Who is the woman that would be First Lady of the White House, should Bernie Sanders win the 2016 election?
Bernie met Jane in 1981 on the night of his first political victory as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, won by a 10-vote margin.
Yet, the two grew up 15 blocks apart in Brooklyn with Bernie the son of an immigrant Jewish family and living in an Israeli kibbutz, and Jane O’Meara, a Catholic school girl.
Jane’s father suffered from polio when she was a child, according to the Burlington Free Press:
“Her social consciousness was born watching how money—or lack of it—affected her father during a chronic illness.”
Jane was the youngest of five and the only girl.
She spoke about her mother, who worked to support their family:
“She convinced the kindergarten to take me at 3 years old. By 4, I was the teacher’s assistant. Those years instilled in us the feeling we could get through anything.”
As a young woman, she demonstrated against the Vietnam War and bore her children by natural childbirth.
She worked as a bank teller, grocery checker, community organizer, social worker for juveniles in the Burlington Police Division, and a VISTA volunteer.
Jane served on a task force for young people and families and helped start a newspaper, a teen center, an after-school program, a day care, and Kid’s Day festival.
She met Bernie at a debate she organized for him when he ran for mayor of Burlington, Vermont:
“I barely even said hello to Bernie. But when I heard him speak, well, that was it. The police department I was working with supported him after that, and he won 10 days later. We met at the victory party, and that was the beginning of forever.”
They married in 1988, marched in a parade, then honeymooned in Russia, at Burlington’s new sister city.
According to The Hill,
“He brought a son from an earlier relationship into the marriage; she brought three children from her first marriage.”
When Bernie was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990, people assumed Jane would go, too, but she waited over a year:
“Everybody just assumed that I would go also. I stepped into a completely different world in Washington, where people wear Chanel suits. I fit in better with the congressmen than their spouses.
“There are two choices: Live in your home state and have a weekend marriage or move to D.C. and possibly give up your job and uproot your children. When your spouse becomes a congressperson, you have to adjust your entire life if you want to stay married.”
Bernie says she has been a “key adviser” to him:
“Obviously Jane has played an important role in the congressional office. Yes, she is a soul mate, a sounding board.”
Jane is big on education. She dropped out of college to marry and have children, but after her family moved to Vermont, she returned for a Ph.D.
Her experience ranges from advocating for job training and nontraditional students, to serving as president of Burlington College.
She supports workers’ unions, universal healthcare, internet access, energy independence, and a strong infrastructure:
“We are one of the only industrialized nations in the world that doesn’t give some kind of strong support to higher education, that considers that as a necessity.”
“For me, the focus has to be on the individual, the worker, not on profit margins, not on stock returns, but on how do we have a wonderful community in the State of Vermont that has good jobs that keep our kids here and keeps our communities healthy.”
Jane is an intelligent, independent, strong woman, this wife of Bernie Sanders.