Anne Holton, Our Potential Next 'Second Lady,' Gives Us a Peek Inside Her World

Tim Kaine and Anne Holton hugging

Anne Holton may be bona fide political royalty, but just minutes into a conversation with her, you will feel like you're talking to your new best friend at book club. Of course, she's that fascinating woman who's had all sorts of cool experiences (like, say, living in Virginia's governor's mansion twice, serving as Virginia's Secretary of Education, and graduating from both Princeton and Harvard). But she's also that down-to-earth, relatable mom who proudly talks about her three "beautiful, strong-willed, independent" adult children with her husband of almost 32 years. Oh, and that husband? He's Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's vice presidential running mate and a man who is Anne's partner and equal -- and who, if you noticed, does not share her last name.


"Nobody was suggesting that Tim change his name, and Tim was certainly not suggesting that I change [mine]," Anne tells CafeMom of a decision that she says wasn't at all controversial at the time. "I love my name. I'm very proud of my Holton heritage and I'm happy to keep it. I tell you, the only person who was the least bit disturbed about it was my mother, who had already started hand-monogramming towels with ... what she thought my new initials would be. I still have those AHK towels up in the attic."

Anne, though, adds, "I do understand that love works lots of different ways for lots of different people. For us, that was the right way to start."

And that start has led her and Tim to where she is today -- on the campaign trail helping another feminist become president of the United States. Anne says she's been asked by Secretary Clinton to "listen to teachers and parents and educators ... and bring back good ideas." After hearing about Anne's resume of working with children, families, and educators as a legal aid lawyer, family court judge, and education secretary, one can see why she's been assigned this important task. And, for us, after hearing personal stories about her life, we simply want to give her an honorary seat at our own book clubs. Here's what Anne tells CafeMom:

1. She doesn't know if she will be the "Second Lady."

Well, she doesn't know if she will necessarily be called the "Second Lady" if Bill Clinton is given a different title while assuming his "First Lady" role. Of course, she really hasn't given much thought to the title at all. "You all have to figure out what to call me," she says. "You can call me Anne." So, that's what we are doing here. 

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2. She was born into a political family.

"My dad was a Republican governor," says Anne of her father, A. Linwood Holton, who was elected to govern the state of Virginia, where she was born, from 1970 to 1974. "But he was a Republican governor at the time when, at least here in Virginia, the Republicans were the progressives, particularly on race relations. Dad would describe himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate ... it really was more the party of Lincoln than the Republican party of today."

Here is Anne with two of her three siblings some years before they moved to the governor's mansion, which is formally known as Virginia's Executive Mansion.

Anne Holton family

And here she is getting to meet the former president Dwight Eisenhower, who helped campaign for her dad the first time he ran for office in 1965. Anne says they loved meeting him so much, she and her siblings convinced their parents (her mom was pregnant at the time) to name their youngest brother Dwight. 

Anne Holton, Dwight Eisenhower

Politics then certainly weren't the politics of today. "The Republican party I was growing up in was a different one," says Anne, who experienced her own political evolution, citing the 1972 presidential election as an eye-opening moment for her. As part of an experiential high school class, Anne was the only one of her classmates who chose to work in both the campaign offices of then-president Richard Nixon and Democratic candidate George McGovern. "The McGovern headquarters was small. They took the students in and they had us running things right off the bat," she says. "In the Nixon headquarters, they put the two students they had up in the front window and gave us absolutely nothing to do except to be obvious -- look, we have young people. That helped my evolution."

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3. She was sent to a formerly all-African-American school.

"It was a big deal at the time because prior governors had led the massive resistance efforts," says Anne of leaders who tried to withstand the desegregation of Virginia's schools. Her dad, though, wanted to make "Virginia a model of race relations" -- and that started with his family. "On the one hand, it was exciting to be part of something bigger than oneself and that kind of really left its mark on me and my siblings," Anne explains. "It really got me almost to take to public service as a 12-year-old. And, on the other hand, I just went to school. You know, worry about math homework and make friends and hate volleyball in PE class. But I did get to meet people at that school that were from very different backgrounds from anybody who I had met before ... It was a very life-forming experience, and I would say it helped me get the message of inclusion, of stronger together."

Here she is in 1970 with her mom, Virginia "Jinx" Holton, and her brother Woody on the first day at what was then Mosby Middle School (now Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School). Years later, Anne and Tim sent their three children to these same Richmond city public schools.

