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Elizabeth Edwards Remembered as Mother, Public Advocate

Elizabeth Edwards died on Dec. 7, 2010, after a six-year struggle with cancer. She was 61.
Center for American Progress
Elizabeth Edwards
Center for American Progress

Friends, colleagues and admirers of Elizabeth Edwards expressed their grief yesterday after it was announced Edwards died at the age of 61 after battling with cancer.

Edwards, the estranged wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, is remembered as a loving mother, a smart lawyer and a fierce public advocate on issues such as health care.

The Raleigh News and Observer notes that Edwards spent much of her life as a little-known lawyer and mother in Raleigh, North Carolina, but her husband's ascending political career put her in the spotlight.

"She was the self-proclaimed 'anti-Barbie' who was comfortable sitting in on campaign strategy meetings, chatting with Oprah on TV, or even going head-to-head with conservative columnist Ann Coulter," according to the News and Observer.

President Obama released a statement yesterday calling Edwards "a tenacious advocate for fixing our health care system and fighting poverty, and our country has benefited from the voice she gave to the cause of building a society that lifts up all those left behind."

Mr. Obama acknowledged that Edwards "knew tragedy and pain." Edwards suffered through the death of her 16-year-old son Wade in 1996, her battle with cancer and her husband's infidelity.

"Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of such adversity would have given up," Mr. Obama said. "But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will long remain a source of inspiration. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends."

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Former President Bill Clinton said that with Edwards' death, "America has lost a symbol of strength, hope, and humanity, a tireless advocate for health care for all Americans, and determined crusader for cancer cures. Her children have lost a loving mother, her friends a wise counselor."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also praised Edwards for serving as a "passionate advocate for building a more humane and just society, for reforming our health care system, and for finding a cure for cancer once and for all." She called Edwards a "loving mother, constant guardian, and wise counselor" who became an "instant friend" to those who met her. "She made her mark on America, and she will not be forgotten."

Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement that Edwards was "an inspiration to all who knew her, and to those who felt they knew her."

Sen. John Kerry in a statement reflected on getting to know Edwards personally on the 2004 presidential campaign trail. "Elizabeth Edwards was an incredibly loving, giving, and devoted mother," he said. "America came to know her in a different and even more personal way, as she fought back [against cancer] with enormous grace and dignity. She became an inspiration to so many."

On the CBS "The Early Show" today, Jennifer Palmieri, a family friend and national press secretary for John Edwards' 2004 presidential campaign, said that Edwards wanted to leave behind the message that "living a life that was filled with hope and really believing in resilience gave meaning to her life."

Ellis Roberts, a childhood friend of Edwards' son Wade said on ABC's "Good Morning America" this morning that Edwards was like a "second mother" to Wade's friends. "As time grew on, I realized it wasn't just me or those guys," she said. "She became that figure for so many people across the country."

Edwards' fans poured messages of condolences to her family on Edwards' Facebook page.

John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, wrote Edwards' personal appeal made her a great advocate for public issues. Edwards served as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress after the 2008 primaries.

"If you've had the good fortune to read her writing or see her speak or hear her infectious laugh, you would know that Elizabeth had a special knack for making complicated topics less so, for being clear on her views without fuss," Podesta said. "Her legacy is the passion, resolve, and optimism that she brought to her work, and it will give us the sense of renewed purpose to keep fighting for fairness."



Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.