A mother’s strength, a candidate’s ambition: RIP Dorothy Rodham

(First part of this post’s title is from here. )

The picture above was taken at the July, 2010, wedding of Chelsea.  It’s such a beautiful picture.  All three women look so happy, and you can just feel the love and connection between them.  I’ve been searching my mind, and I believe this may  have been the last photo I saw of Hillary’s mom.

Sadly, Dorothy Rodham passed away yesterday.  From the Clintons’ statement:

Dorothy Howell Rodham was born in Chicago on June 4, 1919 and died shortly after midnight on November 1, 2011 in Washington, D.C., surrounded by her family. Her story was a quintessentially American one, largely because she wrote it herself. She overcame abandonment and hardship as a young girl to become the remarkable woman she was — a warm, generous and strong woman; an intellectual; a woman who told a great joke and always got the joke; an extraordinary friend and, most of all, a loving wife, mother and grandmother.

All of us are drawn here because of our respect and admiration for Hillary.  It’s not uncommon to wonder:

  • How did Hillary become so smart and wise?
  • How did Hillary become so strong (if we didn’t already know she had it, we saw it during the primaries and primarily on May 31, 2008, the day democracy died)
  • How did Hillary learn to work and often find common cause with people whose political ideas or cultural practices are so different than hers?
  • How did Hillary become interested in helping women, children, and minorities as early as high school, an interest so salient to her that it remained with her for her entire life?
  • How did Hillary become such a work horse? 
  • How did she learn to love our country so much that she would suffer slings and arrows to keep moving forward in her desire to keep helping our country (and world) and its inhabitants?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that Hillary primarily learned these character traits from her upbringing, from her mom (and then passed them on to her own daughter, Chelsea).  Some excerpts from Hillary’s book, Living History:

1. My mother loved her home and her family, but she felt limited by the narrow choices of her life.  It is easy to forget now, when women’s choices can be overwhelming, how few there were for my mother’s generation.  She started taking college courses when we were older.  She never graduated, but she amassed mountains of credits in subjects ranging from logic to child development…(p. 10)

2.  I grew up between the push and tug of my parents’ values, and my own political beliefs reflect both.  The gender gap started in families like mine.  My mother was basically a Democrat, although she kept it quiet in Republican Park Ridge.  My dad was a rock-ribbed, up-by-your-bootstraps, conservative Republican and proud of it.  He was also tightfisted with money.  He did not believe in credit and he ran his business on a strict pay-as-you-go policy.  His ideology was based on self-reliance and personal initiative…(p11)

3. My dad was highly opinionated, to put it mildly…. In our family’s spirited, sometimes heated, discussions around the kitchen table, usually about politics or sports, I learned that more than one opinion could live under the same roof.  By the time I was twelve, I had my own positions on many issues.  I also learned that a person was not necessarily bad just because you did not agree with him (sic), and that if you believed in something, you had better be prepared to defend it…(p. 12)

4. In high school, one of my smartest girlriends dropped out of the accelerated courses because her boyfriend wasn’t in them.  Another didn’t want to have her grades posted because she knew that she would get higher marks than the boy she was dating.  These girls had picked up the subtle and not-so-subtle cultural signals urging them to conform to sexist stereotypes, to diminish their own accomplishments in order not to outperform the boys around them…. I simply could not imagine giving up a college education or a career to get married, as some of my friends were doing…. (p. 21)

5.  I arrived at Wellesley carrying my father’s political beliefs and my mother’s dreams, and left with the beginning of my own…  (p.27)

I think these excerpts show that The Superwoman who is Hillary started taking shape when she was very young.  She came from a loving home, learned valuable lessons from a diversity of ideas, and melded them together to go forth with her own individualized ideas of her future goals, the means she would use to reach them, a strong work ethic, and a belief that she could reach for whatever stars pleased her.  She also emerged with an incredible strength of character, which served her well, during the republican CDS of Bill’s presidency, and the democratic CDS of Hillary’s run for president. 

As Hillary more succinctly put it:

During one debate in 2008, Mrs Clinton said: ‘I owe it to my mother, who never got a chance to go to college, who had a very difficult childhood, but who gave me a belief that I could do whatever I set my mind.’

Chelsea also addressed the issues of the strength and goodness of her grandmother Dorothy:

Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, also cited Rodham as her “inspiration,” saying in a recent interview with Yahoo! News that she tried to talk to her grandmother every day.

