Hillary & Bill Clinton’s Relationship Timeline: From Law School To Life After Politics

Photo: Saul Loeb/Pool/Getty Images.
Hulu's hotly-anticipated documentary about Hillary Clinton debuts on the streaming service Friday, and it's a very deep and personal look at a woman who helped shape American politics. Hillary features stories about everything from the former Secretary of State's childhood, her marriage and family, and her heartbreaking loss during the 2016 election. Needless to say, the docuseries covers a lot of ground — and it includes interviews from everyone close to the former First Lady. Not only was Clinton interviewed in a very raw look at her life, Hillary also features interviews with people like President Barack Obama and, of course, President Bill Clinton.
Bill and Hillary had a very public relationship, but this is the first time they’ve both sat down for interviews about what it was like in private, including talking about Bill’s infamous relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Ahead, we’ve laid out a timeline of the Clinton’s relationship, which has withstood nearly 50 years of life, tumult, and public opinion.
1972: Bill and Hillary meet at Yale Law School
Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham met when they were both students at Yale Law School. “I took a class and I saw Hillary sitting here,” Bill says in Hillary. “He was watching me,” Hillary recalls in the film. “I said, ‘If you’re going to keep looking at me and I’m going to keep looking back, we ought to know each other’s names.’” The two also worked on George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign together.
October 11, 1975: Bill and Hillary get married
Bill and Hillary married in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where they had moved after law school. She was 27 years old and he was 29. The wedding was held in their living room, with 15 of their friends and family in attendance. Bill had proposed to Hillary several times before she finally said yes. She worried about losing her identity and independence. A story in the Arkansas Gazette about the wedding noted that Hillary was keeping her maiden name, Rodham, partially to keep their professional careers separate and partially to show that she was still herself; this reportedly upset both Bill and Hillary’s mothers, who were traditional in their views.
1976: Bill is elected to public office
When Bill was elected Arkansas attorney general in November of 1976, the couple moved to Little Rock, the state capital.
1978: Bill becomes governor of Arkansas
Hillary became First Lady of Arkansas, a title she would hold for twelve non-consecutive years. It was during this time that she began using the last name “Clinton” in order to appease more conservative voters, and eventually took leave from her job at a top law firm to campaign for Bill full-time during his second run at the governorship, in 1982.
1980: Hillary gives birth to Chelsea
On February 27, 1980, Hillary gave birth to the Clinton’s only child, Chelsea, in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was named after the song “Chelsea Morning,” first written and recorded by Joni Mitchell, but known to the Clintons as a Judy Collins song.
1992: Bill’s presidential campaign brings national attention — and skeletons
Hillary was catapulted to the national stage for the first time when Bill ran for president in 1992. With the presidential campaign came increased scrutiny, and the first high-profile accusation of Bill having an extramarital affair. Gennifer Flowers told a tabloid that she had been Bill’s mistress for 12 years. Hillary and Bill appeared together on 60 Minutes to do damage control. “You know, I’m not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” she said. “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.” It’s often been said that Bill would not have been elected without Hillary’s defense of him in that interview.
1993: Bill Clinton is elected president
Hillary became First Lady in 1993, a role she would hold until 2001. During Bill’s time in the White House, Hillary was, by all accounts, his partner. She was part of his inner circle and she helped him make choices about hiring many top-level positions. She spearheaded a health care reform plan and was considered to be the most politically empowered and active First Lady besides Eleanor Roosevelt. In Hillary, the First Lady is shown having a large role for both terms of the presidency, in high-level decision-making, sparking questions over whether she would eventually run for office herself.
1998: The Monica Lewinsky affair
During Bill’s second term, the defining scandal of his presidency occurred: his affair with a young White House intern named Monica Lewinsky and subsequent impeachment. Hillary characterized her decision to stay in her marriage one of the “gutsiest” things she’s ever done. In the documentary, the couple discusses the counseling sessions they attended following Bill’s affair, which Bill calls both “necessary” and one of the hardest things he’s ever done.“I’m grateful she made the decision to stick it out,” Bill says in Hillary. “God knows the burden she paid for that.” Even still, over 20 years later, Hillary has demonstrated a willful misunderstanding of her husband’s role in that affair. Lewinsky has written about the experience as a “gross abuse of power” on the part of Bill, which in 2018 Hillary characterized as untrue because Lewinsky “was an adult” at the time of the affair.
1999: Hillary runs for Senate
In November 1999, Hillary became the first First Lady to run for office when she announced she would be forfeiting most of her official duties as First Lady to move to New York and pursue a Senate campaign. Bill was reportedly less-than-thrilled with her decision to run. She moved in January of 2000, and it became the first time since 1914 that a president had lived in the White House without a spouse — the previous time being when Woodrow Wilson’s first wife died. Hillary defeated Republican Rick Lazio to win a seat in the New York Senate. 
2016: Hillary runs for president
Hillary’s presidential campaign opened up a new role for Bill: potential First Gentleman. He campaigned, gave speeches on her behalf, and generally looked proud as heck to be standing aside his wife as she vied for the job he once held.
2017: Hillary opens up in What Happened
After Hillary’s failed presidential bid, she wrote a book called What Happened. In it, she addresses the multiple sexual assault allegations against Bill, though only vaguely: Paula Jones said that Clinton sexually harassed her when she worked for the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission in 1991; Kathleen Willey said he assaulted her when she was a volunteer at the White House in 1993; and Juanita Broaddrick says that Clinton raped her when she was volunteering for his Arkansas gubernatorial campaign in 1978. Clinton has denied all these allegations. “There were times that I was deeply unsure about whether our marriage could or should survive,” Hillary wrote. “But on those days, I asked myself the questions that mattered most to me: Do I still love him? And can I still be in this marriage without becoming unrecognizable to myself — twisted by anger, resentment, or remoteness? The answers were always yes. So I kept going.”
2020 - Present: Hillary & Bill's life after politics
Hillary and Chelsea Clinton recently published a co-authored book, The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience. In the wake of the election and #MeToo Movement, both Bill and Hillary have been back in the spotlight. Bill, who was the second-ever impeachment president before Trump, found himself the subject of media attention for his indiscretions that led to his impeachment. Bill has also spoken out about his treatment of both Hillary and Monica Lewinsky and how it's affect both women's lives. However, the couple is still married and says that their partnership is as strong as ever.
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