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Madeleine M. Kunin

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Title: Madeleine M. Kunin  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Richard A. Snelling, List of Governors of Vermont, United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, United States Deputy Secretary of Education, Peter Shumlin
Collection: 1933 Births, Ambassadors of the United States to Liechtenstein, Ambassadors of the United States to Switzerland, American Jews, Columbia University Alumni, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Alumni, Democratic Party State Governors of the United States, Female Diplomats, Governors of Vermont, Jewish American Politicians, Jewish American State Governors of the United States, Lieutenant Governors of Vermont, Living People, Members of the Vermont House of Representatives, People from Burlington, Vermont, People from the Canton of Zürich, People from Zürich, Swiss Emigrants to the United States, Swiss Jews, United States Department of Education Officials, University of Massachusetts Amherst Alumni, University of Vermont Alumni, Vermont Democrats, Women State Governors of the United States, Women State Legislators in Vermont, Writers from Vermont
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Madeleine M. Kunin

Madeleine M. Kunin
Madeleine May Kunin – diplomat and politician.
77th Governor of Vermont
In office
January 10, 1985 – January 10, 1991
Lieutenant Peter Plympton Smith
Howard Dean
Preceded by Richard A. Snelling
Succeeded by Richard A. Snelling
73rd Lieutenant Governor of Vermont
In office
January 10, 1979 – January 10, 1983
Governor Richard A. Snelling
Preceded by T. Garry Buckley
Succeeded by Peter Plympton Smith
United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein
In office
August 8, 1996 – August 16, 1999
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by M. Larry Lawrence
Succeeded by J. Richard Fredericks
Personal details
Born Madeleine May
(1933-09-28) September 28, 1933
Zurich, Switzerland
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) (1) Arthur Kunin
(2) John Hennessey
Children 4
Alma mater University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Vermont, Columbia University
Profession Diplomat, Writer/Politician
Religion Jewish

Madeleine May Kunin (born September 28, 1933) is an American diplomat and politician. She was the 77th Governor of Vermont from 1985 until 1991, as a member of the Democratic Party. She also served as United States Ambassador to Switzerland from 1996 to 1999. She was Vermont's first and, to date, only female governor as well as the first Jewish governor of Vermont. She was also the first Jewish woman to be elected governor of a U.S. state. Kunin is currently a James Marsh Professor-at-Large at the University of Vermont.[1]


  • Life and career 1
    • Political career 1.1
  • Personal life 2
  • Awards and honors 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Life and career

Kunin was born in Zürich, the daughter of Renee (Bloch) and Ferdinand May. Her family was Jewish. She moved to the United States as a child.[2] She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a master's degree from the University of Vermont. Prior to seeking elective office, she worked as a journalist for The Burlington Free Press, as a tour guide at the World's Fair, and as a part-time college professor. She was also involved in community activities, particularly in the area of women's rights, children, and literature. In 2012 her book, The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family, was published by Chelsea Green Publishing.[3]

Political career

In 1972, Kunin was defeated in her bid to join the Burlington Board of Aldermen. Later that year she was elected a Vermont State Representative, where in her first term she served as a member of the Government Operations Committee. Following her reelection in 1974, she was elected Minority Whip of the State House and appointed to the Appropriations Committee. After being elected to a third term in 1976, she was appointed Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, the first woman to assume this position.

In 1978 she was elected to the first of two terms as the 73rd Lieutenant Governor of Vermont. Serving with Republican Richard Snelling, Kunin primarily served as President of the State Senate and worked with citizens around the state. She produced various studies in areas such as energy and day care and made policy recommendations to the Governor and Legislature. Kunin was a frequent speaker statewide during her time as lieutenant governor.

Kunin did not run for reelection as lieutenant governor in 1982, instead challenging Snelling for the governorship. She was unsuccessful, but in 1984 Snelling did not run for reelection, and Kunin was the successful Democratic nominee, defeating Republican John J. Easton, Jr. to win the first of her three terms as governor. She is the first woman in U.S. history to be elected governor three times. As governor she focused on the environment, education, and children's issues. She appointed the first woman to the State Supreme Court and created the family court system. She declined to seek reelection in 1990.

She was a member of the administration of President Bill Clinton, serving as deputy secretary of education of the United States from 1993 until 1997, when she became the ambassador to her native Switzerland, as well as to Liechtenstein. Prior to joining the Clinton Administration she worked in Clinton's campaign as a member of the search committee for the Vice Presidential nominee and on the transition team.

Personal life

Kunin is the author of the books "The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family" (2012), "Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead" (2008) and "Living a Political Life" (1995) which chronicles her career prior to joining the U.S. Department of Education. She is a resident of Burlington, Vermont.[4]

Kunin is the mother of four children: Julia, Peter, Adam, and Daniel. She divorced her first husband, Arthur Kunin, in 1995. She married John W. Hennessey Jr, a professor at Dartmouth College, in 2006.[5]

Governor Kunin was the sister of the late Edgar May, who was a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and a member of both the Vermont House of Representatives and Vermont State Senate.

Awards and honors

Governor Kunin has received more than twenty honorary degrees.

Kunin is a recipient of the International Center in New York's Award of Excellence.

In 1995, Kunin received the Foreign Language Advocacy Award from the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in recognition of her support for education, equal access for all children and equitable salaries for teachers.[6]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ New York Journal of Books
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "The James W. Dodge Foreign Language Advocate Award". Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Retrieved August 28, 2014. 

External links

  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution from the Jewish Women's Archive
  • New York Times "Vows" article about Kunin's marriage (2006)
  • Inventory of the Madeleine May Kunin Collection, Special Collections, University of Vermont Library
  • Further Biographical Information
  • Brief Profile of Governor Madeleine May Kunin
Political offices
Preceded by
T. Garry Buckley
Lieutenant Governor of Vermont
Succeeded by
Peter P. Smith
Preceded by
Richard Snelling
Governor of Vermont
Succeeded by
Richard Snelling
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
M. Larry Lawrence
U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland
Succeeded by
J. Richard Fredericks
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