When her husband became president of the United States on January 20, 2021, Dr. Jill Biden became the nation’s First Lady. Through Joe Biden’s long political career, Dr. Biden maintained her own career as an English professor teaching primarily in community colleges. The Bidens stood out in the Washington political world for their more-than-40-year marriage and their devotion to family.
Jill Tracy Jacobs was born on June 3, 1951, in Hammonton, New Jersey, and grew up in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. She was the eldest of five sisters. Her father served in World War II and then became a banker. She graduated from Upper Moreland High School in 1969.
Jill married Bill Stevenson in 1970, and they divorced in 1975, the same year that she graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in English. She later earned two master’s degrees: one in reading from West Chester University in 1981 and another in English from Villanova University in 1987. In 2007, she received her PhD from the University of Delaware in educational leadership. Her dissertation was titled, “Student Retention at the Community College: Meeting Students' Needs.”
Jill met Joe Biden in 1975, three years after a car crash killed his first wife and daughter and injured his sons, Beau and Hunter. Joe’s brother introduced them, and although Joe was nearly nine years older than Jill, they hit it off. In his memoir, Promises to Keep, Biden noted that Jill embraced the Biden family, and Beau and Hunter adored her, prompting the boys to advise their father: “We think we should marry Jill.” They were married on June 17, 1977, at the United Nations Chapel in New York City with Beau and Hunter standing with them at the altar. Their daughter Ashley was born in 1981.
A life-long educator, Jill Biden began her teaching career in public high schools in Delaware then worked at the Delaware Technical and Community College from 1993 to 2008. She was able to continue teaching in Delaware while her husband served in the Senate because he returned home most evenings to Delaware from Washington, DC.
When Joe Biden became vice president to President Barack Obama, the Bidens moved to the district. In 2009, Jill Biden began teaching English at the Northern Virginia Community College. She was the first second lady (wife of the vice president) to continue working while her husband was in office. She pledged to continue teaching while First Lady.
As second lady, Jill focused much of her time and energy on causes important to her, including raising money and awareness for cancer research, advocating for community colleges, and supporting military families. Together with Michelle Obama, Jill Biden started the Joining Forces initiative to support service members, veterans, and their families.
After the death of Beau Biden in 2015 of brain cancer, Joe Biden announced that he would not run for president in 2016. The Bidens created the Biden Foundation and the Biden Cancer Initiative, but both organizations suspended operations after Joe Biden announced in 2019 that he would run for president.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Jill campaigned for her husband and served as one of his closest advisors. The Democratic National Convention in August 2020 was a mostly virtual event because of the coronavirus pandemic and was structured to appeal to voters watching on television at home. Jill spoke from an empty classroom at Brandywine High School, where she had once taught. In her speech, she focused on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on education and highlighted her devotion to her family through its personal tragedies and successes.
Dr. Biden is the author of three books: Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops (2012), Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself (2019), and Joey: The Story of Joe Biden (2020).