Jill Biden Talks First Marriage, Finding Love Again and Independence: 'I Am a Woman Who Loves to Work'

The first lady opened up about her relationship to Harper's Bazaar

Jill Biden Talks to Harper's Bazaar 2022
Jill Biden Talks to Harper's Bazaar 2022. Photo: Cass Bird/Harper's Bazaar

Dr. Jill Biden is honored to be first lady of the United States — but she still recognizes the importance of work.

"I understand a woman's need to have something for herself," Dr. Biden, 70, tells Harper's Bazaar for the magazine's latest cover story.

Much of her focus on independence, she tells Bazaar, stems from her first divorce.

In 1970, the now first lady married former college football player Bill Stevenson, taking the name Jill Stevenson. While the two met in college (both attended the University of Delaware), Bill eventually dropped out, and the marriage dissolved.

Jill Biden Talks to Harper's Bazaar 2022
Jill Biden Talks to Harper's Bazaar 2022. Cass Bird/Harper's Bazaar

By her mid-20s, Biden tells Bazaar, she was divorced and on her own.

"I believed so much in the institution of marriage," she says. "When the marriage fell apart, I fell hard because of that. And for him to turn out to be who he was …"

But there were other issues at hand, aside from just questioning the relationship. Namely: how she would survive financially. Turning down her parents' offer to move back home, she rented a one-bedroom townhouse in Pennsylvania, commuting to school in Delaware to finish her coursework.

Jill Biden Talks to Harper's Bazaar 2022
Cass Bird/Harper's Bazaar

Speaking to Bazaar, Dr. Biden says the experience taught her to focus on herself, and not rely on anyone else to get by.

"I knew I would never, ever put myself in that position again — where I didn't feel like I had the finances to be on my own, that I had to get the money through a divorce settlement," she says. "I drummed that into [my daughter], Ashley: Be independent, be independent. And my granddaughters—you have to be able to stand on your own two feet."

And stand on her own two feet she has — even after her husband, President Joe Biden, took office in January 2021.

A longtime educator, Dr. Biden has continued to teach while living at the White House. In addition to her duties as first lady, she works as a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College — making her the only first lady in memory to maintain a paying job outside the White House.

"I am a woman who loves to work," she tells Bazaar.

Jill Biden Talks to Harper's Bazaar 2022
Cass Bird/Harper's Bazaar

The role of first lady, of course, still remains a focus — as does being a sounding board (and, sometimes, a devil's advocate) for her husband, with whom she says she does occasionally spat. In fact, she and the president have even coined a term for their fighting-by-text: "fexting."

She offers up one example of her husband's response to a "fext" she recently sent in a moment of irritation: "Joe said, 'You realize that's going to go down in history. There will be a record of that,'" adding: "I won't tell you what I called him that time."

Elsewhere in the story — written as part of the publication's first cover featuring a first lady in its 155-year history — Dr. Biden opens up about finding personal time where she can, telling Bazaar she takes barre classes, grades exams before bed and has dinner with her husband whenever time allows.

She also finds quiet and alone time in the first few moments of the day, waking up at sunrise to look out to the White House grounds.

"The first thing I do is open the blinds and look out."

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