Anne Holton, first day of school

Anne's parents continued to be on the right side of history when Tim and Anne, during his time as governor, were fighting against an anti-gay marriage amendment in Virginia. "My parents -- God bless them, they're [then] in their 80s -- came up and joined Tim and me on the steps of the governor's mansion to do a press conference denouncing this amendment, which unfortunately then passed," she says. "It was on the other side of the changes that we've gone through as a culture over the last 10 years, but I was so proud of my parents, who, for them, that was a real evolution to stand with Tim and me ... You know, Virginia's got this slogan that Mom and Dad promoted -- Virginia is for lovers .... We declared on the steps of the mansion that Virginia is for all lovers and that was a very memorable moment that would not have happened in the early 1970s."

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4. Anne and Tim have been a team since law school.

"Before I met him, I knew that there was this cute guy who had taken off a year from law school to go spend a year in Honduras working with Jesuit missionaries," says Anne of her first year at Harvard Law School. When he returned, Anne recruited him to work at the prison legal assistance project. (She was working there at the time, and he had worked there during his first year.) Well, the rest became history.

Fast-forward to their life as parents, and she credits their success as both a couple and individually to their team work (and putting down roots in a community with a vast support system, like a babysitting co-op they were once a part of): "We've alternated back and forth different times in our careers playing different roles with the kids and with each other, and it's been a pleasure and an honor to get to do it together."

It also helps that they agree on the important things. "I can't think of any issue in the women's equality world where we have any disagreement at all," she says. "It's almost hard to conceive of any other way of looking at it for either of us that women are entitled to and should have full opportunities to contribute as men. We're both strong supporters of the notion that women should be in charge of their own reproductive rights. I can't think of any distance between us on those issues." Right on, Anne.

Here are Tim and Anne in their law school days -- just one year before they wed.

Tim Kaine, Anne Holton, Harvard

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5. There are hardly any photos of the Holton-Kaine nuptials.

"We had a fairly simple wedding," says Anne of the 1984 affair held in the basement of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Richmond, where their three children were later baptized. "It was fun and had a lot of people, but we were trying not to be too fancy." Still, being fairly simple did not mean that it was free of mishaps -- some she didn't find out about until after the reception, like the 20-inch flood that submerged the basement a week before or when a friend had to ("in the nick of time") bail out a guy with the band who failed to pay child support. 

But others -- like ending up with very few photos (like the one below) to commemorate the day -- were more apparent. "We did not have a formal wedding photographer ... we didn't want to have the photographer dominating the scene, so we had my brother who was a pretty good photographer taking pictures," says Anne. But, "his camera jammed, so most of the wedding pictures are my aunt Bunny in a ghostly way sort of looming over the vows." Anne, though, insists that "none of it interfered with us ... making a lot of great memories and somehow getting this 32-years-so-far marriage thing off the ground."

Time Kaine, Anne Holton wedding

So Anne's advice to prospective newlyweds who are stressing out about wedding planning: "All the things they think ... are important, aren't really that important." 

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6. Anne "almost flunked getting married" to Tim.

Well, kind of. "He'd play a snippet of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. I mean, the Beatles I knew, but ... he would then go back and quiz me on which were which, and I couldn't tell Bob Dylan from the Rolling Stones," says Anne -- who, as a violinist herself, loves listening, but doesn't have her husband's "photographic memory" of music, a subject he often talks about with his kids.

What does keep them together? "We really both love the outdoors. We do a lot of camping. We do both really love mountain music and that's the music you do clog to," says Anne who, as a sidenote, is a clog dancer. "We both have a sense of humor and we both love our public service opportunities so we are a political family. He grew up in a family where they were more likely to talk sports over the dinner table, and we were more likely to be having some vigorous argument about Nicaragua or something over our table .... [But now] we have plenty of vigorous conversations with each other and our kids and our whole extended family about all kinds of public policy issues. We live and breathe a lot of that."

Here they are paddling in the James River in 2010.

Tim Kaine, Anne Holton, Paddling

7. Her greatest accomplishments involve children -- both others and her own.

"The work I did with foster care, helping more young people have permanent families really did change the trajectory of how we ... take care of our (especially our older) kids in foster care in Virginia," she says of one of her two greatest professional accomplishments. "That was an issue I got involved in as a juvenile court judge and met these really remarkable young people dealing with circumstances we wouldn't wish on any of our worst enemies, and yet resilient and strong -- sometimes a little too strong for the adults dealing with them -- and just really came to have a deep love and commitment for those young people."

