When President Joe Biden was sworn in as 46th President of the United States of America on January 20, 2021, the new First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, his wife of nearly 44 years, was by his side. The inauguration was a solemn and historic moment, to be sure, but the Bidens are used to facing all sorts of challenges together. When they met in 1975, Joe Biden was a young senator from Delaware, a widower, and a single father to two small children while Jill Jacobs Stevenson was a college senior who had just split from her first husband. It’s unlikely that they imagined that their love story and resulting partnership would eventually take them all the way to the White House.
Joe Biden: “She Gave Me Back My Life”
Per Biography, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on November 20, 1942, to Joseph Biden Sr., who worked cleaning furnaces and as a used car salesman, and Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan Biden. His family moved to Delaware when Joe was 13 years old. He attended the University of Delaware where he studied politics and history and played football.
On a spring break trip to the Bahamas, he met Syracuse University student Neilia Hunter and, in his words, “fell ass over tin cup in love — at first sight.” Biden started law school at Syracuse University in 1965 and he and his first wife Neilia married in 1966. They moved to Wilmington, Delaware in 1968 where Biden began practicing law and was elected to New Castle County Council. The Bidens had three children in three years—Joseph, who went by Beau, in 1969, Robert, who goes by Hunter, in 1970, and Naomi, who went by Amy, in 1971. In 1972 Biden ran a tight race for Senator against a popular Republican incumbent and won, becoming the fifth-youngest elected United States senator in the history of the United States at 29 years old.
Just before Christmas of 1972, Neilia Biden and the three children were involved in a horrible car accident with a tractor-trailer truck. Neilia and Amy were killed and Beau and Hunter were severely injured. Joe Biden was sworn in as a Delaware senator in his young sons’ hospital room. In order to spend as much time as possible with his children, Biden made the decision to commute to Washington, D.C. from Wilmington via Amtrak train, a practice he kept up throughout his time in the Senate.
As reported by Biography, Jill Tracy Jacobs was born June 3, 1951, and spent her childhood in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. She started dating Bill Stevenson in 1969 and the couple married in 1970. They attended the University of Delaware together where Jill studied English. She and Bill drifted apart and eventually divorced.
From Delaware To Washington, D.C….Together
In the spring of 1975, Joe Biden’s brother, a classmate of Jill’s, set up a blind date between Joe and Jill. In an interview with Vogue, Jill Biden remembered that first date: “I was a senior, and I had been dating guys in jeans and clogs and T-shirts, he came to the door and he had a sport coat and loafers, and I thought, ‘God, this is never going to work, not in a million years.’ He was nine years older than I am! But we went out to see A Man and a Woman at the movie theater in Philadelphia, and we really hit it off. When we came home…he shook my hand good night…I went upstairs and called my mother at 1:00 a.m. and said, ‘Mom, I finally met a gentleman.’ ”
Joe Biden reportedly proposed to Jill five times before she accepted. Jill Biden told Vogue she put him off so much “Because by that time, of course, I had fallen in love with the boys, and I really felt that this marriage had to work. Because they had lost their mom, and I couldn’t have them lose another mother. So I had to be 100 percent sure.” In his 2007 memoir Promises To Keep, Joe expressed particular gratitude for Jill, writing “She gave me back my life. She made me start to think my family might be whole again.”
Jill eventually accepted Joe’s proposal and they were married on June 17, 1977, in New York City at the United Nations chapel by a Catholic priest. Beau and Hunter Biden stood beside them at the altar and joined them on their honeymoon. Per People magazine, the Bidens welcomed their daughter Ashley in 1981. After taking some time off to raise the children, Jill Biden returned to her job teaching English. She earned a Masters of Education degree in 1987 and in 2007, she earned her doctorate in education. She returned home from her graduation to find signs reading “Congratulations Dr. Jacobs-Biden” and “Dr. and Senator Biden live here.”
President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden’s First White House Interview
When Joe Biden was announced as Barack Obama’s pick for vice president in 2008 just as the Democratic National Convention kicked off, Biden memorably introduced the future second lady with the joking announcement: “My wife, Jill, who you’ll meet soon, [is] drop-dead gorgeous. My wife, Jill, she also has a doctorate degree, which is a problem.”
In 2019, Joe Biden ran for President against incumbent Donald Trump and won; his running mate, Kamala Harris, made history as the first woman to be elected Vice President of the United States. Per ABC News, Jill Biden also made history as America’s first First Lady to hold a paid job outside of the White House.
Dr. Biden began her work as an educator as a high school reading specialist and English teacher before becoming a community college English teacher. She worked full time at Northern Virginia Community College throughout her terms as the second lady and made it clear on the 2019 campaign trail that if Joe was elected, she would continue to teach there as the first lady. In an interview with Stephen Colbert, she announced “I’m really looking forward to being the first lady and doing the things that [I did] as second lady, carrying on with military families and education and free community college, cancer [the Biden Cancer Initiative], that Joe and I have both worked on. And I’m going to teach as well.”