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This Week in History: Hillary Clinton is elected to the Senate, 8th November 2000

On 8 November 2000, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first woman elected to represent New York as a Senator. Never before in US history had a first lady obtained public office.

We know countless facts about the public figure Clinton, a Yale University graduate, first lady, and politician, who was once dubbed “the best-known woman on the planet” by the New York Times. Significantly less is known about Hillary Clinton ‘behind the scenes.’

This can be changed by a glance into the archives of Creators Syndicate, for which Clinton wrote a weekly column from 1995 to 2000, shortly before she joined the senate. Under the heading “Talking it Over”, she offers rare insights into her private life, including Christmas preparations in the White House. In her first column from 23 July 1995, she illustrates the sacrifices that come with public office. One time – to the dismay of the Secret Service – she decided to take a spontaneous care ride on her own: “For several hours, I enjoyed a marvellous sensation of personal freedom.” 

In one of her last columns from 19 December 2000, Clinton relates an anecdote which reflects her realistic stance on issues of gender equality. At a dinner party, a man told her that the most significant change of the 20th century would not be the advancement of technology, but the role of women. She agreed, yet added: “But I must inject a note of caution. [T]he question I find most important is this: What will we do with our new role?”

When it comes to her own life, Hillary Clinton has clearly answered that question. In the 2000 Senate race she defeated her Republican opponent Rick Lazio by a 12 per cent margin. She went on to serve as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, and in 2016 become the first female major party presidential candidate. This year, she is in the running for first female US president.

Many parallels could be drawn between Clinton’s senatorial run against Lazio and her current competition with Donald Trump. Maybe they are best reflected in the comment of a voter at a polling station in Brooklyn in 2000. When asked about her reasons for choosing Clinton over Lazio, Joyce Gordon, then 63, replied: “At first I wasn’t going to vote for her, but during the debate he acted like a spoiled little brat, like a teenage boy who couldn’t get his way.”

Image: Marc Nozell

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