WOMEN
07/03/2013 10:11 am ET

When Hillary Was Already Hillary

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In politics as in show business, certain public figures attract meanings beyond reason. Often, at the generating core of that vague penumbra of guesswork and exaggeration, lurks a blunt, explicit question, like: “What is a modern woman?” The cloud emanated by such a crude, hidden core is tangential to the person's actual character and work. Something like that pervades what may be a culminating stage—running for president, or not—for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I use the full three names advisedly. I first noticed her when she was Hillary Rodham, well before she met Bill Clinton. It was 1969, at Wellesley College, where Hillary was a senior and I was a freshman professor teaching poetry classes. The famous commencement address she gave that year was the beginning of her story as a national figure—but even before then, she was already the object of speculation and the bright light to which theories flew.

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