A registered nurse known for being an “advocate for underdogs,” Stephanie Danforth Chafee is the wife of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and former Rhode Island
governor Lincoln Chafee.
Her family, which founded the Rhode Island School of Design, traces its roots in Rhode Island back to the Mayflower, and has long been involved in philanthropy and public service. She told Warwick Online in 2011 that she has a passion for helping others.
“It’s just the way I’m made, an innate something,” she said. “It’s a part of who you are. I was brought up under the values system to leave it better than you found it.”
Here’s what you need to know about Rhode Island’s former first lady:
1. She & Lincoln Have Been Married Since 1990
Stephanie Danforth married Lincoln Chafee in 1990, according to their New York Times wedding announcement.
She was working as a nurse at Roger Williams General Hospital in Providence at the time. Stephanie Chafee graduated with a nursing degree from Boston University and has a master’s degree from the University of Connecticut.
Stephanie and Lincoln knew each other from a young age, according to a 2010 profile by the Boston Globe.
Lincoln’s sister was killed in a horseriding accident in 1968, and Stephanie ended up with her pony. She would often see Lincoln at the stables, where they both worked. They reconnected several years later, in 1989.
2. They Have 3 Children & Live in Rhode Island
Stephanie and Lincoln Chafee have three children, Louisa, Caleb, and Thea.
Their daughter, Louisa, graduated from Brown University in 2014 and is training to be a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic sailing team. Caleb, 21, is a student at Brown, and Thea, 18, is a top competitor in equestrian competitions.
Stephanie Chafee also enjoys riding horses in her spare time.
“Family always comes first,” she told Warwick Online in 2011. “When I’ve got the kids taken care of, then I ride my horse. Then if there’s any time left in the day, I do my first lady stuff.”
The family lives in Rhode Island.
3. She Fought for Health-Related Causes as Rhode Island’s First Lady
Stephanie Chafee is a registered nurse and spent much of her time as first lady in Rhode Island fighting for health-related causes and raising awareness of public health issues, like the need for flu shots.
Before she became first lady, she was heavily involved in public health. She was Rhode Island’s first AIDS research nurse and co-founded the Rhode Island Free Clinic. In 1990, she became the clinical nurse coordinator at Sunrise House, a home for people with AIDS.
“I was raised in a family where we were taught to give back,” she said in a profile by the Council on Foundations. “But the organizations I give to are distinctly different from my father’s. I follow Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, so shelter, food and health care are my priorities.”
Chafee said she likes to do more than just give money to charities.
“When people ask me to sit on their boards, I tell them I have no more time to give,” she said. “Then they just want my money. But I’m sorry. That’s not the way it works. I have to be involved.”
4. She & Her Husband Have a Net Worth of at Least $38 Million
Lincoln and Stephanie Chafee are worth at least $38 million, according to campaign finance disclosures.
The majority of their wealth is in a trust held by Stephanie that holds at least $19 million. The trust owns stakes of more than $1 million in gold mining firms, energy companies, telecommunications firms and the online retailer Amazon.
The financial disclosures show that their assets totaled between $3.3 million to $5.6 million.
Stephanie Chafee was the biggest donor to her husband’s gubernatorial campaign.
5. She Posted on Facebook in June Asking if Anyone Knew the Password to Her Husband’s Page
Stephanie Chafee created a buzz on social media in June, not long after her husband announced he was running for president, when she took to Facebook to try and track down the password to her husband’s political Facebook page.
A spokesman for the campaign told Boston.com that she was trying to reach a staffer who may have had the log-in information. The campaign eventually closed the page and launched a new one