Bill and Hillary Clinton: 30 Photos of Their Marriage Through the Years
No matter your political leanings, you’re surely familiar with the Clintons. From Bill’s presidency to Hillary’s campaign, their legacy has grown over time. And, through all the ups and downs, Hillary and Bill still remain married.
Here’s everything you need to know about how Bill and Hillary met, how they worked through their biggest controversies, and what they’re up to now. Did you know the Lewinsky affair wasn’t Bill’s first major scandal? (See page 11.)
1. 1971: Hillary attended Yale, where she spotted Bill joking with friends about watermelons
After graduating from Wellesley College in 1969, Hillary Clinton head to Yale Law School. And it was in 1971 when Bill first saw Hillary in a class on political and civil rights, Bustle notes. As for Hillary, the first time she noticed Bill was when he was talking to his friends about how Arkansas was capable of growing the largest watermelons in the world. When she inquired about him, she was told, “That’s Bill Clinton. He’s from Arkansas; that’s all he ever talks about.”
Next: Hillary took the initiative to introduce herself.
2. 1971: She introduced herself, and the two began dating
Bustle notes Bill mentioned it was Hillary’s “strength and self-possession” that attracted him to her in class — but he didn’t make the first move. Hillary approached Bill in the Yale library. She allegedly said, “If you’re gonna keep looking at me and I’m gonna keep looking back, we at least ought to know each other’s names. I’m Hillary Rodham, who are you?”
Bill was starstruck at first. PopSugar reports he said, “I was so impressed and surprised that, whether you believe it or not, I was momentarily speechless.”
Next: Hillary didn’t say yes to marriage immediately.
3. 1974: Bill asked Hillary to marry him repeatedly — and at first, she said no
While many women would be thrilled to receive a marriage proposal, The Telegraph reports Hillary denied Bill twice before tying the knot. His first proposal came right after they both graduated from Yale. The following year, he asked again.
As for why she rejected Bill, Hillary said she was worried his political aspirations would hold back her own dreams. “I was terrified about losing my identity and getting lost in the kind of wake of Bill’s force-of-nature personality,” Hillary said in an interview.
Next: Details on the Clinton’s (eventual) wedding
4. 1975: Their Methodist wedding took place in their living room
Eventually, Hillary said yes to Bill’s proposal, and they wed on Oct. 11, 1975. Brides notes their simple ceremony took place at their home in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Bill wanted a huge wedding and Hillary barely even wanted an engagement ring, so they settled for a small ceremony and a large reception.
As for Hillary’s dress, the story goes that Hillary didn’t have her gown ready the night before the ceremony. This horrified her mother, so she immediately took her daughter to purchase a dress at the local mall. That dress was just $53.
Next: Hillary’s always wanted to stand out from her husband.
5. 1975: Hillary kept her last name to show she wasn’t defined by a man
Hillary kept her maiden name, which was OK with Bill, but not with his mother, The Atlantic notes. Even so, Hillary wanted to make a statement about her identity. In 1975, many women were keeping their last names instead of adopting their husbands.
Years after the wedding, she decided to adopt Clinton as her last name. She received flack from other politicians for first keeping her last name and then changing it, too.
Next: Bill saw success in Arkansas politics.
6. 1978: Bill was elected Governor of Arkansas, and Hillary was the state’s first lady
At just 32, Bill saw early success in his political career when he ran for — and won — governor of Arkansas. The University of Virginia reports his victory was easy, but his inexperience showed heavily in some of his decisions. His decision to raise auto license fees was largely unfavorable, and he had trouble handling the riots that broke out amongst Cuban refugees hired by the government as interns. All in all, the public wasn’t impressed — and this led to voters turning against him when election time came.
He wasn’t out of Arkansas politics for long, though. His charm grew on the public, and he won back the governor position in ’82.
Next: The Clintons welcome a baby.
7. 1980: Chelsea Clinton was born
Bill and Hillary had their first and only child in 1980. CNN notes Chelsea Clinton was named after the Joni Mitchell song “Chelsea Morning.” Though the media was hungry for information about the child, the Clinton family did their best to shield her from the media and give her a normal life. For many years, they even avoided putting her in the Christmas photograph to keep her out of the public eye.
It didn’t last forever, of course. But Bill and Hillary both did their best to prepare her for what the media may say and do to her throughout her lifetime.
Next: At just 5, Chelsea was already making big moves.