“My grandmother has had a remarkable life and overcame challenges when she was a child that I cannot even imagine,” Clinton said. “And her determination to build a better life for her children and then sort of that determination that my mother and my father then had to build a better life for me is something that I feel elevated by.”

So it seems clear that, whenever we honor Hillary, we also honor her mother, Dorothy.  Hillary is an amazing woman, the likes we have possibly never seen before, an intelligent, hard-working, people-loving, strong woman who should have been our president.  It takes a special woman to have raised such an incredible daughter.  Dorothy was dealt a poor hand very early in life, but rather than becoming warped, or becoming a criminal, or demanding that someone else fix her life for her, she vowed to improve upon her own lot, and what’s more, to make the world better for others than it had been for herself.  This deep open-hearted spirit is one of the most obvious shared characteristics between Dorothy and her daughter Hillary.  It’s so very sad that Dorothy has now passed, but we’re thankful and so fortunate that she left us with Hillary, and with the other woman she helped shape, Chelsea.  RIP Dorothy.  Thanks for all you did.  Your contribution to Hillary was a contribution to the entire world.  And to Hillary:  our heart-felt sympathies are with you and your family at this time of great loss.

Released by Dorothy’s family:

To honor Dorothy, her family will hold a private celebration of her life for family and friends. In lieu of flowers and in line with what Dorothy would have wanted, the family have asked that any one who would want to do so would make a donation in Dorothy’s memory to George Washington Hospital  where she received excellent care and made terrific friends over many years; to the Heifer Project , her Christmas gift of choice in 2010 and an organization dear to her heart; or to a local organization meaningful to the giver that helps neglected and mistreated children, a blight Dorothy was determined to remedy until her last day because she knew too well the pain too many children suffer. Her family is and will be forever grateful for the gift of Dorothy’s life and for the memories they will treasure forever.

As we’ll remember them – looking toward the future, optimistic, with love for each other and love for their country.


And a song that reminds me of all of the Clinton clan – a love of life, a love of family, a love for service:

“Love is All Around” by Paul Williams
Mary Tyler Moore Show Lyrics

Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it’s you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it

Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have a town, why don’t you take it
You’re gonna make it after all
You’re gonna make it after all


123 Responses

  1. Beautiful post, lorac.

  2. Thanks. You spoke for us all. We have lost another member of our greatest generation – the forerunners of our struggle for equality.

  3. So beautiful, so sad, so very inspiring! RIP Mrs. Rodham.

  4. Spot on, lorac. Thank you for the messages/emotions conveyed.

  5. Lorac- excellent post. Women like Dorothy Rodham change the world in a not insignificant way. We need more like her- and more like her daughter and granddaughter!

  6. Wow lorac. That’s beautiful.

  7. Brilliant tribute to a truly amazing trio of women. Thanks.

  8. She was an inspiration for sure.

  9. LOVELY POST LORAC, How we love these people !!

  10. who gave me a belief that I could do whatever I set my mind

    Mrs. Rodham’s inner strength really is a testament to how a woman can walk through life quietly while gaining resolve. Her daughter and granddaughter are proof positive of that legacy. It speaks volumes. RIP Mrs. Rodham.

  11. Beautiful post. Made me tear up.
    RIP, Dorothy.

  12. Another SCORE for lorac!

  13. Thank you Lorac.

  14. Ugh, Bam is starting to rise in the polls: http://www.quinnipiac.edu/x1295.xml?ReleaseID=1669

  15. A Perfect and Beautiful Tribute, Lorac.

    I feel much better and now more celebratory at the end of a life that inspired such greatness.

  16. Ugh, Bam is starting to rise in the polls back-room deal, buy-off, guilt… you know… do the Axelrod-Soros-Alinsky number on the pollsters

    Guess it’s time to stock up on baby wipes and gas masks.

  17. thanks Lorac.
    Brilliant tribute . 🙂

  18. Thank you, lorac. This is a beautiful tribute honoring a very special woman and the family she inspired.

  19. Some people are given the gift to be a great parent, but others not so much.

  20. I often think of the cultish girls who rejected Hillary for not leaving Bill, choosing, instead, to keep her family together. Her choice said what no words could. She may have been progressive and ground-breaking in her leadership, but as a woman, mother, partner and friend, she was her Mother’s little girl. God love her, we can’t begin to calculate how a Chicagoan could have been such an exceptionally honorable master of ethics amid the glare of negative publicity to her beloved child.

