, about fifteen miles outside of Philadelphia. It is the only high school in the Upper Moreland School District, which includes parts of the Huntingdon Valley, Hatboro, and Willow Grove ZIP codes in Upper Moreland Township. Its primary feeder school is Upper Moreland Middle School, and routinely sends graduates to colleges and universities in the United States and worldwide.

Education and career, marriages and family

Jacobs enrolled in a junior college in Pennsylvania to study fashion merchandising, but soon found it unsatisfying. [6] She married Bill Stevenson, a former college football player, in February 1970. [11] Within a couple of years he opened the Stone Balloon in Newark, Delaware, near the University of Delaware. [11] It became one of the most successful college bars in the nation. [11]

A junior college is a post-secondary educational institution offering vocational training designed to prepare students for either skilled trades and technical occupations and workers in support roles in professions such as engineering, accountancy, business administration, nursing, medicine, architecture, and criminology or for additional education at another college with more advanced academic material. Students typically attend junior colleges for 1–3 years.

Fashion merchandising can be defined as the planning and promotion of sales by presenting a product to the right market at the proper time, by carrying out organized, skillful advertising, using attractive displays, etc. Merchandising, within fashion retail, refers specifically to the stock planning, management, and control process. Fashion Merchandising is a job that is done world- wide. This position requires well-developed quantitative skills, and natural ability to discover trends, meaning relationships and interrelationships among standard sales and stock figures.[1]In the fashion industry, there are two different merchandising teams: the visual merchandising team, and the fashion merchandising team.

Newark, Delaware City in New Castle County, Delaware, U.S.

Newark is a city in New Castle County, Delaware, United States. It is located 12 miles (19 km) west-southwest of Wilmington. According to the 2010 Census, the population of the city is 31,454. Newark is home to the University of Delaware.

She enrolled at the University of Delaware, where she declared English as her major. [6] She then took a year off from college and did some modelling work for a local agency in Wilmington. [6] [11] She and Stevenson drifted apart. [11]

Subsequently, she returned to college and met Senator Joe Biden as a senior at Delaware in March 1975. [8] They met on a blind date set up by Joe's brother, though Biden had seen her photograph in a local advertisement. [8] Although he was nine years her senior, she was impressed by his more formal appearance and manners compared to the college men she had known, and after their first date she told her mother, "Mom, I finally met a gentleman." [6]

Joe and Jill, soon after meeting in the 1970s Joe and Jilly Biden early photo.jpg
Joe and Jill, soon after meeting in the 1970s

Jacobs graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Delaware later in 1975. [12] [13] She began her career teaching high school English. [8] Meanwhile, she was going through turbulent divorce proceedings with Stevenson; the court case ended, and the divorce became final, in 1976, with her not getting the half-share in the Stone Balloon she had wanted. [11] Around this time she spent five months working in Biden's Senate office. [14]

She and Joe Biden were married by a Catholic priest on June 17, 1977, at the Chapel at the United Nations in New York City. [2] [8] [15] This was four and a half years after his first wife and infant daughter died in a motor vehicle accident; [2] Joe had proposed several times before she accepted, hesitant to take on the commitment of raising his two young sons who had survived the accident. [6] She continued to teach and then, while pregnant, received a Master of Education with a specialty in reading from West Chester University in 1981. [6] [12] [16] The Bidens' daughter Ashley Blazer was born on June 8, 1981, [17] and Jill stopped working for two years while raising the three children. [18]

Jill and Joe Biden meeting Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in April 1980 Pope John Paul II with Joe and Jill Biden.jpg
Jill and Joe Biden meeting Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in April 1980

She then returned to work, teaching English, acting as a reading specialist, and teaching history to emotionally disturbed students. [8] She taught in the adolescent program at the Rockford Center psychiatric hospital for five years in the 1980s. [2] [6] In 1987, Biden received a second Master of Arts degree, this one in English from Villanova University. [2] [12] During her husband's 1988 bid for the presidency, she said she would continue her job of teaching emotionally disturbed children even if she became first lady. [19] In all, she spent 13 years teaching in public high school, [8] including 3 years at Claymont High School. [6]

