The Stunning Transformation Of Jill Biden

Jill Biden may be the first lady of the United States today, but she had a surprisingly modest upbringing. And to this day, she counts teaching as the most important thing in her life. From having a false start at love to meeting the man she would partner with for more than four decades, this is one woman whose story you simply must know more about — especially since she, along with Joe Biden, has managed to overcome unthinkable tragedy and will most certainly inspire even the most cynical among us.

According to the BBC, Jill Jacobs was born in New Jersey in 1951, and she grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia as one of five sisters. The oldest of the siblings per Biography, Biden originally intended to study fashion merchandising. But she would end up taking a completely different career path.

So, what is there to know about Jill Biden's rise to the public spotlight? How has she grown to be in the position she's in? Who was her first husband? Here's the stunning transformation of Jill Biden.

Jill Biden had a somewhat rebellious childhood

Jill Biden's childhood appears to have been a happy one, if a bit wild. She had a self-proclaimed rebellious streak in her younger years, and would often sneak out of the house in the middle of the night. Unable to afford a membership at a popular local swim club, Biden and her friend would often climb the fence for a midnight swim on summer nights. "I can't even believe that I did it," Biden later told The Philadelphia Inquirer, adding that it was "a long, long time" before she confessed her youthful transgressions to her mother.

While Biden admits that she "was kind of rebellious," she never caused any real harm. She said that her brand of rebellion was quite "innocent." For example, the young Biden said that she "loved to pull pranks" as a child and would also "sneak out of school" to eat at a nearby hoagie shop.

She showed leadership skills from a young age

Young Jill Biden was a bit of a rebel, but she was also a leader who looked out for her loved ones. The oldest of five girls, Biden established herself as their protector at a young age. When a neighborhood bully wouldn't leave her younger sister alone, she showed up at his house and punched him in the face — earning her father's respect.

Her sister Bonny Jacobs told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Biden was not just a leader but a role model. "She took care of me," she said, adding that she "watched everything" her older sister did. Jacobs said that it's easy to imagine Biden as first lady, saying it would be "a natural transition" for her older sister, noting, "The four of us are amazed, like, gee, our sister could be first lady."

Liz Leonard, Biden's high school friend and classmate, recalled that Biden was a leader on campus and that she was popular and quite involved in various activities. "She was always willing to help with our whole class," said Leonard of Biden's leadership skills.

She started working at the age of 15

Jill Biden is known for her strong work ethic and her commitment to her career, and it all started when she was still in her teens. Biden got her first job when she was just 15 years old, as noted by The New York Times. Biden explained her desire to work in an interview with Vogue. "From an early age, I knew I wanted my own money, my own identity, and my own career," she said.

Biden told New Jersey Monthly that she held down several different after-school jobs while she was growing up, including two summers working at an Ocean City, N.J. eatery called Chris' Seafood Restaurant. "I loved it," she told the outlet.

Biden also did some modeling work for a local agency although, as she told Vogue, she never really considered herself a model. She said she only did a few small jobs "where you get paid, like, 20 bucks."

Her first marriage ended in divorce

As hard as it is to imagine Jill Biden with anyone other than Joe, the president is actually Biden's second husband. She was just 18 years old and a student at the University of Delaware when she married Bill Stevenson, who played for the school's football team. The marriage lasted only five years, ending in a divorce that left Biden a little cynical about falling in love again. "I let go of fairy-tale endings," she wrote in her 2019 memoir, "Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself."

The divorce was far from amicable. Decades after the split, Stevenson told the Daily Mail that the marriage ended because his wife and Joe Biden were having an affair. According to the Bidens, however, Stevenson's story is false and, contrary to Stevenson's claim, they did not meet until 1975, after the couple had separated and the divorce was nearly finalized.

She met her future husband, Joe Biden, on a blind date

Jill Biden would go on to meet Joe Biden on a blind date three years after tragedy struck his family. According to Vogue, Joe's first wife and 1-year-old daughter died in a car accident in 1972 — his sons, Hunter and Beau, miraculously survived the crash. 

It was Joe's brother who introduced the future couple. As the future Mrs. Biden recounted to Vogue of their first encounter, "I was a senior [in college], 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.'" Joe was also nine years older than Jill Biden, but that didn't stop them from forming a connection. "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," she shared. "I went upstairs and called my mother at 1:00 a.m. and said, 'Mom, I finally met a gentleman.'"

Jill Biden turned down Joe's proposal more than once

It's hard to imagine a Biden White House without Dr. Jill Biden serving as the first lady, but if Joe Biden hadn't been so persistent in wooing his other half, we might have seen just that. As the educator explained in a piece she penned for Time, the future president's first proposal was low-key. "He simply said, 'I want us to get married,'" she wrote. The proposal had the blessing of the then-senator's sons, Beau and Hunter Biden, who were just 6 and 7 at the time. And while Biden wrote that she loved the boys who would become her stepsons, she simply wasn't ready to take the plunge. "If I gave Joe my whole heart, he had the power to break it," she confessed.