  21. A brilliant tribute, Lorac. I wish I only had a 1/10th of the courage and determination that Dorothy had. Wow!

  22. Nice job lorac, very touching. I am depressed because it all reminds me of my own mother in so many ways. But it needed to be said and Dorothy deserves your tribute on every level.

  23. What a beautiful and inspiring tribute for Hillary’s mom!

  24. Beautifully said!

  25. mcnorman, that is an absolutely horrendous video. And I understand about abused wives, but she volunteered to participate in that beating, and her voice suggested she was not feeling threatened – I think they should both go to jail. Too bad about the statute of limitations.

  26. What a dichotomy lorac! One parent who would sacrifice everything to give her children the opportunity to succeed in life and then there is this sob and his pathetic spouse. It’s so sad.

  27. DR was a great example of someone who was determined to overcome the greatest of obstacles to improve her lot in life and still lead an upstanding life by focusing on her family and inspiring them to lead positive lives to the benefit of others.

    Just goes to show the amount of education and the job resume is not necessarily a reflection of the quality and integrity of the person.

  28. Here’s another pathetic parent.

    Octomom Nadya Suleman says she ‘hates’ her children, contemplates suicide: ‘They disgust me’


    The world is in dire need of more Dorothy Rodhams.

  29. Looks like he’s been dipping in the moonshine NES. I think the guy is feeling very well now. Back surgery went very well. Now, it is time to get off the pain meds.

  30. She doesn’t hate her children more than the entire country hates her ass. Frankly, removing herself from the gene pool doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Maybe then her kids will have a decent shot at a normal life without their sicko SOB mother who only had them with the hopes of becoming famous. And she will save the state of california more millions by going ahead and leaving the planet.

  31. Only 30 comments all day on lorac’s most excellent post! Not fair!

    That’ll teach ya, lorac’ers…nice, non-controversial, emotionally gratifying fare won’t get you enough commenter-traffic. Controversy sells! Snarks sell!

    (But, don’t worry…I just posted the Perry viral vid…that should draw people out and boost your comment stats. on this piece.)

  32. Rick Perry needs to pack his bag and get the H out of that race. He’s an embarrassment to himself, his family and his party, which already looks stupid enough without his help. He’s pathetic.

  33. True that.

  34. Yes, Octomom would do well to give the kids a chance in life if she will exit asap. She has no idea how awful and hurtful these statements are to her children.

  35. I know, NES, and I kind of expected it! It’s the kind of post that is more likely to lead to an emotional, personal, private reaction. But I liked what WhyNot said, “I feel much better and now more celebratory at the end of a life that inspired such greatness” – perhaps if I had built it up that way it would have been better. But I was sad, so it came out sad 😦 Hillary’s birthday was just last Wednesday – six days later, her mother is dead. I just kept thinking how horrible for Hillary.

  36. lorac, I was just thinking the same thing. Not even a week after her birthday.

    And look what that bitch Joan Walsh had the ballz to print:

  37. Lorac, you did an excellent job. Stories about regular people who have risen above their circumstances as DR did, may not necessarily generate a boatload of comments, but it certainly does trigger lots of thinking. And appreciation for the person who has passed on, and the family who will continue their legacy, as well as respect and condolences for their loss. It is a sad time.

  38. Awww, lorac’ers, I was just kidding. Not everything in life can be about pesky comments. I was a great post — and written the way it ought to be.

    (But, hey, I did eke out some additional comments for you….)

  39. Joan Walsh is an ass.

  40. Anthony, I second what mcnorman just said. And I think she has it backwards – I think he has gotten the credit for a lot SHE has done. Sort of how when he was an IL senator and didn’t pass any legislation, and Emil Jones stole 26 bills from other senators, and put Obama’s name on them, so he would have SOMEthing to run on.

  41. Oh, NES’ers, it’s all good! I was just agreeing that I had expected it. Matter of fact, I figured someone would have to post something else, before people would be very ready to start talking again. I guess it’s kind of like today was the quiet, respectful service – and now we can have an Irish wake, talk about other things, but mindful of the loss – and celebrating her life by feeling compassion for the “gifts” she left behind….

  42. But NES – now that I’ve posted a non-controversial post, you and Beata can like me again 🙂 (JOKE!)

  43. Hahahahaha, lorac.
    Truth is, Beata and I can’t git enuf of you. You can write us a Hillary puff-piece anytime.

  44. Lorac, this is a wonderful post. If it didn’t generate a lot of comments, I believe it’s because of what Upp wrote upthread – it makes many of us think of our own mothers. It’s just so sad. The words don’t come easily. But I’m sure it caused readers to pause, think about Dorothy Rodham’s remarkable life, her daughter’s and granddaughter’s lives, and the impact our mothers have had on our lives. I know it did that for me.

