Where Is Jane Sanders From? Bernie's Wife Is Familiar With Her Husband's Neck Of The Woods

The unexpected success of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign caught just about everybody off-guard, including Sanders himself. And it’s now within the realm of possibility that he could win the Democratic nomination. If that happens, and Sanders goes on to win the general election, he’ll have a valuable partner by his side in the White House: his wife Jane, who’s been with him since the beginning of his political career. She's an accomplished educator, political activist, and campaign worker. But where is Jane Sanders from?

As it turns out, she's from the same place as her husband. Jane O’Meara, the youngest of five children and the only girl among her siblings, grew up within 15 blocks of Bernie Sanders in Brooklyn, New York. She was raised Catholic, and went to high school there before enrolling in the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where she studied sociology and child development before dropping out.

While it would take some time for Jane to start working in politics in an official capacity, her ideology became apparent much earlier. She was actively involved in Vietnam War protests, and when she and her first husband moved to Virginia in the early 1970s, she couldn’t stand “the sexist way of life in that part of the South,” and so they moved to Vermont.

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Jane says that she “fell in love with [Vermont] as soon as I stepped off the plane.” She continued her higher education at Goddard College, receiving a degree in social work, and later worked as a community organizer and youth counselor.

The story of how Jane and Bernie met suggests that the two are a very good match for one another — at least politically. As Jane tells it, she was attending a town hall meeting in Burlington in 1980, when Bernie was running for mayor. The incumbent mayor was present, and when Jane started asking him questions, the other attendees told her, “You sound like Bernie Sanders.” She didn’t know who that was, but once she found out, she helped arrange a debate between him and the incumbent. Sanders won that election — his first after many unsuccessful runs — and Jane met him at the victory party. That was “the beginning of forever,” she says.

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After Bernie was elected to the House of Representatives in 1990, Jane played an active role helping him craft policy, eventually serving as his chief of staff. When she left his congressional office in 1996 to lead Goddard College, Bernie called her “a soulmate, a sounding board,” and said that “there will be a hole when she leaves.”

There’s often a perception that political spouses are simply along for the ride, but Jane Sanders appears to be a counterexample to this. She’s just as politically engaged as Sanders, and it’s heartening to know that ever since the 1980s, they’ve been fellow travelers and compatriots in the progressive cause.