Giving in to her fears of heartbreak as well as the pressure of being in the public eye as a politician's wife, she also went on to reject Joe's second proposal — and his third and fourth. As she wrote, though, as time went on she became less afraid of having her heart broken or the hardships of being married to a public figure — she was worried about the kids. "They had endured the loss of one mother already, and I couldn't risk having them lose another," she said.

Biden finally accepted her now-husband's fifth proposal, which he said would be his last. "When Joe told me this was the last time he would ask, I was sure he meant it," she wrote. "He was prepared to walk away forever." Not wanting to lose the people she already regarded as family, she said yes.

She doesn't think of herself as a stepmom

After Jill Biden fell in love with Joe and married him, she became a stepmother to his two sons, Hunter and Beau. While Biden may not have been their biological mother, she was always accepted in the Biden family. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she explained that she never asked Hunter and Beau to call her "mom," but that it was their choice to do so. "They wanted our family to be a whole, complete family," she said, adding that if an interviewer ever referred to Biden as their stepmother, Hunter and Beau would correct them. "That's how the kids wanted to define it," she said.

Joe wrote in his 2007 memoir "Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics" (via The Washington Post) that the transition happened over time. He said that he and his wife never discussed calling her mom, but that one day he noticed "they were calling her Mom," while they referred to his first wife, Neilia, as "Mommy." Joe noted, "I'm sort of used to being in charge, but in truth it was Jill and the boys who shaped the contours of our remade family."

She welcomed a daughter, Ashley, in 1981

While Jill Biden became a mom to Hunter and Beau when she married their dad, she also became a biological mother on June 8, 1981, when she gave birth to her daughter, Ashley Biden. Per Biography, Ashley is her first and only biological child. 

While the Bidens are a blended family, this seems to have had no impact on how close its members are with each other. According to Jill Biden, Ashley grew up quite close with her older siblings, Hunter and Beau. "From the minute she was born her brothers looked after her," she told Delaware Today. "And, she always looked up to them. Wherever they went, she wanted to go, and they took her." 

The boys had a big job to do when welcoming Ashley into the family. Joe Biden revealed in his book "Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics" (via The Washington Post) that it was Hunter and Beau who were charged with coming up with a name for their baby sister, landing on the name Ashley.

Jill Biden's life is teaching

"Teaching is not what I do. It's who I am," Jill Biden tweeted in mid-August 2020. Her decades-long career as a teacher proves the statement, as does her commitment to keep teaching even though her husband was elected president in November 2020 (via CNN). When asked if she'd keep teaching, she told CBS News, "I hope so. I would love to." According to the BBC, Biden, who is actually Dr. Biden, holds a bachelor's degree, two master's degrees, and a doctorate. 

According to Forbes, Biden taught in public schools for 13 years, teaching English and acting as a reading specialist. She also taught at Delaware Technical and Community College and Northern Virginia Community College, where she held a job during her husband's time in the White House as vice president. "It sounds so trite to say I make a difference, but I really feel, especially in a community college, I can make a difference," she told The News Journal (via The Washington Post) of her work in community colleges.

She encouraged her husband to run for president in 2008

While many people are familiar with Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign, many don't realize that his 2020 bid for president was the third time he ran for the office. As noted by CNN, he first announced his candidacy for president in 1987 and again in 2007.

It was Jill Biden who pushed her husband to run for the second time. She was so upset after George W. Bush was re-elected to the presidency in 2004 that she urged her husband to run. She explained to Vogue that her husband had wanted to run several times in the years leading up to the 2008 presidential election and that "many people tried to get him to run" in 2004 but that she had put her foot down. Faced with the fact that "things would be the same for the next four years" with Bush in office, she told her husband he needed to "change this."

While Joe ended up withdrawing from the race in the 2008 election, the campaign wasn't a wasted one as he was named Barack Obama's running mate and became vice president.

She tried to stay incognito while her husband was VP

After her husband became vice president, Jill Biden kept teaching. In order to cause as little disruption as possible at work, Biden remained quiet about her identity while teaching. As noted by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Secret Service agents posed as college students when they accompanied her to her job at Northern Virginia Community College, where she was known as "Dr. B." Biden also defended a dissertation under her maiden name so as not to attract attention.

Not being known as the second lady wasn't just about keeping a low profile. She also didn't want to be defined by her relationship to the vice president. Biden's desire not to be defined by her husband began while he was still a senator. She once told The News Journal (via The New York Times) that when students asked about her last name, she would only admit to being related to Joe but wouldn't mention being his wife. "For me, I'm their English teacher, and I want it to stay that way," she said.

It took a while for Jill Biden to adjust to being in the public eye

In spite of her background in education, Jill Biden has never considered herself to be much of a public speaker. Being comfortable talking in front of an audience is just one of the things she had to get used to as the second lady of the U.S. She told Marie Claire in 2010 that speaking didn't come naturally to her, although she grew better at it the more she practiced.

