On Top of the World


Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History

By: Karen Blumenthal

Journalist Karen Blumenthal writes nonfiction for children, whom she wants to help learn about social changes. Blumenthal has covered “retailing, oil and gas, housing, mergers, and bankruptcies” with The Wall Street Journal.18 She graduated from Duke University.

A Woman of History

By: Dan Nguyen

Representative of women and children around the world, “[Hillary Clinton] has been the Gallup Poll’s most admired woman in the United States nineteen times in twenty-two years.”1 Influenced by her experiences growing up in the 1900’s, Hillary Clinton has broken many barriers in American politics and society throughout her life, inspiring others to do the same. Karen Blumenthal’s Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History chronicles Clinton’s experiences as a leader from her childhood to her adult life. Blumenthal covers Clinton’s early achievements as well as her recent ones as well, narrating the former first lady’s life in a story-like form. Written for young adults, this biography highlights Clinton’s personal, social, and political accomplishments, as well as the struggles that shaped her.

Born on October 26, 1947, Clinton was passionate and ambitious. She was raised by a liberal mother, Dorothy Howell Rodham, who encouraged her “to be her own person,” and conservative father Hugh Ellsworth Rodham who believed in self-reliance.2 Her father and her ninth-grade history teacher Paul Carlson influenced Clinton’s young conservative ideals. After she read The Conscience of a Conservative, a book recommended by the history teacher, Clinton’s views on the conservative movement expanded. Participating in church events and youth groups, Clinton was also introduced to the civil rights movement, and therefore embraced social services at a young age. In high school, Clinton involved herself in activities like “student council, the school newspaper, the spring musical, a variety show, and speech and debate.”3 Although she was one of the few girls who participated in these classes, the environment helped her experience real-world biases. When she delivered speeches in class, boys would insult and rattle her, but the hazing only prepared her for the hardships in her future. Furthermore, when she ran for student council president of Maine South High School, boys called her stupid for not running for secretary instead. Even though Clinton lost the race, she was appointed head of the Organizations Committee and put together dances, parades, pep rallies, and elections. As Hillary grew, she challenged her father’s biases against Democrats, Blacks, Jews, and Catholics, though she was still devoted to conservatism. However, in a school mock election, Clinton’s government teacher insisted she advocate for Democratic nominee Lyndon B. Johnson instead of Barry Goldwater. As a result of this assignment, Clinton’s views shifted left. In high school, Clinton was ranked “around fifteenth in her class out of more than 500 seniors” and won many awards such as the social science award and the Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizenship Award.4 Her ambition and hard work earned her acceptance to Wellesley College—an all-girls school—in 1965. Although most students there graduated to become wholesome housewives, Clinton was more ambitious as she became president of the Young Republicans group in her freshman year. At Wellesley, Clinton expanded her ideals and comfort zone: there were few African Americans at Park Ridge, but in college Clinton befriended black classmates and supported a black student group called Ethos. In 1968, Clinton won president of Wellesley’s student government, which she used her powers to lift restrictions and to “offer a summer Upward Bound program for low-income kids.”5 Clinton participated in black-rights marches and backed Ethos’ demands for more black students and faculty. Although her political views were now Democratic, she was asked to work an internship at Washington DC under Gerald Ford. There, she gained experience working with government officials. After being the first student to give a graduation speech at Wellesley, Clinton went to Yale Law School as one of the few women in that year’s class. She worked for Wright Edelman’s Washington Research Project, researching the health and education of children, which she claimed was a “personal turning point.”6 Hillary also met Bill Clinton at Yale, and they bonded over their mutual energy, ambition, fascination with national politics, commitment to public services, and fondness for argument. She was asked to do a case on Nixon’s impeachment, but the job ended when he resigned from office. Hillary also moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas to be with Bill, and taught the Fayetteville law school.

The second part of the book elaborates on Hillary’s life in Arkansas. She and Bill got married on October 11, 1975, and they helped with Jimmy Carter’s campaign. In 1977, she was appointed to the national board of Legal Services Corporation; she decided to practice corporate law at Rose Law Firm in Little Rock. There, she started Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. Even after Bill was elected governor of Arkansas in 1979, Hillary pursued her professional life, claiming, “I need to maintain my interests and my commitments. I need my own identity too.”7 On February 27, 1980, Hillary gave birth to her eldest daughter Chelsea. Worried for their financial issues, Hillary began investing in commodities, and by luck made $99,000. Because they had not paid taxes on their car for a few years, and the crisis with Cuban refugees and Carter, Bill lost the public’s support and was denied a second term. However, determined to make a comeback, Bill spent the next year preparing. Hillary, who was not a fan of makeup before, decided to change her image to appeal to the public. In 1982 Bill announced he was running for the democratic candidate of governor, and won. He appointed Hillary the Chair of Health Committee, where she was also in charge of addressing school standards. However, Clinton was surprised at the lack of educational opportunities offered at schools. Therefore, she worked to implement a competency test for teachers. Because of this, she won Arkansas Woman of the Year in 1983 and Arkansas Press Broadcasters Newsmaker of the Year in 1984. Hillary was also elected on the Wal-Mart board committee. On October 3, 1991, Bill Clinton entered the Presidential race as a Democrat, and won with 43% popularity, 32 states, and ⅔ electoral vote. Once elected, Bill appointed Hillary to the Social Secretary Office and the Visitors’ Office, and Chelsea was sent away to a Quaker school for privacy. Hillary’s privacy and relationship with her family changed dramatically at the White House.

