Elizabeth Dole Biography

(Former United States senator)

Birthday: July 29, 1936 (Leo)

Born In: Salisbury, North Carolina, United States

American attorney, politician, and author Elizabeth Dole initially served as a Democratic Party member but switched to the Republican Party after her marriage to Republican senator Bob Dole in 1975. The Harvard Law School graduate was the 8th US Secretary of Transportation, under Ronald Reagan, thus becoming the first woman to hold the post. She also served as the 20th US Secretary of Labor, under George H. W. Bush. From 2003 to 2009, she served as the US Senator for North Carolina, again becoming the first female politician to hold the post. She also headed the American Red Cross and has been the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She has also established The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, a charitable initiative to help military caregivers of the US. In 2000, she attempted for the Republican Party presidential nomination. She has also won multiple awards and accolades for her efforts to reform areas such as labor, transportation, and blood safety.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Mary Elizabeth Alexander Hanford

Age: 87 Years, 87 Year Old Females


Spouse/Ex-: Bob Dole (m. 1975–2021)

father: John Van Hanford

mother: Mary Ella Cathey

Born Country: United States

Political Leaders American Women

U.S. State: North Carolina

More Facts

education: Harvard University, Duke University,

Childhood, Early Life & Education

Elizabeth Dole was born Mary Elizabeth Alexander Hanford, on July 29, 1936, in Salisbury, North Carolina, US. She was the only daughter of affluent floral industry merchants John Van Hanford and Mary Cathey Hanford.

Academically gifted, she served as the class president in her first year in high school. In 1958, she graduated with distinction in political science from Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, where she was a Phi Beta Kappa member.

In 1960, she obtained an MA degree in education/teaching and government from Harvard. In 1965, she received her law degree from Harvard Law School.

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Career at the White House

After completing her education, Elizabeth Dole moved to Washington, D.C., where she joined national politics. Initially a Democrat, she was the Deputy to the Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs under the Nixon administration, from 1969 to 1973. From 1973 to 1979, she served on the Federal Trade Commission. In 1975, she became a Republican, following her marriage to Republican senator Bob Dole.

From 1981 to 1983, she served as the public liaison assistant to President Ronald Reagan. From 1983 to 1987, she worked as part of President Reagan's cabinet as his Secretary of Transportation. Dole scripted history as the first US female politician to hold that position.

As the Secretary of Transportation, she brought in a new rule that made it mandatory for new vehicles to include a third brake light. She also launched safety belt and air bag regulations for cars.

She raised the drinking age from 18 to 21 and held back 10% of federal highway funds from states that did not comply. She also brought in stricter aviation security measures at airports.

From 1989 to 1990, Dole was part of President George H. W. Bush's cabinet as his secretary of labor. In that capacity, Dole launched the “Glass Ceiling Study” to identify obstacles for women and minorities in senior positions.

A majority of her senior staff at Labor were either women or minorities. Dole also encouraged people to support disadvantaged, unskilled, and at-risk youth and to help them find jobs.

In 1991, she took over as the president of the American Red Cross, again scripting history as the second woman, since Red Cross founder Clara Barton, to hold the position. She oversaw the work of almost 30,000 staff and over a million volunteers of the Red Cross.

She modified the disaster relief program of the Red Cross and turned a $30 million deficit to an available fund of $100 million. She also invested millions of dollars into a program to reorganize the blood collection and distribution system. In 1999, she quit the Red Cross to run for the Republican presidential nomination.

2000 US Presidential Candidacy and Career at the US Senate

After quitting the Red Cross, Dole sought the Republican presidential nomination for 2000. She thus also became the first viable female candidate representing a major political party.

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Dole’s attempt to gain the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2000 showcased the obstacles women face in securing the highest positions in US politics. For instance, she got less media coverage than her male counterparts.

Additionally, her physical features and other personal factors were highlighted in the media. Lack of funds and failure to counter Texas governor George W. Bush’s powerful campaign caused her to quit the presidential nomination race in October 1999.

In 2002, she won 54% of the total votes and was elected to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina. With this, she became the state’s first female politician to serve in that post.

From 2005 to 2007, she served the National Republican Senatorial Committee as its chair. In 2009, she quit the Senate, following an unsuccessful bid for re-election.

Life beyond Politics: Charity and Books

In 2012, Dole founded Caring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, a philanthropic initiative with the sole purpose of assisting military caregivers or caregivers of “wounded warriors.” The organization was to benefit around 5.5 million parents, spouses, and other loved ones of the US’s military heroes. It was aimed at attaining critical resources for such caregivers.

Dole never drew any salary from the Red Cross during her first year as the organization’s president. She was also made an Honorary Board Member of Wings of Hope, a humanitarian initiative. She has also penned books such as The Doles: Unlimited Partners and Hearts Touched by Fire: My 500 Most Inspirational Quotations.

Awards & Achievements

Dole’s relentless work for safeguarding public safety won her the National Commission Against Drunk Driving’s Humanitarian Award and the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

She was shortlisted for induction into the Safety and Health Hall of Fame International for her work on transportation, labor, and blood safety. In 2012, the National Safety Council awarded her their Flame of Life Award.

Dole has also received honorary doctoral degrees and has been named the Churchwoman of the Year. She received the Raoul Wallenberg Award for Humanitarian Service.

Her other recognitions include the Distinguished Service Medal from the American Legion, the Military Officers Association of America’s National Service Award, and the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal from the Department of the Army.

She has also received the AARP Andrus Award and the Public Counsel’s William O. Douglas Award. The Former Members of Congress Association has presented her their Civic Statesmanship Award. She has also been named to the Indiana Wesleyan University’s Society of World Changers.

Personal Life

On December 6, 1975, Elizabeth Dole got married to Republican leader and Senator Bob Dole of Kansas. Following this, she became a Republican.

She was Bob Dole’s second wife. The couple had no children, though she was stepmother to her husband’s daughter from his previous marriage.

During Bob Dole’s vice-presidential bid in 1976, she took a leave of absence from the Federal Trade Commission. In fact, her resignation from her position in the Federal Trade Commission in 1979 was also due to her husband’s presidential campaign of 1980.

At the 1996 Republican National Convention, she delivered a speech on behalf of Bob Dole’s presidential bid. It is believed that her dedication to the cause and her own charisma in the media helped her bag her own presidential run in 2000.

See the events in life of Elizabeth Dole in Chronological Order

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