Elizabeth Edwards life and biography

Elizabeth Edwards picture, image, poster

Elizabeth Edwards biography

Date of birth : 1949-07-03
Date of death : 2010-12-07
Birthplace : Jacksonville, Florida
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-12-08
Credited as : Attorney, best-selling author, wife of Senator John Kerry

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Elizabeth Edwards, born Mary Elizabeth Anania was an attorney and a best-selling author. She was best known as the wife of John Edwards, the former U.S. Senator from North Carolina who was the 2004 United States Democratic vice-presidential nominee. She was also a public speaker and activist.

Edwards lived the first 50 years of her life in relative obscurity as a lawyer and homemaker. Following her husband's rise as senator and subsequent ill-fated vice presidential and presidential campaigns, her public profile increased significantly. She was her husband's chief policy advisor during his presidential bid, and was instrumental in pushing him towards more liberal stances on subjects such as universal health care. She was also an advocate of gay marriage and was against the war in Iraq, both topics which she and her spouse publicly disagreed over.

Early years

Elizabeth Anania, the daughter of Elizabeth and Vincent (1920–2008) Anania, grew up in a military family, moving many times and never having a hometown, as her father, a United States Navy pilot, was transfered from military base to military base during her childhood and adolescence. For part of her childhood, she lived in Japan, where her father was stationed. She relates in her book Resilience that one of the hardest of the many relocations that she went through was having to move during her senior year of high school. She graduated from the Francis C. Hammond High School in Alexandria, Virginia, then attended Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), where she received her Bachelor's degree. After three years of postgraduate studies in English, she entered UNC's School of Law and earned a Juris Doctor. She met John Edwards when they were both law students. They married on July 30, 1977.

Elizabeth was the mother of four children with her husband John: Wade (1979–96), Cate (b. 1982), Emma Claire (b. 1998), and Jack (b. 2000). Wade was killed in April 1996 when he lost control of his Jeep while driving from their home in Raleigh to the family's beach house near Wilmington. Three weeks before his death, Wade Edwards was honored by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the White House as one of ten finalists in an essay contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Voice of America. Wade, accompanied by his parents and his sister, met North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms. After Wade died, Helms entered his essay and his obituary into the Congressional Record.

Following Wade's death, Elizabeth and John decided to have more children, and she underwent fertility treatments. Emma Claire was born when Elizabeth was 48, and Jack was born when she was 50. She was pregnant with Emma Claire during her husband's 1998 Senate race. After John's January 21, 2010 public admission that he fathered a child with another woman, Elizabeth legally separated from him, intending to file for divorce after North Carolina's mandatory one-year separation.


Elizabeth began her career as a law clerk for a federal judge, then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1978 to become an associate at the law firm of Harwell Barr Martin & Sloan. In 1981, she and her husband moved their family to Raleigh, where she worked in the Office of the Attorney General, and at the law firm Merriman, Nicholls, and Crampton. She used her maiden name professionally until 1996, when she retired from legal practice upon the death of her son and changed her name to Elizabeth Edwards. Much of her time since leaving legal practice was devoted to the administration of the Wade Edwards Foundation. She taught legal writing as an adjunct instructor at the University of North Carolina School of Law and worked as a substitute teacher in the Wake County Public Schools. In August 2009, she opened a furniture store in Chapel Hill.

In September 2006, Edwards released a book, Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers, focusing on the death of her son and her illness. In May 2009, Edwards released a second book, Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities, further detailing her illness, the deaths of her father and son, the effect of these events on her marriage, her husband's infidelity, and the general state of health care in America.

Political activity

During much of 2004, Edwards joined her husband and United States Democratic Presidential nominee Senator John Kerry on the nationwide campaign trail. She took a similar role in her husband's 2008 presidential bid and was considered one of his closest advisers.

Edwards disagreed with her husband on the topic of same-sex marriage. She became a vocal advocate in 2007 when she stated: "I don't know why someone else’s marriage has anything to do with me. I'm completely comfortable with gay marriage."

On June 10, 2008, it was revealed that Edwards would be advising her husband's former rival, and eventual Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, on healthcare issues. Her husband also endorsed Obama during the later stages of the 2008 primary season.

Edwards became a senior fellow at the American Progress Action Fund and testified to Congress about health care reform on their behalf.

In the final decade of her life, Elizabeth Edwards publicly dealt with both her husband's extramarital affair and her own battles with breast cancer. She wrote several books and made numerous media appearances speaking about both topics. She separated from John Edwards in early 2010. On December 6, 2010, her family announced that her cancer had spread and her doctors had recommended that further treatment would be unproductive. She died the following day.

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