Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, on March 10, 1992, are all smiles at the podium as they greet supporters at a downtown Chicago hotel Tuesday night. (RALF-FINN HESTOFT/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on March 10, 1992.

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- When she was a junior high school girl in Park Ridge, Ill., Hillary Rodham wanted to be an astronaut.

“President Kennedy had just started the drive to the moon, and this was, like, in 1961, and I was, like, 14 or so,” the wife of Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton recalled last week. “So I wrote a letter to NASA and asked them what you would do to be an astronaut. I told them something about myself ... and they wrote back and said, ‘We are not accepting girls as astronauts.’ Which was very infuriating.”

Clinton (as she now calls herself, having taken her husband’s name after years of declining to do so) summoned forth this memory of thwarted right stuff when asked to list the opportunities denied her because of her sex.

After chewing on the question for another moment, she could come up with nothing else.

Corporate litigator, public policy advocate, political adviser and mom -- to say nothing of her role over the last six bumpy weeks as Bill Clinton’s most visible surrogate -- she would seem a living rebuke to the angst-ridden, yuppie notion that You Can’t Have It All.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to miss anything,” Clinton said, while barnstorming South Carolina last Tuesday in a chartered Learjet -- on a day that had her poring over arid policy documents and even practicing a few minutes of law between campaign speeches and interviews. “I just feel I’m trying to have as full a life as I can figure out how to do.”

Now, at 44, she has a fuller life than even she may have bargained for. Since mid-January, when Gennifer Flowers became a household name, she has careered from one crisis to another: from defending her marriage and standing by her man, to championing her husband’s draft record, to coping with news accounts in recent days about the Clintons’ financial entanglements with the owner of a failed Arkansas savings and loan.

Suddenly, now that her husband is poised to ride Super Tuesday victories to front-runner heaven, she has gone from being Bill Clinton’s heat shield to potentially singeing him -- as the press raises suspicions about her contacts with state banking regulators seven years ago on behalf of the S&L.

A presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has discovered, constantly pushes the edge of the envelope.

“I know you think I’m nuts, but I find this exciting,” she said of life on the hustings. Over the course of another Election Day, in which her husband racked up victory in Georgia and more delegates toward the nomination, she revealed a puckish sense of humor at odds with the cool, brittle image projected over television.

She was asked, is her name ever taken in vain?

“In the press, all the time!” she laughed. She was relaxing aloft over South Carolina, her legs on the seat opposite, having doffed her pumps to reveal a bandage on one of her too-well-traveled feet. Earlier, she had shrieked and cackled at the sight of a basketful of velvet headbands -- Hillary’s favorite hair wear -- in the powder room of a supporter’s home in Charleston. Obviously, a private joke.

But mostly Clinton demonstrated unflappable determination, come what may.

These days, her smart suits are seldom without a brooch shaped like angel’s wings -- a talisman sent by a Little Rock friend in the midst of the Flowers flap, erupting over the governor’s alleged philandering with the erstwhile lounge singer.

“Anything can go wrong at any time,” Clinton said. “You have to be alert to everything all the time, and that’s stressful for everybody.” She paused and added appraisingly: “So far, so good.”

That judgment may have been too hasty. On Sunday, the New York Times published a front-page story providing a glimpse of the Byzantine business dealings between the Clintons and their friend James McDougal, with whom they formed an ultimately money-losing corporation to buy and develop resort property. Yesterday The Washington Post reported that Hillary Clinton, a partner in the Little Rock law firm that represented McDougal’s troubled S&L, briefly served in 1985 as a go-between for the S&L, which was trying to get state approval to raise quick cash, and the Arkansas securities commissioner appointed by her husband.

The affair has put the campaign on red alert -- with aides faxing documents and preparing chronologies to counter the damaging newspaper stories -- while highlighting the perennial dilemma of an accomplished professional woman who happens to be married to a powerful elected official: Can you have it all?

“I’ve had to be very careful,” Clinton said aboard her Learjet, before the story broke. “I really work as hard as I know how to avoid conflicts. I think you first have to do it from a legal perspective, about what you should or shouldn’t do, given the potential for conflicts with respect to clients. I’ve really tried to avoid that, and the few times I’ve gotten close to that, I’ve acted immediately.” (Maybe; maybe not. Clinton did not respond to repeated requests to comment on the latest turn in her fortunes.)