From 1993 through 2008, Biden was an instructor at the Stanton/Wilmington campus of Delaware Technical & Community College, [12] [20] [21] where she taught English composition and remedial writing, with an emphasis on instilling confidence in students. [20] [22] She has said of teaching at a community college, "I feel like I can make a greater difference in their lives. I just love that population. It just feels really comfortable to me. I love the women who are coming back to school and getting their degrees, because they're so focused." [20]

Biden is president of the Biden Breast Health Initiative, a nonprofit organization begun in 1993 that provides educational breast health awareness programs free of charge to schools and other groups in the state of Delaware. [23] [24] [25] In the following 15 years, the organization informed more than 7,000 high school girls about proper breast health. [25] In 2007, Biden helped found Book Buddies, which provides books for low-income children, [25] and has been very active in Delaware Boots on the Ground, an organization that supports military families. [22] She runs five miles, five times a week, and she has run in the Marine Corps Marathon. [8]

Biden later returned to school for her doctoral degree, studying under her birth name, Jill Jacobs. [18] In January 2007, at age 55, she received a Doctor of Education in educational leadership from the University of Delaware. [2] [25] [26] [27] Her dissertation, Student Retention at the Community College: Meeting Students' Needs, was published under the name Jill Jacobs-Biden. [26]

Role in 2008 presidential campaign

Biden at the August 2008 announcement of her husband becoming Barack Obama's running mate Obamas and Bidens.jpg
Biden at the August 2008 announcement of her husband becoming Barack Obama's running mate

Following George W. Bush's reelection in 2004, she urged her husband to run again for president, [21] later saying: "I literally wore black for a week. I just could not believe that he won, because I felt that things were already so bad. I was so against the Iraq War. And I said to Joe, 'You've got to change this, you have to change this.'" [20] During Joe Biden's 2008 campaign to be the Democratic nominee, she continued to teach during the week and would join him for campaigning on weekends. [21] She said that she would have taken an activist role in addressing education as her chief focus of concern as a potential first lady. [28] She also said that she was basically apolitical and would not seek inclusion in Cabinet meetings. [21]

Once her husband was selected as the Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's running mate, she began campaigning again. She wore a Blue Star Mothers Club pin in recognition of Beau Biden's deployment to Iraq. [20] She was not a polished political speaker, but was able to establish a connection with the audience. [20] She also made some joint appearances with Michelle Obama. [29] Throughout the time her husband was running for vice president, Jill Biden continued to teach four days a week at Delaware Technical & Community College during the fall 2008 semester, and then campaigned over the long weekend, while grading class papers on the campaign bus. [3] [20] [30]

Second Lady of the United States

First term

Jill and Joe Biden dancing at the President Obama Home States Ball, January 20, 2009; the gown was by Reem Acra 20090120 Jill and Joe Biden at Homestates Ball.JPG
Jill and Joe Biden dancing at the President Obama Home States Ball, January 20, 2009; the gown was by Reem Acra
Official portrait, March 2009 Jill Biden official portrait.jpg
Official portrait, March 2009

Despite moving to Number One Observatory Circle (the vice presidential residence in Washington) as Second Lady of the United States, Biden intended to keep teaching at a Washington-area community college, and several of them recruited her. [31] [32] [33] In January 2009, she began teaching two English courses as an adjunct professor at the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), the second largest community college in the nation. [27] [34] It has been rare for second ladies to work while their spouses serve as vice president, [29] [32] and Biden is thought to be the first second lady to hold a paying job while her husband was vice president. [27] Biden planned to be a public advocate for the importance of community colleges and to advise the Obama administration on issues related to them. [34] In White House announcements and by her preference, she is referred to as "Dr. Jill Biden." [27] [35]

Catherine Russell, a former adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was named Biden's chief of staff for her second lady role. [36] Courtney O’Donnell, a former spokesperson for Howard Dean and Elizabeth Edwards, was named her communications director [37] and Kirsten White, a lawyer at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, her policy director. [38] As second lady, Biden had a staff of eight overall and occupies a corner suite in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. [35]

On The Oprah Winfrey Show just before the inauguration, Jill Biden said that Barack Obama had offered her husband either the vice-presidency or the position of U.S. secretary of state. [39] [40] However, Joe Biden's spokesperson stated that Biden had only been offered one job by Obama. [40] In May 2009, Obama announced that Biden would be in charge of an initiative to raise awareness about the value of community colleges. [41]