  45. Yep, respectful service, ’twas.
    Now, we’ve gotta get this wake kicking. For starters: WAKE UP EVERYONE!

    Incidentally, I hope I’m dead and gone before Hillary kicks the bucket. Wouldn’t be able to take her loss.

  46. I luvr you, Lorac!!!

  47. Seeeeeeee! I read Beata’s mind heart!

  48. Whoa Beata! Next thing you know, lorac’ers will be making a pass at you.
    (And that’ll make FF so J.)

  49. Hey! Where is FF anyway?

  50. Waaaaaay past her bedtime, imust.

  51. Beata! xxoo! Let them ALL be J! lol

  52. Don’t we need liquor and music for an Irish wake? Definitely, we need to have fun for it to be an Irish wake. Isn’t there Irish in the Rodham lineage?

  53. Okay….where’s socal??

  54. Yep, now that’s a mystery. Socal is a late bird.

  55. imust, FF said goodnight on another blog around 9 pm Florida time.

  56. Don’t know about the Rodham lineage….but I found this:

    Bill and Hillary Clinton

    As major supporters of the Irish peace process, Bill and Hillary Clinton moved mountains. The 42nd President of the United States took the strongest position on Irish issues ever taken by an American president. In 1994 he granted a visa to Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, fulfilling a campaign promise and stating “the U.S. cannot miss this rare opportunity for our country to participate in the peace process.”

    Then in November, 1995, President Clinton became the first sitting American president to visit Northern Ireland. He and Hillary were greeted by tens of thousands of people lining the streets in Derry and Belfast. It was the first of several visits that the Clintons made to Ireland. The First Lady would also play a leading role in moving the peace process along. She helped create links between the White House and leaders on the ground, and worked closely with women on both sides of the divide at a time in the conflict when women’s voices were hardly heard.

    President Clinton’s Irish roots are traced through his mother, Virginia Cassidy Kelley, who was the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, “poor Irish farmers,” as she called them. The Cassidys are believed to have emigrated from Ballycassidy, County Fermanagh.

    In March, 1996, President Clinton was Irish America’s Irish-American of the Year.

    In March, 2007, Hillary Clinton was named Irish America’s Person of the Year.

  57. Don’t know about the Rodham, but, let’s not forget, Dorothy was a Howell by blood. Welsh, it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howell_(surname)
    But, that’s Celtic too, so it’s all good.

  58. Beata: ….and the impact our mothers have had on our lives.

    I think tomorrow, all of us who are lucky enough to still be able to do so, need to call our mothers.

  59. Good pub song for a wake….and I think myiq has posted this as a song that reminded him of Hillary….I agree…and her mother too.

  60. Rodham is apparently English, going waaaaaay back in English history. But, a branch of the Rodhams did move to Ireland. So, there you have it.

  61. Hey lorac’ers or imust — Your wake-related mission – should you choose to accept it – is to ferret out and post, right here and right now, the sexiest pic of Hillary you can find. Personally, I think it’s the one with her having breakfast (a working breakfast, bien sur!) on the East Wing balcony. White shirt…yum!

  62. Can I call your mother, lorac? Mine’s no more.

  63. Whoa! FF’s cheating on us with ano’ blog??!!!!!!!

  64. No, no, no, imust and NES – I’ve settled it. If a person has worn green at some point in their life, they’re Irish and are deserving of a jubilant Irish wake celebrating their life! So, here’s to Dorothy!!!! 🙂

  65. Definitely a Hillary song.

  66. Oh, I’m sorry for your loss NES. Yes, you can call my mom. If you go to UW’s house, she’ll hand you my mom’s phone number.

    No, seriously. My sympathies. I’ve imagined it, and… well, I don’t want to stir up anyone’s feelings who have already been there. And I agree with your earlier statement about Hillary. Whoa – it’s going to be a WAY worse feeling than when they stole the election from her. It’s going to feel like the whole country is an orphan and without adult supervision….

  67. Uppity would probably like this one better:

  68. NES, she wasn’t *exactly* cheating – it was like a sister blog, or cousin blog – it was in the family!

  69. imust, Hillary’s jacket matches her liquor in that one! lol

    Does anyone know how to put pictures in the comment box? (I don’t)

  70. Nice beer drinking ones. She’s such a natural.

  71. XO, lorac.
    Oh yes, your mom just called me. She said she’s going to file adoption papers soon. Stay on her about that, will ya?

