Joe Biden, the former vice president and Democratic candidate for president in 2020, frequently cites his parents, particularly his mother, as profound influences on his life. Catherine Eugenia Finnegan, later Catherine E. F. Biden (her family called her Jean) was born in 1917; her family hailed from Pennsylvania. She married Joe Biden Sr. in 1941, and Joe Jr. was born in 1942. The family fell on hard times when Joe was younger and the family eventually settled in Delaware, where they continue to reside today. Both his mother and his father played key roles in both his personal and political life, but for different reasons. Jean shows up as an inspirational, supportive figure in Joe's life, and he can be heard quoting her words and actions throughout his political speeches. Jean passed away in 2010—but she's still present in Joe's mind and in his political views.
Jean Biden had important words of advice for Joe.
Jean apparently played a "formidable" role in his upbringing, according to a New Yorker article: "In grammar school, he recalls, a nun mocked him for stuttering, and his mother, a devout Catholic, told her, 'If you ever speak to my son like that again, I’ll come back and rip that bonnet off your head.'" She supported Joey as he worked to overcome a childhood stutter, saying it was “because I was so bright, I couldn’t get the thoughts out quickly enough.”
She had words of advice when Biden's first wife and infant daughter were tragically killed in a car accident. "She told me, 'Joey, God sends no cross you cannot bear.'" When Joe later had political successes, "she was quick to remind me it was because of others." But she also encouraged people (including her son) to let out their emotions. And she had words of inspiration too. She helped Joe campaign for the Senate in 1972, and for the president in 2008. She also joined him on the campaign trail when he was selected as VP.
A post shared by Joe Biden (@joebiden)
A photo posted by on
Jean's family also played a role in Joe's decision not to drink; alcoholism apparently plagued that side of the family. Asked why he was sober, Joe explained, "There are enough alcoholics in my family."
Joe's mother came to live with him after her husband died.
Joe's father Joe Sr. died in 2002, and Jean came to her son with an idea. "She said, 'Joey, if you build me a house, I’ll move in here.' I said, 'Honey, I don’t have the money to build you a house.' She said, 'I know you don’t.' She said, 'But I talked to your brothers and sister. Sell my house and build me an apartment.'" The result was a small cottage on the Biden property from a renovated garage, where Jean lived.
When Joe accepted the VP nomination in 2008 as the Democratic National Convention, he mentioned Jean (who was in the audience), saying, "My mother’s creed is the American creed: No one is better than you. You are everyone’s equal, and everyone is equal to you."
Jean Biden passed away in 2010.
When Jean passed away, she was surrounded by loved ones including her great-grandchildren. "At 92, she was the center of our family and taught all of her children that family is to be treasured, loyalty is paramount and faith will guide you through the tough times. She believed in us, and because of that, we believed in ourselves," the Bidens said in a statement. "Her strength, which was immeasurable, will live on in all of us."
Joe wished Catherine a Happy Mother's Day in May 2020 with a montage of photos:
To the extraordinary mothers everywhere, like Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, my wishes for a safe and happy Mother’s Day. pic.twitter.com/3PmotUx6EUMay 10, 2020
And it's clear that he continues to think often about her, 10 years later.
Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.
I Scoured Through Hundreds of Runway Shows—These Are the Color Trends of Summer 2023
From the neutrals of quiet luxury to highly-saturated statements.
By Emma Childs
Unearthed Prince Harry Interview from 2017 Reveals He Already Wanted Out of the Royal Family—But Stayed for One Reason
He and wife Meghan Markle eventually left their roles as senior royals in 2020.
By Rachel Burchfield
Matty Healy Addressed His Podcast Controversy: "It Doesn't Actually Matter"
By Iris Goldsztajn
What's the Holdup in Biden's Push for Paid Leave?
The president is proposing $325 billion to fund paid family leave—the strongest budget proposal in history—and pushing for free universal pre-K nationwide. But he faces opposition.
By Dawn Huckelbridge
36 Ways Women Still Aren't Equal to Men
It's just one of the many ways women still aren't equal to men.
By Brooke Knappenberger
The 2022 Midterm Elections: What to Know Ahead of Election Day
Consider this your guide to key races, important dates, and more.
By Rachel Epstein
What You Need to Know About Paid Leave Before the Midterms
Earlier this year, a rare opportunity to finally fill the holes in our care infrastructure wasn't taken. But the leader of the new Paid Leave PAC is here to tell you it’s not over.
By Tanya Benedicto Klich
How New York's First Female Governor Plans to Fight for Women If Reelected
Kathy Hochul twice came to power because men resigned amid sexual harassment scandals. Here, how she's leading differently.
By Emily Tisch Sussman
Why the 2022 Midterm Elections Are So Critical
As we blaze through a highly charged midterm election season, Swing Left Executive Director Yasmin Radjy highlights rising stars who are fighting for women’s rights.
By Tanya Benedicto Klich
Tammy Duckworth: 'I’m Mad as Hell' About the Lack of Federal Action on Gun Safety
The Illinois Senator won't let the memory of the Highland Park shooting just fade away.
By Sen. Tammy Duckworth
Breaking Down President Biden’s New Executive Order on Abortion Rights
“We feel really strongly, particularly given the tremendous amount of legal chaos that has ensued since this decision, that it’s incumbent on us to be careful.”
By Lorena O'Neil