As First Lady of Virginia, she continued to champion young people's needs, as she "cut in half the number of our teenagers that were served in large institutional settings or group homes," which had become permanent substitutes for family. "I firmly believe that every, every child, of every age needs real, permanent family," she says.

She is also proud of the work she did as Virginia's Secretary of Education -- a post she left in July when Tim formally joined Hillary's team. "Virginia had flung too far in the 'too much testing' approach in public education and we began to swing the pendulum back and find a little more balance on those issues," she says.

Anne Holton reading to Class

She is also immensely proud of her own children -- a son who is a marine and is getting married this summer, and both a son and a daughter who are artists. "Somehow we've managed to pull it off well enough that our kids, having grown up in this political world literally all their lives, have turned out all right. We're proud of their independence, proud of where they ended up," she says. "I learn things from them, little things and big things, and it's really a remarkable thing."

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8. She was terrified to be a stay-at-home mom.

"When I was a legal aid lawyer, I thought I would just never do anything else. I loved that work, but my third child announced herself just about the time Tim was getting real engaged in local politics," she says. "I made this decision to go be a stay-at-home mom, and I was slightly terrified. I got to be a stay-at-home mom, and [then] I got ready to go back to work and I was slightly terrified because I was loving being a stay-at-home mom." 

In the end, she loved both worlds -- but wouldn't have been able to cross that divide and end up having it all throughout her life without help. "We had times when Tim spent more time with the kids when I was a juvenile court judge and my schedule was inflexible during the day," she says of Tim's picking the kids up from school and spending early afternoon dismissals with them. "I loved that because it meant that he was making time in his world and setting a good example for folks .... It was a good thing for our family and a good thing for him ... I almost take [having a good partner] for granted  .... Even if you're raising children as a single mom, having good partners, having extended family, having friends, you just can't do it alone."

9. She's actually been in the same book club for 22 years.

Anne describes this as "a strong group of women" that crosses the divide of "stay-at-home moms and working moms and folks who've been in and out of both." It's also just another example of the importance of community, as well as learning (even her then-teenage kids began choosing books to gift her for birthdays and Christmas), in her life.

"I love to read historical fiction. I love to read things that give me a perspective, places and people around the world. I love children's books. We read a lot together as children," she says of a tradition she most recently shared with her youngest, Annella, who's now a 21-year-old theater student. "I have memories of having one foot rocking her basket on the floor while the two boys were sitting beside me reading their books, so she was hearing us read together from zero going forward. And then she -- it was her gift to me when she got to be in her high school years -- would choose a book for us to continue to read together and so, literally through high school, we would snuggle up in bed together and read."

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10. She's now all in #WithHer.

Anne and Tim were very early supporters of then-senator Barack Obama's presidential efforts and had the remarkable experience of endorsing his historic run, she says, on the "steps of the [governor's] mansion with the capital of Confederacy looming over" them. But this time they are clearly all in for Hillary. "I am just thrilled about having a woman in the White House," says Anne of a possible Hillary win, "and I think it's going to help in every way and, especially such a woman who is such a strong advocate for women and children and has been her entire career."

"I live in a community of upper-middle class folks, and we're all blessed to have lots of, lots of resources, but what I don't know is how working moms who don't have sick leave, who don't have extended family support close by and don't have financial resources, I don't know how they get by when kids are sick," says Anne, who applauds Hillary for proposing family medical leave policies that would "help us catch up with the rest of the industrialized world on sick leave, family medical leave" and make a huge difference for working women. 

She adds that "high-quality early childhood education would help all families in so many ways and, again, this is something that in our country, folks who can afford it, get it, and folks who most need it are often those who can't afford it ... we're behind the rest of the world, and Hillary's got great policies for how to help expand those opportunities."

Our country is also behind the rest of the world in offering an "archetype of strong women leaders," says Anne. "Substantively what she will do will make a world of difference, but I think symbolically it matters, too."

Well, if Hillary is elected on November 8, we will be getting more than one strong, intelligent woman (and mom) in the White House to make those substantive -- and symbolic -- differences.


Images via London Ent/Splash News; courtesy of Anne Holton

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