8. 1985: 5-year-old Chelsea wrote a letter to Ronald Reagan
Chelsea was known for being an incredibly bright child, and she even learned to read the newspaper at just 5 years old, People notes. And one of the first notable things she wrote was a letter to Ronald Reagan, which came complete with rainbow heart stickers. At the time, she wanted to tell Reagan that she didn’t agree with his plans to attend a Nazi burial sight. She wrote, “Dear Mr. President, I have seen the Sound of Music: the Nazis don’t look like very nice people. Please don’t go to their cemetary (sic).”
Thankfully, a photocopy of the letter still exists due to Bill’s forethought.
Next: Bill’s interest in governing started to wane.
9. 1990: Bill thought about not running for governor again — and Hillary almost stepped up
Bill had a strong run as governor through the years, but the Washington Post notes it was clear his interest in the position was starting to dip by 1990. And when he considered not running for another term, Hillary almost stepped in and considered running herself. CNN notes by this point, she was already named one of the top 100 most influential U.S. lawyers by the National Law Journal, so she was gaining some credibility.
In the end, Bill was convinced he should run again, so he did. Former governors told Bill they hadn’t done much meaningful work since their job ended, and so Bill was determined to make a change for himself.
Next: The road to Bill’s presidency
10. 1992: The Clintons gained national attention after Bill got the democratic presidential nomination
The Clintons garnered national attention after Bill took big steps in his political career — and this time, he was headed toward the White House. In 1992, he chose Al Gore as his running mate, and he was set to take on George H.W. Bush. And Ozy notes one of Bill’s biggest selling points was that he had his incredibly intelligent wife, Hillary, by his side.
Bill noted that by voting for him, you’d get a “buy one, get one free” deal, which also thrust the first lady of Arkansas into the spotlight more than she had ever been before. And they hoped to warm the hearts of America and achieve presidency.
Next: Rumors of an affair also circulated this year.
11. 1992: They appeared together on 60 Minutes to dispel affair rumors about Bill
It didn’t take long for scandal to hit the Clinton family. Ozy notes in 1992, cabaret singer Gennifer Flowers came forward and claimed she was having an affair with Bill. This, of course, was worst case scenario for the presidential race.
Hillary wasted no time putting out the fire, though. Politico notes Hillary and Bill signed on for an episode of 60 Minutes immediately following the Super Bowl. In the interview with Bill by her side, she stated, “I’m sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he’s been through and what we’ve been through together. And you know, if that’s not enough for people, then heck — don’t vote for him.” In that moment, she may have saved her husband’s career.
Next: Hillary didn’t get away from all of this unscathed.
12. 1992: Hillary was criticized for her strong-woman rhetoric, but Bill stood by her
As Politico notes, Hillary’s interview was the biggest saving grace for Bill’s career overall — and without it, he probably wouldn’t have achieved presidency. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t come without a price. Hillary put her best foot forward as a feisty, loyal, and loving wife — and she also showed a great deal of honesty and vulnerability. This, of course, came with a wide range of skepticism from eager watchers, and many didn’t appreciate her steely exterior.
Since then, Hillary has had a tough time shaking her stereotypes and instead appealing as soft and empathetic. But we know Bill appreciates her intelligence and strength even to this day.
Next: Bill wins over George H.W. Bush for presidency.
13. 1993: Bill took office and Hillary became the first lady
In 1993, Bill Clinton became the 42nd president of the U.S., proving the hard work of his administration and Hillary finally paid off. The public loved Bill’s can-do attitude, and in his speech, he even famously said, “there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America” the New York Times reports.
Bill’s conversational tone appealed to millions that day, and it continued to serve him well while he was in office. The entire day was hopeful, upbeat, and excited — which is exactly what the Clintons needed when heading into the White House.
Next: Chelsea Clinton enters the White House.
14. 1993: Chelsea Clinton moved into the White House with the code name ‘Energy’
As warm as Bill appeared to the public, the Clinton family was still all about keeping their private life just that — private. Politico notes this put them at odds with the White House staff through all eight years of office they held. Residence worker and florist Wendy Elsasser said, “I think protecting Chelsea may have had a lot to do with, for lack of a better term, their standoffishness with the staff.”
Chelsea entered with the Secret Service code name “Energy.” And though Chelsea was known for being respectful toward the staff, she was also wary of them, even calling them “the pigs” at one point during a phone call with a friend.
Next: Hillary came with mixed reviews from the public.
15. 1994: Hillary’s approval ratings as first lady fell
It was understood that by voting Bill into office, you were also getting Hillary. But around 1994 and 1995, her ratings began to drop dramatically, Gallup says. Right before the Republicans won the majority in the House of Representatives in September 1994, her favorability rating dropped from 57% to 48%. Bill’s also dropped during this time, but not nearly as dramatically.