  72. imust, the good thing about this one with the raised glasses, is if you look through their arms to the back of the room, that looks like Huma back there!

  73. I would xxoo your booboo heart to make you feel better NES, but that other-woman-attorney would crush me with a legal book, and probably cite a legal precedent as she was doing so…. 🙂

    (I’m betting she’ll laugh when you show this to her lol)

  74. Does anyone have that lovely picture of Bill and Hillary dancing outside, I think it might have been New Year’s Eve in NY one or two years ago….

  75. Here’s to Dorothy!

  76. Yeah, I don’t know how to put pics in the comment box either. All the techies are asleep.

  77. Since we’re all raising our glasses (including Hillary)…

    To Dorothy!

  78. Hahahaha…that is Huma. Heck, where Hill goes, there goes Huma too. No wonder people ‘talk’ about them.

  79. NES, the sexiest picture I have of Hillary I couldn’t post here. It was taken on my south balcony, there was some white but it was the sheet she had trailed behind her as she came out, and…. let’s say she wasn’t dressed for public appearances…. don’t be too J 🙂

  80. Ha! Your life is worthless now, lorac. Seek out your nearest witness protection plan.

  81. You figured out the photo thing, lorac. Well done!

  82. not lorac……………

  83. I’m totally J. (Was Huma standing guard?)

  84. Let’s face it…our Hillary would make a great lez.

  85. oh my gosh! I didn’t know I did that! All I did was write a sentence, then paste imust’s link right below it, and shizam!, there’s the photo!

  86. it was me….

  87. Mom’s adopting you? Well, okay! But you can visit her in the summer, because it’s too hot there for me to visit then.

  88. you go into edit comment….
    click on “img” and copy/paste link of photo in the box!

  89. ok, imust, give it up! What is the secret?

    (and you SPOOKED me! I didn’t see that photo appear when my comment first appeared – and then THERE IT WAS!)

  90. But, really…for real, I hugged Hillary.
    Now, that should make you J.

  91. Yes, NES, she does make a good one.

    ……dashing past the row of witness protection guards into safety……

  92. Oh no, imust darlin’, you shouldn’t have told her….you gonna tell her there’s no Santa Claus next?

  93. Visit? She’s insisting I move into her manse.

  94. imust, will you do mine too, pretty please? Hillary eating breakfast while nerding out. White shirt. Yum.

  95. Nice! Over 100 comments.

  96. imust, I tried to do what you said – but what if it’s a saved picture, and you don’t have the url?

  97. Now, I want to see the vid of Hill and Huma dancing in wherever.

  98. NES, that’s it! Thanks 🙂

    On another note, DRAT! My photo just showed up as a red “x”!!

  99. I see that, lorac. Looks like imust has de-camped to her pie place.

    socal hates us…she never showed up to play.

  100. imust, save me from the red “x”!

  101. Natch!
    But, lorac, I’m sure she’d have hugged you too, if given half a chance.

  102. well, socal was the first to comment, shortly after I posted the essay! She probably had to get some sleep tonight ! lol

  103. It must feel like being touched by an angel…

  104. NES, I’m going to go cuddle up with imust. Gotta get some sleep tonight! You sleep tightly! Give the other-woman lawyer a kiss for me!

  105. ‘Night.

  106. woo hoo I did it!

    NES, if you’re still here, I’ll try to do yours up above

  107. Next one here has to do an Irish jig, to wrap up our Irish Wake for Dorothy!

  108. Sorry I missed all! Lorac was right. I was in bed, I picked up a cold. Just up to grab a cup of herb tea and eat a couple bites of cherry pie & see what I missed. NES hugged Hillary! So cool! Sorry about your Mom, I still have my mom, my dad & step dad both died in the last couple years. I think my mom can keep going though, she’s very healthy and enjoys life.

  109. […] Adams will move on to bigger and better things in life. I commented on lorac’s tribute to Dorothy Rodham, what a dichotomy in parenting! Share this:StumbleUponFacebookTwitterDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the […]

  110. Wow, you people stayed up late….

  111. Socal, you DID check in!!
    Get well soon…didn’t know you were sick. Hope the ‘dude is making you chicken soup.

  112. What an absolutely great post and hilarious roster of comments. Thanks lorac and crew.

    RIP Dorothy Rodham. The gift you gave the world is immeasurable. Blessings of comfort to all those who loved you.

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