In June 2009, Biden gave the commencement address at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York, [42] and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the City University of New York. [43] Biden continued teaching two English reading and writing classes at NOVA in fall 2009. [44] In January 2010, she gave the commencement speech at the University of Delaware's winter commencement, the first such address by her at a major university. [45] In August 2010, Biden appeared as herself in an episode of Lifetime's Army Wives , making it part of her campaign to raise awareness of military families. [46]

In April 2011, she and Michelle Obama founded a national initiative, Joining Forces, to showcase the needs of U.S. military families. [47] [48] [49] In September 2011, Biden lent her support to USAID's FWD campaign, a push for awareness surrounding the deadly famine, war, and drought affecting over 13 million people in the Horn of Africa. [50]

She continued to teach at NOVA, [51] and by 2011 held a permanent position as an associate professor, teaching three English and writing composition courses two days per week. [52] She made her position there as normal as she could, sharing a cubicle with another teacher, holding regular office hours for students, and trying to get her accompanying Secret Service agents to dress as unobtrusively as possible. [52] Her students were often unaware of exactly who she was, referring to her simply as "Dr. B." [53] In February 2012 she staged a "Community College to Career" bus tour with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis that aimed to showcase alliances between community colleges and local and regional businesses. [54]

Her life with her husband at Number One Observatory Circle tended towards the informal and was centered around family and their nearby grandchildren. [52] In June 2012, she published a children's book, Don't Forget, God Bless Our Troops, based around her son Beau's deployment. [55] The same month, the Bidens' daughter Ashley, a social worker and staffer at the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families, was married. [56]

Role in 2012 presidential campaign

In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, in which her husband was running for re-election as vice president, Biden played a modest role. [55] She did not cut back on her teaching schedule and made few solo campaign appearances. [55] This reflected her continuing distaste for both politics and public speaking, even though the Obama campaign considered her valuable in connecting to military families, teachers, and women. [55]

Second term

Biden with Juliana Awada, the First Lady of Argentina during her visit to Buenos Aires, June 2016. Juliana Awada y Jill Biden.jpg
Biden with Juliana Awada, the First Lady of Argentina during her visit to Buenos Aires, June 2016.

Following the re-election of Obama and her husband on November 6, 2012, Biden began a second term as second lady. She wore a silk blue gown by Vera Wang when she appeared at the inaugural balls in January 2013. [57]

During her second term, Biden continued to be involved with supporting military personnel, including staging multiple visits to the Center for the Intrepid rehabilitation facility for amputees and attending the inaugural Invictus Games in London. [58] During the 2014 U.S. midterm Congressional elections she campaigned for a number of Democrats, including some ones in high-profile contests such as Mark Udall in Colorado and Michelle Nunn in Georgia. [59] [60]

In May 2015 she suffered the death of her stepson Beau Biden from brain cancer. She later said the loss "was totally shattering. My life changed in an instant. All during his illness, I truly believed that he was going to live, up until the moment that he closed his eyes, and I just never gave up hope." [53] She was present at her husband's side in the Rose Garden on October 21, 2015, when he announced he would not run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in the 2016 election. [61] By her own account, Biden was disappointed by his decision, believing her husband was highly qualified for the position, and "would have been the best president." [62]

Biden continued to teach at NOVA, handling a full load of five classes during the Fall 2015 semester. [63] During 2016, she was present with her husband on a listening tour for Cancer Moonshot 2020, an effort he was leading. [64] In March 2016 she headed the official party that welcomed American astronaut Scott Kelly back to Earth from his almost full year in space. [65]

Subsequent activities

The former second couple launched the Biden Foundation in February 2017, with the purpose of allowing them to pursue the causes they cared most about, including focuses upon preventing violence against women, his moonshot initiative, and her interests in community colleges and military families. [66] [14] That same month she was named board chair of Save the Children; she said, "I think [their] emphasis on education fits with my life's work." [67] Her husband was seen as a popular ex-vice president and she received a standing ovation when she was a presenter at the 71st Tony Awards. [14]

