Speaking in Iowa Wednesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that all her grandparents had immigrated to the United States, a story that conflicts with public census and other records related to her maternal and paternal grandparents.
The story of her grandmother specifically immigrating is one Clinton has told before. Clinton’s sole foreign-born grandparent, Hugh Rodham Sr., immigrated as a child.
“Her grandparents always spoke about the immigrant experience and, as a result she has always thought of them as immigrants,” a Clinton spokesman told BuzzFeed News. “As has been correctly pointed out, while her grandfather was an immigrant, it appears that Hillary’s grandmother was born shortly after her parents and siblings arrived in the U.S. in the early 1880s.”
“All my grandparents, you know, came over here and you know my grandfather went to work in lace mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and worked there until he retired at 65. He started there when he was a teenager and just kept going,” Clinton said.
We are turning down people who really want to work. I mean they are here to work. And a lot of them now have children who are American citizens, and they are doing the best they can to try to make a good life for themselves and their families. And you know, I think if we were to just go around this room, there are a lot of immigrant stories. All my grandparents, you know, came over here and you know my grandfather went to work in lace mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and worked there until he retired at 65. He started there when he was a teenager and just kept going. So I sit here and I think well you’re talking about the second, third generation. That’s me, that’s you. And we are saying to all these other people who want the same dreams and the same aspirations and the willingness to work hard just like our families did that no, we’re not going to make it easy for you, we’re not going to make it legal for you. And I just think that’s such a short-term, unfortunate outcome for us and well as for them.
Clinton has told the story of grandmother immigrating as a young girl before. Most recently in a speech last year:
My grandmother on my father’s side, Hanna Jones Rodham — by the way, insisted on using all three names despite what people in Scranton, Pennsylvania, might have thought at the time ― was one of those tough Methodist women who was never afraid to get her hands dirty. She traced her Methodism back to the Wesley brothers themselves, who converted her great grandparents in the small coal mining villages of Southern Wales. She immigrated with her family as a young girl to Scranton and went to work — very young ― in a silk mill, and then she met and married my grandfather, who had also come to this country as a young man from the coal-mining area in Newcastle, in England. He’d been laboring in the nearby lace factory since he was 13. They worked hard, they kept the faith, they lifted themselves up into the middle class, they brought property; and my grandmother Hanna managed the tenants and collected the rent. I have vivid memories of her final years when she was going blind, still braiding my hair in the morning, still reciting old hymns and giving me the direction for what I was to do that day. The world had changed so much during her lifetime, but it’s also changed during ours.
An article in the Irish-America by an ancestry researcher sent to BuzzFeed News by the Clinton campaign also noted Hannah Jones was born in Scranton.
All of the Clinton’s grandparents were born in the United States, “with the exception of Hugh,” Megan Smolenyak, the article’s researcher said. Smolenyak noted seven of Clinton’s eight great-grandparents were immigrants
Donnie Radcliffe, the Washington Post reporter who chronicled first ladies and wrote a biography of Hillary Clinton, tells a similar ancestry, tracing only Hugh Rodham Sr. as foreign-born.
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