Elizabeth Dole

Elizabeth Dole

U.S. secretary of labor

Elizabeth was born in Salisbury, North Carolina, on July 29, 1936, to a wealthy wholesale florist. Unlike Bob Dole, Elizabeth (self-nicknamed "Liddy" at the age of 2) had a comfortable childhood, complete with a summer house and ballet lessons. She learned self improvement as a "measure of personal growth" and "a way to satisfy my goal-orientated parents," who encouraged her to enter essay contests or practice the piano. She also described herself as the "ringleader of neighborhood children" and a "precocious organizer."

Elizabeth was voted Most Likely to Succeed when she graduated from high school and followed in her brother's footsteps by enrolling at Duke University in the fall of 1954. Her mother, whom she calls her "best friend," encouraged her to study home economics, but Elizabeth decided on political science.

At Duke, Elizabeth became student body president and graduated with honors in 1958. Next, she did post-graduate work at Oxford in 1959, then received a master's degree in education from Harvard. After earning a masters degree, Elizabeth decided to pursue a law degree. The decision literally made her mother ill. Mrs. Hanford had her heart set on Elizabeth marrying, and building a house on the lot next to hers in Salisbury.

In 1962, Elizabeth became one of 24 women (in a class of 550) to enter Harvard Law School and in 1965 she graduated. In the fall of 1965, she moved to Washington D.C., and soon landed a job with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. This was during the heyday of LBJ's Great Society program -- Elizabeth Dole has joked that while her future husband was voting against the Great Society, she was working for it. At HEW she planned a large conference on the education of the deaf.

In 1967 she worked for a public interest law firm representing poor clients. In April 1968 she took a job in President Lyndon Johnson's White House, in the Office of Consumer Affairs. When Nixon took over the presidency, Elizabeth switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Independent and became executive director of the President's Committee for Consumer Interests. Elizabeth has written she was kept on by Nixon because it was "the heyday of consumerism" and he was "aware of the political realities."

Nixon then appointed Elizabeth to a seven-year term on the non-partisan Federal Trade Commission. In 1975, before marrying Bob Dole, Elizabeth switched her party registration one last time, becoming a Republican.

Dole met Elizabeth Hanford in the spring of 1972 when she lobbied him to add a consumer plank to the 1972 Republican platform. The meeting was arranged by Elizabeth's boss and mentor at the time, Virginia Knauer -- the woman in charge of Nixon's Consumer Affairs office. Elizabeth met Bob Dole a second time in the summer of 1972 when Nixon opened up his campaign headquarters near the White House. They met a third time at the Republican Convention, at a party thrown by insurance millionaire Clement Stone. After the convention, Bob Dole called Elizabeth three times before finally asking her to dinner at the Watergate restaurant. She says Bob was slow to ask her out due to the 13-year age difference between them. The relationship progressed and they married in December 1975, creating one of Washington's most famous "power couples." Elizabeth wrote that a friend advised her to keep her maiden name, but Bob Dole insisted on having the same name -- "I don't care if it's Bob Hanford or Elizabeth Dole, we want the same name," he said.

Elizabeth Dole, a lifelong Methodist, has always been a religious person but in 1982, after fearing her career was the center of her life, she had a spiritual awakening of sorts. Elizabeth began attending meetings once a week at Washington church where she would discuss her spiritual goals. There was no epiphany, but she began to take religion much more seriously and religion provided her with inner peace. On the campaign trail in 1996 she travels with a turquoise leather Bible, trying to set time aside to read from it every day, according to Time magazine.

Few men or women have matched Elizabeth Dole's success in Washington. She is the only woman who has served as a Cabinet Secretary for two federal departments (Transportation 1983-87, and Labor 1989-90) under two presidents (Reagan and Bush). She worked in the White House as a consumer affairs adviser by the age of 33 -- a record Bob Dole jokes he can't match.

Since 1991 Elizabeth Dole has held the high profile job of President of the American Red Cross. In 1988 a Gallup Poll listed her as one of World's 10 Most Admired Women, but it didn't help her husband's Presidential campaign that year. Interestingly, Elizabeth Dole reportedly has a warm relationship with Bob Dole's first wife, Phyllis. In 1986 Elizabeth Dole told Cosmopolitan, "Phyllis told me one time if I ever ran for office, she would be my campaign manager, that would really be interesting."

During Bob Dole's 1988 presidential campaign, as would happen to Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1992, many questioned whether Elizabeth Dole would be content with the traditional, ceremonial role of First Lady. She shied away from any suggestions she would be her husband's co-president, but few doubted Transportation Secretary Dole would indeed transform the role of First Lady. Early in the 1996 presidential campaign, there was talk of Elizabeth Dole lobbying Senator Dole on issues important to the Red Cross (funding for disaster aid, for instance) and on October 30, 1995 she took a leave of absence from the Red Cross to work on her husband's campaign. Though she has no official title, she has kept a high profile role, often filling-in for her husband where he is unable to attend. She is considered Bob Dole's most trusted adviser, and has large role in many campaign decisions. Elizabeth Dole is also a considered a very talented campaigner with a great ability to work crowds and identify with people's concerns -- not unlike Bill Clinton.

Elizabeth Dole says if Bob Dole is elected President, she will rejoin the Red Cross, making her the first First Lady to hold a job outside the White House. Elizabeth has said that as First Lady she would initiate a campaign called "Give Five" aimed at convincing people to donate 5% of the income to charitable organizations and 5% of their time to help out in the community.

The Dole campaign has asked CNN to refer to Dole's wife as Elizabeth, NOT Liddy.

Elizabeth Dole
Landon Lecture
Oct. 31, 1990