It’s a side we rarely see of former first lady, secretary of state, and possible 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Clinton is showing readers her softer side – Hillary as daughter, mother, and soon, grandmother – in “Hard Choices,” her forthcoming memoir set to hit shelves June 10 by Simon and Schuster.
On Mother’s Day Sunday, Vogue published an exclusive excerpt from Clinton’s book, in which the former secretary of state movingly describes the impact her mother, Dorothy Howell Rodham, had on her life.
“No one had a bigger influence on my life or did more to shape the person I became,” Clinton writes in the excerpt, a tribute of sorts to her mother, who died in 2011.
Clinton says the tribute was inspired by daughter Chelsea’s pregnancy: As Chelsea expects her first child and prepares to be a mother, Clinton says she found herself thinking a lot about her own mother.
In the excerpt, Clinton writes that she often confided in her mother during the trying 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and particularly after her difficult loss to then-Sen. Barack Obama.
“I'd come home from a long day at the Senate or the State Department, slide in next to her at the small table in our breakfast nook, and let everything just pour out," she writes of her mother, who lived with her in Washington through the 2000s.
She describes her mother as a strong woman whose lonely and abusive childhood molded her into a fiercely independent person who passed that trait to her daughter and granddaughter.
“Mom’s own childhood was marked by trauma and abandonment. In Chicago her parents fought frequently and divorced when she and her sister were young. Neither parent was willing to care for the kids, so they were put on a train to California to live with their paternal grandparents…The elderly couple was severe and unloving.”
When Hillary asked her mother how she survived abuse and abandonment without becoming bitter, her mother answered, “At critical points in my life somebody showed me kindness.”
Clinton says it was this optimism and determination and fierce independence that inspired her through her own struggles like the 2008 presidential primary campaign.
In one of the most moving – and humanizing – parts of the excerpt, Clinton writes that she was about to board an overseas flight in October 2011 when she received a call that her mother had been rushed to the hospital. She cancelled the trip and joined her mother at her bedside.
"Mom was a fighter her entire life, but it was finally time to let go," Clinton writes. “I sat by her bedside and held her hand one last time. No one had a bigger influence on my life or did more to shape the person I became.”
She adds, “Mom lived a long and full life. This time I wept not for what she would miss but for how much I would miss her.”
Readers looking for clues about whether Clinton plans to run for president in 2016 may find a glimpse into Clinton’s own deliberations in one particular line.
"Mom measured her own life by how much she was able to help us and serve others," Clinton writes. "I knew that if she was still with us, she would be urging us to do the same. Never rest on your laurels. Never quit. Never stop working to make the world a better place. That's our unfinished business.”
"Hard Choices" hits shelves June 10.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.