The third part of this book explains Hillary’s experiences as the First Lady. Hillary was the first First Lady to have a job, breaking social barriers as she researched health care solutions. She began incorporating morals and ethics into her political view, saying, “we need a new politics of meaning. We need a new ethos of individual responsibility and caring.”8 In this period of time, Hillary experienced numerous deaths of close friends and family members, including her father Hugh. Close friend Vincent Foster killed himself because he could not handle politics in Washington. Virginia, Bill’s mom, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Hillary’s reserved behavior increased when the press demanded to know more about an financial rumor—Jim McDougal illegally channeling money from a financial instrument to Bill Clinton’s campaign—and she finally opened up to them at the Pink Conference. Although Hillary did come up with a healthcare system, its complexity got it booted from voting, and Bush’s presidency was without a health care reform. However, inspiring women across the world, Hillary continued to speak up for women and children’s rights. In Bill’s second term, Hillary made smaller steps towards healthcare goals, like medical insurance for kids and breast cancer screenings. Hillary also spoke about policies affecting women, children, and families. Her life took a turn when Bill was rumored to have a relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky. Although Bill had lied to her about the affair, Hillary remained committed to their marriage and beliefs. After Bill was charged with perjury and was impeached, Hillary discussed her potential senate run in 1999, choosing New York as the state to represent. They bought their own house together in New York. In 2000, Hillary officially entered the race for senator from New York, and as Hillary gained more popularity, she became more open with the press and found herself less criticized. In 2000 Hillary was elected to the US senate with 55% state vote and 60% women’s votes.

Finally, in the last portion of the book, Blumenthal explains the effects of foreign affairs on Hillary Clinton’s political career. Hillary was sworn in as senator of New York in 2001, the same year as the 9/11 attack. This event influenced her aggressive actions against terrorism. As her popularity grew, Hillary was asked to write a memoir for $8 million. She published her autobiography Living History in 2003. In the same year, the US invaded Iraq, and Hillary was appointed to Senate of Armed Services Committee. Clinton supported civil unions for gay couples, and in 2006 she was reelected to a second term. In 2007, Hillary ran for President of the United States but lost to Barack Obama because she had supported the invasion of Iraq. However, impressed by Hillary’s hard work and ambition, Obama appointed Hillary as Secretary of State. With this power, Hillary highlighted women’s issues around the world at speeches. In 2011, Hillary lost her mother, and the US Navy killed Osama Bin Laden. Hillary lost credibility in 2012 when four Americans—including ambassador Chris Stevens—died in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. With sorrow, she noted: “For me this is not just a matter of policy. It’s personal.”9 For this reason, Hillary decided to take a break from government work, and tried to write a book and pursue philanthropy. At last A Woman Living History ended with a raised question: what is Hillary Clinton’s next step?

Karen Blumenthal’s book on Hillary Clinton emphasizes achievements of the former first lady and the impact she has made on today’s society. Hillary Clinton has not only broken barriers, but she has inspired many young girls and boys to expand their comfort zones and strive for their dreams. This book highlights Clinton’s accomplishments through her hard work and perseverance, and also stresses the difference she has made in culture and society. Hillary was the first student at her college to give a commencement speech - where she cleverly refutes a statement by a Republican senator, and addresses the trust issues faced by students and adults. Blumenthal provides inspiring quotes from the politician: “always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in.”10 Although Clinton has made her own mistakes and is seen as arrogant, her hard work and ambition are what make her one of the world’s most admired women.

Karen Blumenthal is a financial journalist who writes nonfiction for young adults. She has written Steve Jobs: The Man who Thought Different, Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition, Six Days in October: The Stock Market Crash of 1929, Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX, and Tommy: The Gun That Changed America. She graduated from Duke University and has an MBA from Southern Methodist University. Her love for reading, kids, and for “answering [consumers’] questions [and] cut through the marketing hype” influenced her to write this book.11 Her profession as a journalist proves that she loves to report facts, and the fact that she loved to read as a child helps her write books enjoyable by young children.

Written in 2015, this book demonstrates growing recognition for women in power. Blumenthal claims that she writes to answer questions of the consumers, so it is possible that she wrote this book to explain Hillary Clinton’s achievements and background. Furthermore, Clinton announced she was running for President of the United States in 2015, spurring the media.12 Blumenthal must have wanted to further educate children of the upcoming elections and the possibility of America’s first woman president. Therefore, this book mainly highlights Clinton’s achievements and credibility—though it touches on scandals as well.