In June 2017 the couple bought a $2.7 million, off-the-water vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware near Cape Henlopen State Park, where they planned to host members of their extended family. [68] [69] Their ability to purchase this family property was due in part to deals they signed with Flatiron Books upon leaving office, with Biden contracted to write one and her husband two. [14] [69] Indeed, by 2019 the couple reported some $15 million in income since leaving the vice presidency, including $700,000 in speaking engagements for her. [70] The couple also substantially increased their charitable giving during this period. [70]

The Bidens at a dinner for the Human Rights Campaign in 2018 Joe Biden & Jill Biden @ 2018.09.15 Human Rights Campaign National Dinner, Washington, DC USA 06125 (44713707781).jpg
The Bidens at a dinner for the Human Rights Campaign in 2018

Jill Biden continued to teach full-time at NOVA after her husband left office, [67] with a salary of close to $100,000. [69] She was selected to give the keynote address at a commencement for Milwaukee Area Technical College in May 2017. [71] She gave the keynote address at a California teachers summit in July 2017, emphasizing the importance of communities supporting their teachers given the emotional and circumstantial stresses they often have to function under. [72] Then in May 2018, she gave a commencement address at Bishop State Community College in Alabama, telling the graduates that "Maybe like me, life got in the way and it's taken you a lot longer than you expected to get here today. ... Whoever you are, know this, if you can walk across this stage, you can do anything." [73] In February 2019 she spoke to the graduating class of the Newport News Apprentice School, telling them that she realized many of them were in complicated life situations with multiple responsibilities, and that "Sometimes your day is a jigsaw puzzle that never seems to get completed.... But no matter where life takes you, as of today you are a master of a craft, a shipbuilder and a leader, and no one can take that away from you." [74]

In May 2019 her memoir Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself was published. [75] The book has little political content, instead focusing on aspects of family. [76] In it she states that while she is "grateful" to have been second lady, "The role I have always felt most at home in is being 'Dr. B.'" [53] USA Today called it an "often-poignant memoir that charts her journey from a rebellious teen to young divorcee to the second lady of the United States." [75] Biden did some book signings to help promote the work. [76]

Role in 2020 presidential campaign

Regarding the much-discussed possibility of her husband running in the 2020 United States presidential election, Biden was a key participant in his decision-making process. [77] By one report in March 2019, she was "enthusiastically" in favor of his running. [78]

The Joe Biden presidential campaign, 2020 was officially announced on April 25, 2019. [79] A Town and Country magazine headline declared that "Jill Biden Might Just Be Joe Biden's Greatest Political Asset". [79]

Days later, Biden addressed the matter of women who had accused her husband of inappropriate physical contact that had made them feel uncomfortable by saying, "I think what you don't realize is how many people approach Joe. Men and women, looking for comfort or empathy. But going forward, I think he's gonna have to judge – be a better judge – of when people approach him, how he's going to react. That he maybe shouldn't approach them." [80] She said she had experienced male intrusion on personal space herself in the past and that "I just sorta stepped aside. I didn't address it. ... things have changed. There was a time when women were afraid to speak out. I can remember specifically it was in a job interview ... if that same thing happened today, I'd turn around and say, 'What do you think you're doin'?' ... it's totally different." [80]

Biden continued to teach at NOVA during this time, at one point telling a reporter, "I'm here grading research papers in between interviews." [53] She staged appearances without her husband in early primary states such as Iowa, in some cases accompanied by a granddaughter. [81] She attracted notice during one campaign stop in New Hampshire when she emphasized the electability argument in favor of her husband, saying, "you know, your candidate might be better on, I don't know, health care, than Joe is, but you've got to look at who's going to win this election, and maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, 'OK, I personally like so-and-so better,' but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump." [82]

Awards and honors

In May 2014, Biden gave the commencement address and was awarded an honorary doctorate at Villanova University, one of her alma maters. [83] She did and received the same at Salve Regina University in May 2011 [84] and at Hofstra University in May 2017. [85]

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Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign Campaign of Joe Biden for the election to President of the United States in 2020

The 2020 presidential campaign of Joe Biden began on April 25, 2019, when Biden released a video announcing his candidacy. Joe Biden, the former vice president of the United States and a former U.S. senator from Delaware, had been the subject of widespread speculation as a potential 2020 candidate after declining to be a candidate in the 2016 election.


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Honorary titles
Preceded by
Lynne Cheney
Second Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Karen Pence