So, why the drop? It seems some investigations into their finances caused a stir, as did Hillary’s general role in shaping his image and policies. The public may not have been ready for such a strong and prominent first lady.
Next: 1996 was another winning year for the Clintons.
16. 1996: Bill was reelected with Hillary by his side
The Clintons seemed to have a strategy, The American Prospect notes. As pollster Mark Penn noted at the time, part of their winning recipe was to take a centrist position on issues the Republicans pushed hard, like welfare, budget balance, immigration, and taxes. Penn found that 57% of voters saw Clinton as a “different kind of Democrat,” and many others noted they’d vote for him if he prioritized balancing the budget and reforming Medicare and Social Security.
Like Barack Obama later on, Americans wanted change, hope, and progress to carry them through the late ’90s — and the Clinton family was willing to bring just that.
Next: Hillary was ready to defend women’s rights.
17. 1998: Hillary became a voice for women worldwide
Hillary was making waves on her own after her husband’s reelection. In 1995, she had her first impassioned speech in Beijing, The Guardian recalls, where she reminded everyone that women’s rights were human rights. And as relations between Afghanistan and the U.S. grew tense, she addressed the women’s rights situation in that country as well.
At the time, Afghan women were coming forward and talking about life before the Taliban, The Washington Post notes. And while many might not have been listening, Hillary fought to have an impact.
Next: The biggest Clinton scandal rocked the White House this same year.
18. 1998: Hillary called the Monica Lewinsky scandal a right-wing conspiracy
The Monica Lewinsky affair was the biggest conspiracy ever to hit the Clinton family. At the time, Newsweek received a tip that Bill was having an affair with the White House intern. He denied it at first, Time reports, and Hillary even called the whole event “a vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced [his run] for president.”
Eventually, of course, the truth came out. Bill finally admitted on national television to having an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. Somehow, though, his approval ratings remained high and he wasn’t impeached.
Next: Here’s how Hillary reacted to the whole ordeal.
19. 1998: Bill and Hillary chose to weather the storm and stay married
Bill had lied under oath and obstructed justice by this point — and the public waited to see how his marriage would survive. Business Insider reports at the time, Hillary told her husband before his speech to the public admitting his affair that he got himself into the scandal and he was the only one who could get himself out.
As for their marriage, Hillary said in retrospect that there were times when she had no idea if it would survive, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. But she also said she always loved him and didn’t want to build resentment, so they weathered teh storm.
Next: The Clintons prepared to exit the White House deeply in debt.
20. 2001: The Clintons were ‘dead broke’ as they left the White House
The once wealthy Clinton family were preparing to leave the White House in 2001 — but this time, they found themselves deeply in debt. CNN reports Hillary called them “dead broke” at the time, which explains why she was charging so much for speaking fees that year. Thanks to legal fees, their debt was somewhere between $2.28 million and $10.6 million. And this made it incredibly difficult for Hillary and Bill to pay their mortgage and put their daughter through college.
Thankfully, through hard work and perseverance, they were able to settle their debts and make money again by 2004.
Next: Hillary’s time to shine was here.
21. 2001: Hillary was sworn in as a U.S. senator
Bill’s presidential career may have been up, but the Clintons weren’t giving up Washington just yet. The New York Times notes Hillary was elected senator over Rick A. Lazio, a four-term congressman from New York, making her the nation’s first first lady to be elected to public office.
As Hillary stood on stage to thank the public for her win, Bill was reportedly wiping tears from his eyes in happiness. And this ended her run as just being known as a “politician’s wife.” Now, she was respected as a politician herself.
Next: Hillary wasn’t finished after just one term.
22. 2004: Hillary wins a second term — and some urge her to go for the White House
While Hillary wasn’t always favorable with the public, The Telegraph notes by 2004, some saw her as the “darling” of the Democratic party. And while President Bush’s ratings were intimidating to Democrats, many believed Hillary was the one who could dethrone him. As one official said, “She could rid us of Bush. Launching a campaign now would transform the 2004 race and leave the White House quaking.”
Though she ruled out running in 2004, it’s true the Clintons were beginning to lay the foundation for a future White House run once again.
Next: The road to presidency was just beginning for Hillary.
23. 2007: Hillary prepared for her presidential campaign
As Hillary famously said during a meeting announcing a presidential exploratory committee, “I have never been afraid to stand up for what I believe in or to face down the Republican machine. After nearly $70 million spent against my campaigns in New York and two landslide wins, I can say I know how Washington Republicans think, how they operate, and how to beat them.” And thus started her road to becoming a presidential nominee, The New York Times reports.
