QREPORTS – Jill Biden is no stranger to the glare of the political spotlight. Her husband was a part of Washington when she met him, and she was already America’s second lady.
However, now that Joe Biden has won the White House, his wife will have a chance to advance the role of first lady in the 21st century while keeping her full-time job as a teacher.
Jill Biden will be the only first lady in the role’s 231-year history to keep a full-time job while serving in office, USA Today reported.
Biden is a university professor with a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and a doctorate of education. In the capacity of second lady under the Obama administration, Biden still taught at Northern Virginia Community College during all eight years.
Her new role will be no different. She intends to keep her job while serving as the first lady, USA Today reported.
“She will really be bringing the role of first lady into the 21st century,” first-lady historian Katherine Jellison told USA Today, a professor at Ohio University, noting no previous FLOTUS has been “allowed” to be like most modern American women, with both a work life and a family life.
Teaching is not what I do. It’s who I am.
I’ll be giving my convention speech tonight from my former classroom.
Brandywine High School. Room 232. pic.twitter.com/NXx1EkqVGq
— Dr. Jill Biden (@DrBiden) August 18, 2020
“Americans have historically wanted their first ladies to be in the White House and at the president’s side whenever possible,” Jellison says. “Maybe the time has come when Americans will be more accepting of the idea that a president’s wife can simultaneously be a first lady and a working professional.”
“The winds of change are blowing because the country keeps moving; this was bound to happen,” says Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to former first lady Laura Bush and assistant to President George W. Bush, and now runs the Legacies of America’s First Ladies Initiative at American University’s School of Public Affairs.
— Naomi Biden (@NaomiBiden) November 7, 2020
One first-lady expert, Betty Boyd Caroli, author of multiple White House-related books, including “First Ladies,” has her doubts.
“Eleanor Roosevelt thought she could combine the two jobs but soon found out she could not, and the job of FLOTUS has grown a lot since she left the White House (in 1945),” Caroli says.
Biden has the experience to make a good try. She is not the first second lady to graduate to first lady (the most recent was the late Barbara Bush), but she has the advantage of bonding and working closely with “her” first lady, Michelle Obama.
“Jill Biden gives every indication she will be a very activist FLOTUS, following the example of Lady Bird Johnson and others; she’s been thinking about it for a long time,” Caroli says.
“Biden has been around Washington longer than any FLOTUS in history, and she should have a full Rolodex of people to help her,” Caroli said. “I expect her to quickly appoint a large, competent staff to develop her projects and do whatever she thinks will add to her husband’s legacy.”
“The amount of time of exposure to this world, eight years plus his (36) years in the U.S. Senate, makes her uniquely equipped to handle the job, and to balance teaching with the opportunity to change people’s lives with this major megaphone as FLOTUS,” Andersen Brower says.
“She is used to having a good team and staff, a good infrastructure around her so she can carve out a new chapter of this role (of first lady),” McBride says. “I think she will figure out a way to make it work – it’s not without its heavy demands. I think her experience will make it easier to transition to a working (FLOTUS).”
Biden, born in Hammonton, New Jersey, and raised in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, was getting divorced when she met her husband (she married Bill Stevenson after graduation from high school but they had drifted apart by their junior year at the University of Delaware).
According to the story, the then-U.S. senator from Delaware, a widower with two young sons who had lost his wife and baby daughter in a car accident, saw her picture in an ad (she did a little local modeling), and sought her out; their first date was in spring 1975.
It took five proposals before she agreed to marry him (she wanted to be sure; she didn’t want Beau and Hunter to lose another mother). The couple married In 1977, and had daughter Ashley in 1981. Married to a plastic surgeon, Ashley campaigns against the death penalty and for criminal justice reform, and founded her own charity-based clothing brand.
Since their children are adults, it appears the Biden White House will be mostly without young children living there full time.