Her resume rambles on for five pages, citing her partner status in Little Rock’s blue-chip Rose Law Firm, where she represents an array of businesses and individuals, and membership on five corporate boards; her chairmanship of the Washington-based Children’s Defense Fund advocacy group (a post from which she recently took a leave); her controversial role in the total revamping of the Arkansas public school system; and a host of other time-consuming activities pursued over a career spanning 20 years -- 10 of them as the governor’s wife.

“She’s very, very sensitive about it,” said senior partner Webster Hubbell, describing Clinton’s work for the firm as a mix of commercial litigation, contract disputes and trademark infringement cases. “She makes clear that she shares absolutely in no fees we might receive if we did state bond work and stuff like that. We’re careful when we bring clients in. We try to avoid any situation where they’re hiring ‘the firm of the governor’s wife.’ “ Hubbell added that while various Rose lawyers have lobbied the state government on behalf of clients, “we’re not an active lobbying firm.”

In recent weeks, Clinton has proved herself a skillful campaigner, so much so that voters often tell her they wish she were running instead of her husband. Her standard reply: “If you vote for him, you get me.” She has taken part in a mind-bending discussion with a Massachusetts tomato farmer about agricultural price supports and other arcana; enunciated the nuances of Bill Clinton’s Middle East policy at a fund-raiser in Washington; and listened sympathetically to a mother without health insurance in Spartanburg, S.C. -- and then transformed that tete-a-tete into a speech-worthy anecdote a few stops later.

“She is a star,” said New York lawyer Susan Thomases, an old friend who is volunteering as an adviser to the campaign. “She is not striving to be a star. She just believes that everything you do, you have to do at the highest possible level.”

Thomases, who was pressed into service last week to field questions about Bill and Hillary’s personal finances, went on: “When you are a professional woman trying to juggle a number of things, as I am, the ability to appear and in fact be impatient is great. But she is relaxed and warm and generous and thinking about the other person -- even when she herself is under enormous pressure.”

The Children Connection Clinton, who has a 12-year-old daughter, Chelsea, is most at home setting forth her vision for family and children’s policy -- the result of, among other experiences, her 23-year association with children’s rights advocate Marian Wright Edelman. Edelman met Hillary Rodham in 1969 during a visit to Wellesley College in Massachusetts, an all-women school where the Illinois senior was president of the college government. While getting her degree with honors at Yale Law School (class of 1973), Rodham went to work for Edelman in Cambridge, Mass., and then Washington, where she eventually joined the board of Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund.

She became a nationally known expert in the field -- “one of the more important scholar-activists of the last two decades,” according to Garry Wills in the New York Review of Books, descanting on her prodigious output of legal essays and articles -- and has testified before and lobbied Congress on legislation affecting children and families.

“People may disagree with {our} prescription,” Clinton said of the Children’s Defense Fund, “but we have never had our underlying credibility questioned in any serious way. I think that is extraordinary for a front-line advocacy group. I’m so proud of that.”

“She’s given political and strategic advice, and some management advice ... and she has helped to put children’s issues on the national agenda,” said her friend and fellow Defense Fund board member, University of Wisconsin Chancellor Donna Shalala.

Shalala, now acting chairman of the group, said Clinton has helped organize a grass-roots effort to educate “every candidate for every public office” on children’s issues, while pitching in on fund-raising, as well, on forays into the boardrooms of corporations and foundations.

“Hillary can sell anything,” Shalala said. “Including Bill Clinton.”

A Lawyer in Control Not surprising in a lawyer who is often touted for public office -- Wills found her a credible candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court or attorney general -- Clinton possesses what might be called the Judicial Temperament.

She seems always in tight control of herself, even when Flowers is flung in her face.

“Well, actually, nobody does think about that anymore, except occasionally a press person,” she told a Charleston television reporter who had the temerity to ask her about the Flowers arrangement. “What I’m asked about as I’m traveling the country is what Bill Clinton is going to do as president.”

When the reporter persisted, with another question, and then another, Clinton said slowly and evenly: “You know, I think that you are out of touch with what’s going on in this election.”

Unless one had spent the day with her, it would have been almost impossible to detect the slight deepening in her voice -- a change in timbre signaling wrath.

The state of Clinton’s marriage, which they have acknowledged was troubled in the past (in forums ranging from the Sperling Breakfast to “60 Minutes”), is largely closed to public view. On “60 Minutes” in February, the governor owned up to “wrongdoing” in the union, a tacit admission of infidelity. But that was as far as either of them would go.

