Hillary Clinton

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When Bill Clinton landed the US presidency he did so under the slogan of "two for the price of one" a reference to the skills and political acumen embodied by his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton. During their time in the White House they proved a formidable team, and since leaving Washington Hillary has come into her own with the former US leader shifting into a support role.

Hillary Rodham was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 26, 1947, the daughter of homemaker Dorothy and Hugh, a businessman. She had a happy but strict upbringing alongside siblings Hugh and Tony, attending church and excelling at her studies. Her zest for politics made itself apparent early on, and by the time she graduated from prestigious Wellesley College she had already pinpointed a youthful manifesto - "The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible."

In 1969 she enrolled to study law at Yale, the university where she was to meet the man who would play such an important part on her life fellow student and Arkansas native Bill Clinton. Later he would recall how they met, explaining that she strode up to him in the campus library and said: "If you're going to keep staring at me, I might as well introduce myself." The pair fell in love, and after graduating Hillary followed her beau back to his home state where they were married in 1975. A daughter, Chelsea, followed five years later.

While her husband was governor of Arkansas Hillary spent 12 years in a supporting role at the same time continuing her law career and looking after their family. And when Bill became President in 1993, the smart, highly ambitious lawyer was keen to continue her contribution. She broke new ground by moving her office to the heart of power in the White House's West Wing, and within weeks of taking up office her husband announced Hillary would be heading a project to reform the nation's healthcare system.

The proposal, announced to Congress on September 22 that year, including an enforced mandate for health insurance coverage for all employees through health maintenance organisations. Although initially well-received by liberals, the plan came in for criticism from Conservatives and the insurance industry for being overly bureaucratic and limiting patient choice. A year later the initiative was dead in the water.

While her bid for universal health coverage did not succeed the new First Lady was instrumental in designing and championing the State Children's Health Insurance Program to provide millions of kids with health insurance. She also launched a national campaign to prevent teen pregnancy and helped create the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 to allow children to move from foster care to adoption more quickly.

In 1998 the Lewinsky scandal broke. Her husband, who had previous denied having sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, admitted he had betrayed his wife. Looking back on the experience in her autobiography Living History, Hillary explained why she stayed with her husband. "No one understands me better and no one can make me laugh the way Bill does. Even after all these years, he is still the most interesting, energising and fully alive person I have ever met. Bill and I started a conversation in the spring of 1971, and more than 30 years later we're still talking."

Michael Tomasky, author of Hillary's Turn says: "In virtually every way, from her forays into health policy, to her role behind the scenes, to the way she came out of the Lewinsky scandal and tried to establish her own identity, she really broke the mould."

During her time as First Lady she became known as a staunch supporter of women's rights and children's issues. She is also a best-selling author. Her repertoire includes not only her autobiography, which was translated into 12 languages, but Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters To The First Pets, An Invitation To The White House and It Takes A Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us.

After her husband"s term at the White House ended, Hillary grabbed her opportunity to carve her own political career. In a reversal of roles, Bill actively campaigned for her in Senate races and, in 2000, she was elected a junior New York senator. With that, she became the first First Lady elected to the US Senate and the first woman elected statewide in New York. One of the Democratic party's key assets, she quickly became a powerful voice in the senate for women as well as children.

In 2006 she was re-elected to the Senate by New Yorkers with a 67 per cent majority and in 2007 announced a bigger ambition - to become President. On January 20 she explained on her website that she"d formed a presidential exploratory committee in preparation for the 2008 presidential election. "I'm in. And I'm in to win," she said. And many believe that, as one of the Democratic Party's key assets, she could be the person to change history and become America's first female head of state.
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