Dorothy Howell Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s Mother: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Hillary Clinton stands with her mother Dorothy Rodham and daughter Chelsea as they are introduced during a campaign stop in 2008. (Getty)

Tuesday marked one of the biggest days in Hillary Clinton’s political career. It also marked a historic event for the United States, as Clinton became the first female presidential nominee.

When Clinton delivered her victory speech Tuesday night, she mentioned one woman in particular as her inspiration: her late mother.

Clinton noted her mother’s absence, who would have recently turned 97.

“I wish she could see her daughter become the Democratic nominee,” Clinton said of Dorothy Howell Rodham, who passed away in 2011.

Here are five facts you need to know about Dorothy, and the influence she had on Clinton’s career.

1. She Was Abandoned as a Child

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Hillary Clinton, her mother Dorothy Rodham and Chelsea Clinton pose during the wedding of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky in 2010. (Getty)

At the start of the 2016 campaign, Clinton often recounted the story of Dorothy’s difficult childhood.

It began in a broken home in Chicago where her parents were always at odds, and not equipped to raise Dorothy and her younger sister.

When she was only eight years old, her parents divorced. Dorothy and her sister were sent across the country by train to live with their grandparents in California.

As Clinton wrote in her autobiography, Living History, life was not better there.

Dorothy went from living in a boarding house where her parents violently fought, to an extremely strict environment with her grandparents.

Clinton wrote that her mother was treated cruelly and isolated socially. After she was caught trick-or-treating with friends, her grandmother declared that she would be confined to her room for a year. Clinton went on to explain it lasted a few months until a relative found out.

At age 14, she could no longer bear it and left her grandparents household to find a job as a $3-a-week nanny. On her own, she attended high school in Alhambra, California.

2. Her Difficult Upbringing Inspired Hillary to Become an Advocate for Children

In her autobiography, Clinton recounted her mother’s hardships and how it shaped her views.

“I thought often of my own mother’s neglect and mistreatment at the hands of her parents and grandparents, and how other caring adults filled the emotional void to help her,” she wrote.

At a 2016 rally on Roosevelt Island in New York City, Clinton explained how her mother’s experience inspired her to be an advocate for children and families.

In an ad for her 2016 presidential campaign, Clinton illustrates how her mother’s difficult childhood shaped her public service career, from her work as an attorney at the Children’s Defense Fund, to her fight for health care reform as First Lady.

Dorothy has played a lead role in her daughter’s campaign, and has been featured in many of Clinton’s speeches and television ads.

“I think for Hillary it’s about learning, and her mother’s story is just one of the big motivators of who she is,” Ann Lewis, a former senior adviser told the New York Times. “She couldn’t go back and do more for her mother, but she could do more for other children who need protection or who need a better chance.”

3. She Was Never Able to Attend College

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Hillary Clinton introduces her mother, Dorothy Rodham, to residents of a Bronx housing project in 2000. Ge

After graduating from high school in 1937, Dorothy’s mother encouraged her to return from California o Chicago with a promise that her new husband would pay for tuition.

Dorothy’s dream was to attend Northwestern University. Upon her return, however, she discovered that her mother only wanted her back in Chicago to be a housekeeper.

Dorothy found a job as a secretary instead. In 1942 she married Hugh Ellsworth Rodham, who worked in the textile industry and later, became the owner of a drapery business.

Five years later Hillary was born, the first of the couple’s three children.

After Dorothy passed away in 2011, Clinton said one of her mother’s greatest disappointments was never attending college.

4. She Taught Hillary to Stand Up to Bullies

As Clinton addressed a loud crowd of supporters at Brooklyn Navy Yard on Tuesday night, she recalled an important lesson her mother taught her: never back down from a fight.

The former secretary of state took the opportunity to speak about the impact her mother had on her career, while also taking a jab at presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Clinton said of her mother: “She taught me never to back down from a bully, which it turns out was pretty good advice.”

In an interview with ABC News, Clinton elaborated on the role her mother has played in her 2016 campaign, and what she would think about her clinching the Democratic nomination.

“She would be really excited and proud. She would be, like I am, overwhelmed by this historic moment,” Clinton said. “She taught me so much in my life, including how to stand up to bullies, which apparently is going to be very much in demand in the upcoming campaign.”

In Clinton’s autobiography, she recounted a story from her early childhood.

When she was 4, she went home in tears after a neighborhood girl had bullied her. “You have to face things and show them you’re not afraid,” her mother advised.

5. She Joined Hillary on The Campaign Trail in 2008

Dorothy Rodham joined Hillary on the campaign trail during her first presidential quest in 2008. Getty

Dorothy Rodham joined Hillary on the campaign trail during her first presidential quest in 2008. (Getty)

Dorothy and her husband left Chicago in 1987 to join Hillary and her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was governor of Arkansas.

Rodham’s husband died in 1993, and she later moved to Washington.

During Clinton’s first presidential bid in 2008, Dorothy frequently joined her daughter on the campaign trail and appeared in a campaign ad.

In the video, Dorothy says:

What I would like people to know about Hillary is what a good person she is.
She never was envious of anybody — she was helpful. And she’s continued that with her adult life with helping other women.
She has empathy for other people’s unfortunate circumstances. I’ve always admired that because it isn’t always true of people.
I think she ought to be elected even if she weren’t my daughter.

Chelsea Clinton also shared a special bond with her grandmother.

In an interview with Vogue, she spoke of their closeness:

She always wanted to go to Cactus Cantina near the National Cathedral. I would drive Marc and my grandmother there, and they would get a large pitcher of frozen margaritas, and then I would drive them home, both slightly inebriated. Which gave me inordinate joy.

She also told the magazine that she tries to wear something of her grandmother’s every day, because of how much she misses her.

After her grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer, Chelsea moved into the hospital with her for a period of time, according to Vogue.

“My grandmother and I spent a lot of time in Washington together, and then she was diagnosed with colon cancer four days after I graduated from Stanford,” Chelsea told the publication. “Although I clearly wish she hadn’t had to go through that, that was the first time where we really talked about everything.”