Readers of A Woman Living History found the book educational and positive. Kirkus Reviews—a review business founded in 1933—believed the book was criticizing society for unnecessarily scrutinizing Clinton. They claim that Blumenthal offers a “sympathetic and [a discussion] of Clinton’s emotional struggle” as the first lady.13 Clinton’s physical aspects - like her outfit, hair, makeup—were more closely looked at because of her gender. This book acknowledges the struggles Hillary faced while working her way up. However, Amy Pattee - librarian and children’s literature journalist—slightly disagrees with Kirkus’s views, saying that the book focuses more on the good achievements rather than the faults of Clinton. Because it emphasizes Hillary’s social and political achievements, the book does not “offer too much of a sense of Hillary the person”; instead it emphasizes her accomplishments.14 Despite the varying opinions, both critics agree that Hillary Clinton is a valuable piece of America’s history.

To add on to these reviews in a personal regard, the book was positive, educational, and written in a narrative format, making it easier to follow along. The timeline located at the end of the book also helps readers navigate their way through the chronology. However, without the timeline, it would be hard to define the facts since the author does not include dates often. Furthermore, her descriptions of Hillary Clinton’s youth were biased because she only described good aspects of the former lady. For example, the author noted that “[Hillary] had little trouble with motivation” and immediately lists her achievements as a Brownie, Girls Scout, and local leader.15 Blumenthal incorporated euphonious words to explain Clinton’s childhood, and any criticism would quickly be refuted by more admirations: “[Hillary] needed some help in a couple of areas … She did, however, get extra credit.”16 Where are her flaws? The book illustrates her as godly, glorifying her childhood accomplishments. Furthermore, the author employs a strange method of integrating her quotes. While she narrates the context of Hillary’s past in third person, the quotes she used were in first person. If the book did not include these problems, the text would be easier to read.

Despite these minor inconveniences, this book addresses the changes caused by the end of the Cold War, the rise of terrorism, and advancing technology. Born in 1947, Hillary Clinton grew up fearing communists and agreeing with the conservative movement. Her ideals as a child were greatly influenced by the public’s anti-war trends and its red scare. As an adult, Clinton experienced a terrorist attack in 2001 when the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were bombed by hijacked planes. Senator of New York at the time of the incident, Hillary felt obligated to bring justice to those who died, or to those who lost a loved one in the 9/11 attack. As a result, she supported the invasion of Iran and Iraq and further investigation of terrorism.17 As terrorism rose, so did the development of new technology and its effects. The internet popularized the elections and the ideas of each presidential candidate. Before the internet, elections had to be done the traditional way of persuading the crowd with speeches. However, Bill Clinton experienced a more interesting election when his rivals publicized rude comments, and nearly cost his election. Digital technology helped Hillary Clinton spread her cause for women and children’s rights worldwide, but it also granted access to personal information on her family. The prying of the press often bothered Clinton because she wanted to keep her personal life private. Portrayed as mysterious and arrogant by the media, Hillary Clinton received rude feedback from citizens; however, Clinton learned to overcome her isolation by opening up to the press. A Woman Living History illustrates the impact of post-Cold War on young minds as Clinton herself, and the effects that technology and terrorism has on political and diplomatic decisions.

The public sees Hillary Clinton as arrogant and reserved, but they do not know the story behind her accomplishments. They do not know the struggles she faced throughout her youth, her adolescence, and her professional career in order to reach where she is today. When told to suppress her opinions, Hillary said: “‘I’m not going to try to pretend to be somebody I’m not.”19 Her strength, ambition, and love for serving the people inspires others to do good for the country.

[1] Blumenthal, Karen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: a woman living history. New York: Square Fish, Feiwel and Friends, 2017. 3. Print.
[2] Blumenthal, Karen. 12.
[3] Blumenthal, Karen. 27.
[4] Blumenthal, Karen. 33.
[5] Blumenthal, Karen.48.
[6] Blumenthal, Karen.68.
[7] Blumenthal, Karen.127.
[8] Blumenthal, Karen. 193.
[9] Blumenthal, Karen. 362.
[10] Blumenthal, Karen. 2.
[11] Blumenthal, Karen. “About the Author.” Karen Blumenthal - Bootleg. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2017.
[12] Blumenthal, Karen. 379.
[13] Blumenthal, Karen. “HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON by Karen Blumenthal.” Kirkus Reviews. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2017.
[14] “Review of Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History.” The Horn Book. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2017.
[15] Blumenthal, Karen. 15.
[16] Blumenthal, Karen. 13.
[17] Blumenthal, Karen. 349.
[18] Blumenthal, Karen. “About the Author.” Karen Blumenthal - Bootleg. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2017.
[19] Blumenthal, Karen. 244.