Compiled by the U.S.News & World Report library staff
1. Elizabeth Anania was born July 3, 1949, at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida. Her father, Vincent, was a Navy pilot, and the family moved frequently. By the time Elizabeth was 18, the Ananias had lived in 12 cities, including several in Japan. She now says that these experiences taught her how to connect with people quickly.
2. Elizabeth loves reading and literature. (She has said that her favorite author is Henry James.) In 1971, she graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a bachelor's degree in English, intending to become a professor. She spent three years working toward a graduate degree in American literature before deciding that job opportunities were better in the legal field.
3. Elizabeth enrolled in UNC's law school, where she was one of only 20 women in a class of 200. She was a standout student—her classmates remember a sharp, intelligent young woman who was not afraid to challenge her professors. One of her fellow students in the class of 1977 was her future husband.
4. Elizabeth met John Edwards in law school, and for their first date, he took her dancing at a local Holiday Inn. She was not very impressed with him until the end of the evening, when he said goodnight by giving her a kiss on the forehead. The gesture charmed her. They dated throughout law school and were married in 1977, on the Saturday after they took the North Carolina bar exam. Her wedding ring cost $11; his $22. The Edwardses then spent their first year of marriage living apart, clerking for judges in separate cities.
5. As her husband became a successful trial lawyer, Elizabeth embarked upon a legal career of her own. She worked in the state attorney general's office, as a bankruptcy attorney, and as an instructor of legal writing at UNC's law school.
6. At the same time, she was known in the Chapel Hill community as a very involved parent to her two children, Wade and Cate. Once, Wade and eight friends decided to dress as a golf course for Halloween. Elizabeth grew grass on nine sweatshirts, but when one of the shirts wilted, she covered it with sand and deemed the boy a sand trap.
7. In 1996, 16-year-old Wade was killed when the Jeep he was driving flipped over in the wind. Elizabeth has said that she gained strength during this time from online communities of people who had suffered similar losses. In Wade's memory, the family founded a computer learning lab in his high school.
8. After Wade's death, the Edwardses decided to have more children. Elizabeth gave birth to daughter Emma Claire at age 48 and son Jack at 50. Oldest daughter Cate is now 25, a graduate of Princeton, and a student at Harvard Law School.
9. The day after John Edwards's unsuccessful run for the vice presidency, Elizabeth was diagnosed with breast cancer. The disease responded to treatment but returned in March 2007 in incurable form. She has continued to play an active role in her husband's campaign, saying that "my job is to stay alive until the medicine and research catch up." She has also lamented that people sometimes treat her like "Saint" Elizabeth, saying, "I have to start cussing or something... people are just too darned nice to me since I've been sick."
10. Elizabeth wrote a bestselling memoir in 2006, Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength From Friends and Strangers. She also refers to herself as "the anti-Barbie": a down-to-earth mother who enjoys shopping at Target and surfing the Internet. Famously, she and her husband celebrate their anniversary each year with a meal at Wendy's.
Christian Science Monitor
Cox News Service
John Edwards '08
Manchester Union Leader
New York Times
Raleigh News and Observer
Wall Street Journal