While Hillary was popular with women and minority groups, the public still had polarizing views about her from way back in the ’90s. And Barack Obama proved to be a tough, innovative, and charismatic competitor.
Next: Debt haunted the Clintons once again.
24. 2008: Bill helped Hillary work through her millions in debt
Campaigning for the presidential nomination wasn’t just tough mentally — it was also tough financially. USA Today reports Hillary’s campaign debts were over $20 million. Thanks to Bill’s diligent help with fundraising, however, they were able to work through the costs and (eventually) pay it off in 2013.
As for what Bill did, he sent out fundraising letters, set up raffles and dinners, and asked for donations in exchange for signed memorabilia from his campaign. Not only did this show the Clintons could do anything, but it also showed their teamwork had never been better.
Next: Hillary took on a new position the following year.
25. 2009: Hillary was sworn in as Secretary of State
She may not have gotten the presidential nomination, but Hillary knew she still belonged in Washington. Starting in 2009, she spent the following four years “globetrotting” and rescuing “the U.S. from the diplomatic pit the country had dug for itself with the Iraq invasion,” the Guardian notes. And her ability to bolster relations with other countries and still remain relatable was key in boosting her resume for another eventual run for the White House.
As one senior European diplomat said, “She did an extraordinarily good job of making the world like America again.” And for that, she won’t be forgotten.
Next: Chelsea was back in the spotlight for her wedding.
26. 2010: The Clintons are all smiles at Chelsea’s wedding
Politics aside, the Clinton family still found time to celebrate the momentous event of Chelsea’s wedding. The Knot notes she married Marc Mezvinsky at an outdoor interfaith ceremony. Since Marc is Jewish and Chelsea grew up Methodist, both a rabbit and reverend officiated, and their vows took place beneath a Jewish chuppah.
The wedding also involved a beautiful strapless Vera Wang gown, a 500-pound cake, and an 18-piece big band orchestra for plenty of dancing. And plenty of reports say Bill and Hillary adore Marc, too.
Next: A health scare concerned the entire Clinton family.
27. 2012: Hillary was hospitalized for a blood clot
Hillary’s difficult and stressful work took a toll on her body through the years, though the Clinton family kept it as private as they could. Daily Mail Online reports Hillary had her first blood clot in 1998 — and since then, she had other clots, concussions, and a scare with deep vein thrombosis in the years after. Years later in 2014, Bill Clinton recounted the clot and concussion of 2012, saying the injury “required six months of very serious work to get over.” Though she had to work from home and postpone plans, her family was there to support her on the road to recovery.
Next: The Clinton Foundation came under scrutiny.
28. 2013: Bill and Hillary continued to raise money for the Clinton Foundation
Right after Bill finished his presidency, he got to work starting the Clinton Foundation to help tackle world issues and create new opportunities, CNN notes. Altogether, 11 nonprofit groups that deal with global health, climate change, economic development, and improved opportunities for women make up the foundation. In 2013, it was briefly renamed the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
It’s not without its controversies, though. While Hillary was secretary of state, there were concerns that some of the donors were working with the foundation just to buy influence. And Trump has also questioned the nature of the organization.
Next: In the end, Hillary couldn’t get the edge over Trump.
29. 2016: Hillary lost her run for the 2016 presidency — but the Clinton family remains strong
There was a moment when Hillary thought the presidency would be hers to lose. And though she hit on key issues and tried to promise the American people the change they desired, it wasn’t enough to edge out Donald Trump.
In an interview on CBS Sunday Morning, she recalled feeling “this enormous letdown, just kind of loss of feeling and direction and sadness,” Variety reports. She also said Bill tried to cheer her up by telling her what a great speech she had, but it wasn’t enough. “I couldn’t feel, I couldn’t think. I was just gobsmacked, wiped out,” she added.
Next: Time heals all wounds for the Clintons.
30. 2018: Bill and Hillary spend more time with their grandkids
After “a frenzy of closet cleaning,” “long walks in the woods,” and her “share of Chardonnay,” Hillary was able to move on from the loss. She may not be running for presidency again, but not all is lost. She and Bill have found solace in time with their family — and most notably, their grandchildren. Chelsea has two kids — 3-year-old Charlotte and 1-year-old Aiden.
As for politics, you can never quite count out the Clintons altogether. More recently, Hillary has said, “We have to win back the congress,” during a Washington speech, The New York Times reports. As for what the future holds, we’ll have to see.
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