Today they both talk of loving each other, and from time to time -- in candid moments when photographers are absent -- Hillary has been seen putting her arm around Bill and kneading his back. Friends say that if they ever considered divorce during their most rocky period together, they stayed a couple for Chelsea’s sake.

The First Meeting Hillary Rodham first set eyes on Bill Clinton at Yale Law School, where he had recently matriculated after his Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, and where she was an undisputed phenom, bound for a raft of academic awards.

“I was cutting through the student lounge, just a place to go to get Cokes between classes, and I heard this voice,” she recalled. “And the voice said, ‘... and not only that, we grow the biggest watermelons in the world!’ And I said to the friend I was with, ‘Who is that?’ And she said, ‘That’s Bill Clinton from Arkansas, and that’s all he ever talks about.’ “

They didn’t actually meet until later.

“I knew from the minute I saw her that if I got involved with her I would fall in love with her,” the governor recently told Newsweek magazine. “And I saw her across the hall. And I’d been trying to work up the guts to talk to her. And she threw a book down at the end of the library -- it’s a long, skinny room -- and she walked the length of that room and she said, ‘Listen, if you’re going to keep staring at me and I’m going to keep staring back, we should at least know each other’s names.’ “

“Bill always dated very smart, very serious women,” recalled Washington journalist Kathy Sylvester, who was one of them in the late ‘60s, when they both attended Georgetown University, and continued their friendship in graduate school at Yale. “I remember one fall, he called me up and said, ‘I’ve met this amazing woman. ... I can’t wait for you to meet her.’ “

When she did, a few weeks later, she immediately perceived a striking difference between Hillary and herself. Once Sylvester had agreed to accompany Clinton to three dinner parties in a single night, riding to them on the back of a motorcycle, because he hadn’t been able to say no to any of the invitations. “Hillary would not have gone to three dinners with Bill,” Sylvester said.

While Bill was busy mapping out his future of “political viability,” as he put it in his now-famous letter to the Arkansas ROTC, Hillary had already come to a strong political consciousness of her own. Hillary’s mother, Dorothy Rodham, attributes her liberal-Democrat identity, athwart the rock-ribbed Goldwater Republicanism of Hillary’s businessman-father Hugh, to her experiences at the local Methodist church, working with the underprivileged in Chicago’s inner city and caring for the children of Mexican migrant workers in rural Illinois.

“I know that was very meaningful to her. It kind of opened her eyes,” said the Rev. Don Jones, an ethics professor at New Jersey’s Drew University who was the youth minister of Hillary’s church. “I remember that when she was 16, I took the whole youth group to Chicago to hear this famous preacher one Sunday night in Orchestra Hall. Afterward, we all went up and I introduced her to Martin Luther King Jr.”

Becoming a Democrat at Wellesley, Clinton said, was her only instance of youthful rebellion -- this, during a period when her fellow children of the upper middle class were storming the barricades and breathing tear gas. When told that changing her party affiliation sounded like small potatoes, Clinton replied with a laugh: “Not in my family!”

She and Bill were married in 1975, after Hillary gave up the promise of a brilliant legal career in New York or Washington to join him in Arkansas and take a law school teaching position at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She had just spent nine exhilarating months on the staff of the House committee preparing the impeachment of Richard Nixon -- a circumstance that Hillary says may have prompted the former president’s recent public musing that her high profile in the campaign could make Bill Clinton look like “a wimp.” Following her man to the “Land of Opportunity,” as Arkansas likes to call itself, was an uncharacteristic act -- really a leap of faith, especially given all she had done to become an independent woman.

“When I got into high school,” Clinton said, “I saw a lot of my friends who had been really lively and smart and doing well in school beginning to worry that boys would think they were too smart, or beginning to cut back on how well they did or the courses they took, because that’s not where their boyfriends were. And I can recall thinking, ‘Gosh -- why are they doing that?’ It didn’t make sense to me.”

“I never saw any difference in gender, as far as capabilities or aspirations were concerned,” said the mother of Hillary and her two younger brothers. “Just because she was a girl didn’t mean she should be limited. I don’t know whether you could say that was unusual at the time {the 1950s}. I guess it was more of an accepted role to stay within your own scope.”