Although she spent many years being married to a senator, being the wife of the vice president was completely different, and it took some time for Biden to adjust to that level of fame. She told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she "came at it incrementally," and that she was motivated after recognizing that, as the second lady, she had a platform that she "was not going to waste." While Biden "was really unsure" at the beginning as she "didn't have the confidence in myself in speaking," she decided the risk was worth it and transformed into a formidable speaker.

She has survived personal tragedy with her husband

Tragically, Joe Biden's oldest son Beau passed away from brain cancer in January 2015, at the age of 46, according to People. Jill Biden told the outlet, "It was totally shattering. My life changed in an instant. All during his illness, I truly believed that he was going to live, up until the moment that he closed his eyes, and I just never gave up hope."

Jill Biden has subsequently written about the family's shattering loss in her book, "Where the Light Enters." "I feel like a piece of china that's been glued back together again," Biden penned about her grief in her memoir (via People). "The cracks may be imperceptible — but they're there." Clearly, the devastating loss changed her and her husband forever, but they have also managed to find a way to bravely move forward with hope for the future.

She said that education would be an important part of her husband's administration

As the first lady told CBS News before her husband's election, "If we get to the White House, I'm gonna continue to teach. It's important, and I want people to value teachers and know their contributions, and lift up the profession." She is part of the National Education Association, according to Forbes, which also reported it was likely Biden will champion free community college education if her husband won the election. 

In fact, in 2010, Biden hosted the White House Summit on Community Colleges to shine a spotlight on "community colleges' role in developing America's workforce," as reported by the BBC.

Her grandkids say she's a 'prankster'

While it might be hard to believe it of the former second lady, Jill Biden is a bit of a prankster according to her granddaughter Natalie. In a video played at the 2020 Democratic National Convention (via Today), Natalie said that Biden is "not your average grandmother," referring to her as "a prankster" and describing her as "very mischievous." Natalie said her grandmother is the sort of woman who, after finding a dead snake, will put it in a bag and later scare someone with it.

Mary Doody, who worked with Biden at Delaware Technical Community College, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that she once walked into her cubicle to find that Biden had left a 50-pound pumpkin on her desk as a prank. Biden became somewhat known for her playful nature while her husband was VP — she once hid in an overhead bin on Air Force Two, surprising Joe when he boarded the plane. 

She is a bestselling author

In addition to her career as an educator, Jill Biden is also a bestselling author. As noted by Simon & Schuster, in addition to being the author of the bestselling memoir "Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself," she is also the author of a children's book, "Don't Forget, God Bless Our Troops." Biden also wrote a children's book about her husband called "Joey: The Story of Joe Biden."

While her children's books are the sort of patriotic stories you'd expect the former second lady of the United States to pen, her memoir isn't political. Instead, Biden described it to People as "the story of how we built and rebuilt our family."

The book also deals with her ongoing grief following the tragic death of her son Beau Biden. "Sometimes I feel like I've forgotten how to be the mom after the death of my son," she wrote in the bestseller (via The Washington Post). "I worry about my children worrying about me, feeling like they need to be the strong ones. It's not the right order of things. How can I be there for my children when I feel so lost?" Despite her grief, it's clear Jill Biden strives to be the best mother and wife she can be for her family.

She made headlines for fighting off protesters

Dr. Jill Biden's doctorate may be in education, but she also knows a thing or two about self defense. As things heated up in the months leading up to the 2020 presidential election, Biden stood by then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, notably putting herself between her husband and protestors who rushed him at a March 2020 rally in Los Angeles. CNN reported that Jill Biden and one of her husband's advisors bravely went into the fray, putting themselves between two women before they could reach Joe. She similarly defended her husband the month before, keeping a man away from him at another rally. 

Joe praised his wife's actions after the events. '"I'm probably the only candidate running for president whose wife is my Secret Service. Whoa, you don't screw around with a Philly girl, I'll tell you what," he joked at a rally (via USA Today).

She became a FLOTUS to remember

Becoming the first lady of the United States was a true full-circle moment for Jill Biden. Gone was the young woman who worried that being a senator's wife would overwhelm her. From once dreading living in the public eye, as she wrote in Time, Biden gracefully took her place as FLOTUS. She even held the generations-old family Bible with which Joe was sworn in, per CNN.

As noted on the White House website, Biden threw herself into her first lady duties, even as she continued teaching. In 2021 alone, she traveled to more than half of the states in the U.S. and maintained a public presence as she helped guide the country through the COVID-19 pandemic, encouraging people to get vaccinated. "During the campaign, I felt so much anxiety from people; they were scared," she told Vogue. "When I travel around the country now, I feel as though people can breathe again. I think that's part of the reason Joe was elected." She continued, saying, "He's just a calmer president. He lowers the temperature."