Jill Biden, born on June 5, 1951, spent most of her childhood in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. Having always enjoyed English classes in high school, Biden eventually earned two master's degrees in the subject and then a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware. Biden has taught at community colleges throughout most of her career and later developed related college programs with backing from the White House. As the wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, she was America's second lady and helped raise awareness about supporting military families, education and women's issues.
Background and Early Life
Former U.S. second lady Jill Biden was born Jill Tracy Jacobs on June 5, 1951, in Hammonton, New Jersey. She spent the majority of her childhood, however, in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, with her parents and four younger sisters.
Though she set out to study fashion merchandising at a junior college in Pennsylvania, Biden soon found her studies unsatisfying and left school. Around the same time, she married Bill Stevenson, a boy she had begun dating in the summer of 1969—the same year she had graduated from high school. The two decided to attend the University of Delaware together, and Biden majored in English. By their junior year, the couple had drifted apart and eventually divorced. Biden then took a year off from school, knowing all the while that she would return and finish.
To make extra money during her year off, Biden did a little modeling for a local agency. Then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden saw her picture in an advertisement posted on a bus shelter and became smitten. He sought her out, and the two went on a blind date in the spring of 1975.
Marriage, Family and Career
In 1977, two years after they met, the Bidens were married. Biden helped her husband raise his two sons from a previous marriage, and they had a daughter of their own in 1981. Within two years, Biden was "itching" for more, according to an article in Vogue magazine, and decided to return to school.
While working in a psychiatric hospital—where she taught English to adolescents with emotional disabilities for five years—Biden earned two master's degrees, from Villanova University and West Chester University. She went on to teach for three years at Claymont High School, and then at Delaware Technical and Community College. Biden also earned her doctorate in education from the University of Delaware in January 2007.
Professor and U.S. Second Lady
Biden has been a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College since 2009, the same year that her husband was sworn in as vice president of the United States after the 2008 presidential win of Barack Obama. In 2010, she hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Obama and continued to work on related outreach for the administration as later seen with the 2012 Community College to Career bus tour.
Advocate for Military Families and Women's Rights
With one of her stepsons in the military, Biden became involved with the nonprofit organization Delaware Boots on the Ground, which helps families during times of military deployment. Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama also launched Joining Forces, an initiative which has provided educational and employment resources as well as health/wellness services to military personnel and their families. She also wrote a children's book, Don't Forget, God Bless Our Troops (2012), based on her granddaughter's story of a military family's experience with deployment. Additionally, Biden co-founded the Book Buddies program.
On November 6, 2012, Joe Biden was reelected to a second term as vice president. After President Obama's acceptance speech, Jill Biden appeared with her husband, their family and the Obama family onstage at the McCormick Place in Chicago to celebrate the reelection. She will continue to serve as America's second lady until January 2017. Jill Biden has maintained her work as an advocate for military families and has also traveled abroad, having focused on the rights and welfare of girls and women in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone. She has focused on women's educational opportunities in a tour of Asia as well that took her to Japan, Korea and Vietnam and later served as a U.S. representative to announce food aid to Malawi.
The Biden family faced tragedy when Joe's son Beau passed away from brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46. Around this time there was also the question of whether Joe Biden would run for U.S. president. He ultimately decided not to run, with the Democratic party nomination going to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
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