San Francisco lawyer Fred Altschuler, who was a staff attorney with Hillary Rodham on the House impeachment panel, recalled that Arkansas seemed “very much antithetical to where she saw herself going” as she pondered her future in the fall of 1974. “I would describe her as being a bit reluctant, and coming to terms with how she was going to live with Bill and what she was going to do afterwards. I remember her struggling with that.”

But she took the plunge, in due course embarked on a satisfying and lucrative law practice (she reportedly earns four times as much as her husband’s $35,000 salary) and threw herself into Bill Clinton’s campaigns for Congress (he lost in 1974), state attorney general (he won in 1976) and governor (the office to which he was elected, at 32, in 1978). As First Lady of Arkansas, she remained Hillary Rodham -- a circumstance that baffled many Arkansans and outraged others. After her husband lost his first reelection race in 1980 and geared up to run again in 1982, his political supporters pressured her to accept his last name.

“It was clear that there were people who were very bothered by it,” she recalled. “It became a kind of growing concern among his supporters, who came to see me in droves, or called me on the phone and related story after story, and said, ‘We really wish you would think about this.’ I joked one time that probably the only man in Arkansas who didn’t ask me to change my name was my husband -- who said, ‘This is your decision and you do exactly what you want.’ And so I did. I just decided that it was not an issue that was that big to me when it came right down to it.”

On being restored to the governor’s mansion, Bill Clinton appointed his wife the unsalaried chairman of the Arkansas Education Standards Committee. It was a difficult job, worthy of her talents, requiring her to travel the state holding hearings and formulating recommendations to improve a public school system that, by some measures, was the worst in the nation. Hillary became a lightning rod for bitter attacks from Arkansas schoolteachers after her husband proposed tax increases to implement the reforms, and insisted that the teachers submit to a competency test in order to push the package through the legislature.

“This was an enormously painful struggle,” recalled Hillary’s friend Diane Blair, who has taken a leave from teaching political science at Fayetteville to work on the presidential campaign. “A number of teachers were enraged that they were being asked to do this demeaning thing of taking a test to see if they were fit to be in the classroom. And a lot of their antagonism was vented in a very tangible way toward Hillary.

“Once sometime in 1984, I remember walking through a crowd with her at a school, and you could hear teachers hissing at her. She just shook her head and said, ‘I get this all over the state. It’s heartbreaking. It’s hard. But someday they’ll understand. I don’t know if we’ll be around for that day.’ “

Being Prepared Clinton is, by all accounts, a hands-on mother who has tried to prepare Chelsea for, among other things, the brutality of politics in America.

“When I saw we were going to have a primary campaign in 1986,” Chelsea’s mother said, “Bill and I talked to her at dinner, telling her that sometimes in political campaigns, people say mean things and untrue things about other people. And her eyes got real big and she said, ‘Like what?’ And I said, ‘Why don’t you pretend to be your daddy.’ She was 6 years old. ‘Why should you be governor?’ And she said, ‘I should be governor because I’ve done a good job.’ And I said, ‘Okay, but somebody running against your daddy will stand up and say, Bill Clinton has done a terrible job, he doesn’t care about anybody, he’s a bad person.’ Her eyes just got huge. And she said, ‘Why would they say that?’ And I said, ‘Because they want people to vote for them.’ “

Asked if her daughter was prepared for the tender mercies of presidential campaigning, Clinton said, “I don’t know if anybody can be prepared.”

Hillary, for one, appears to be -- especially since her much-remarked-upon physical transformation in recent years from a bookish-looking, bespectacled woman with frizzy brown hair to the stylish, contact-lens-wearing blonde who greets the public today. If Bill Clinton is a “gray-haired, middle-aged fat guy,” as he described himself Saturday night during a speech in Hannibal, Mo., she is a svelte vision of feminist influence -- who feeds her husband sound bites before televised debates and otherwise makes her presence felt in every aspect of the campaign.

Asked how it feels to be a political commodity, Clinton vigorously shook her head.

“I am not a commodity,” she insisted. “I’m a free agent. I’ve chosen to do what I do because I believe in it. If I didn’t believe in it, I wouldn’t do it.”

As for her dashed dream long ago of being launched into orbit, Hillary Clinton seems to have made her peace with it.

“I later realized that I couldn’t have been an astronaut anyway, because I have such terrible eyesight,” she recalled as her Learjet headed home for Little Rock. “That somewhat placated me.”