Also known as: Jennifer Granholm, Jennifer M. Granholm
Birth: February 5, 1959 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Occupation: lawyer, politician
Source: Biography Resource Center Online. Gale Group, 2002.
In 1998 Jennifer Granholm became the first woman ever to be elected as attorney general of the State of Michigan. Four years later, she placed her hat in the political ring again, hoping to be elected as the first woman governor of that state. The ambition became reality in November 2002, when Michigan voters picked her over Republican opponent, Michigan Lieutenant Governor Dick Posthumus. She won reelection in 2006.
Born on February 5, 1959, the daughter of Civtor Ivar, a banking consultant, and Shirley Alfreda (Dowden), a homemaker, Granholm is Canadian by birth. She immigrated with her family to the United States from her hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia, as a child of three in 1962. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area along with her brother, who is now a member of the Mennonite clergy.
After graduating from San Carlos High School in 1977, Granholm moved to Los Angeles with the intention of becoming an actress. With her photogenic features and blonde hair, she seemed a natural. However, even Hollywood could not distract her from a natural affinity for politics. While working for the 1978 presidential campaign of independent candidate John Anderson, she applied for U.S. citizenship, not wishing to miss out on the chance of voting in future elections.
Eventually Granholm enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley. By funding her own education with jobs and student loans, she became the first member of her family to graduate from college. Her request for citizenship was approved while she was at Berkeley, and she took the oath at age 21. Also during that time, she spent a year in Europe, largely in France. Her time abroad also included two side trips to the former Soviet Union, in support of that country's displaced Jewish population, called refuseniks.
She graduated from the University of California with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1984, then enrolled in Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Once again unable to distance herself from politics, Granholm served as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Civil Rights/ Civil Liberties Law Review. She focused her efforts on boycotts of companies doing business with South Africa during apartheid.
After earning a J.D. degree from Harvard in 1987, she moved to Michigan where she began her career as a judicial law clerk for Judge Damon Keith of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Detroit. She was admitted to the Michigan Bar, the U.S. District Court (eastern district) of Michigan, and the U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit that year. She spent the next two years as an executive assistant for Wayne County, contributing her time in 1988 as a field coordinator for the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign.
Granholm joined the Department of Justice as a U.S. prosecutor in Detroit in 1990, achieving a 98 percent conviction rate. She then served as corporation counsel for Wayne County in 1994, overseeing a staff of 75 and a budget of $9.5 million. With practical experience in municipal, real estate, and criminal law, she became the general counsel for the Detroit and Wayne County Stadium Authority in 1996. She first joined a ticket in 1998, with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Geoffrey Fieger. At the time, she was practically a political unknown. Ironically Fieger lost the election, but Granholm--running for attorney general of Michigan--won the election, thus becoming a lone Democrat in a largely Republican administration.
Upon being elected she retained her residence in Northville in southeastern Michigan, opting to alternate her commute between the attorney general's offices in Lansing and Detroit. Availing herself of a job perk in the form of a state limousine, she put her commute time to practical use, working by car phone and laptop computer while riding to work.
By the time Granholm entered the Michigan governor's race in 2001, she had established a bond of trust with her constituency. Even more, she was committed to bridging the chasms of partisan politics in the interest of progress. She announced her candidacy for governor early in March 2001. In her candidacy, she was anti-big tobacco and pro-environment, and she spoke out as an advocate for seniors and touted better health care. Additionally she took aim at the oppressive policies of large corporations and at computer crimes, especially identity theft and child pornography.
Tireless in her campaigning, she has been known to traverse the entire state of Michigan in a single day, seemingly making stops on the fly. Those who know her describe Granholm as decisive and quick, and relentless yet humane. "I have rarely seen people running for office who are as good at working through a crowd and making a real contact with people," said former Michigan Representative Maxine Berman in the Battle Creek Enquirer. "I've never seen anything like her," said prosecutor Michael Duggan, quoted by the Detroit Free Press.
The first year of her administration was marked with an international crisis, when in the summer of 2003 she and other state heads were faced with a massive power blackout that crossed international borders. On August 13 she addressed Michigan residents about the blackout, sharing the status of power restoration efforts and suggesting safety precautions to the citizens. Three weeks later, on September 3, she testified before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce about the impact of the blackout on her state.
In other matters, on September 16, 2003 she joined with local Republican lawmakers in supporting a plan to open 150 new charter schools in the state. On the following day, in an effort to spur the economy, she created by executive order a new Department of Labor and Economic Growth. On June 5, 2004 she began making plans to lead a foreign trade mission, in an effort to spur the Michigan economy in overseas outlets. She scored a victory on September 22, 2004, when her proposed tax plan passed the Michigan House by 55-52 votes, having already passed in the state senate.
Community service is an important facet of Granholm's life. Her membership in Leadership Detroit dates back to 1990. In 1995 she served as the vice president of the board of directors of the YWCA in Inkster, Michigan. She went as a delegate to the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and she chaired the 1997 selection committee for U.S. Senator, which met in Detroit. In addition to her membership in the Detroit Bar Association and the Women's Law Association, she is a member of the Society of Irish Lawyers. Granholm holds a Phi Beta Kappa key and is a respected contributor to professional journals. A Roman Catholic, she is active in her church and serves as a lector at her parish.
She is married to Daniel Mulhern, a professional fund raiser and author. The couple met at the Boston airport when they were fellow law students at Harvard returning from a spring break. Within weeks they were engaged. They were married on May 23, 1986. As both are inspired by Irish culture, they honeymooned in Ireland. Their children, Kathryn, Cecelia, and Jack, were born in the 1990s. In a unique display of gender equality, Granholm and Mulhern each uses the other's surname as a middle name.
November 7, 2006: Granholm was re-elected Michigan governor, defeating Republican Dick DeVos in the general election. Source: CNN.com, November 12, 2006.
May 20, 2008: It was announced that Granholm's office will study a petition by Detroit's City Council to remove Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Source: Associated Press, May 21, 2008.
July 2008: Granholm signed a measure to withdraw Michigan funds and investments from companies that do business with Sudan and other nations accused of terrorism. Source: Associated Press, July 18, 2008.
August 6, 2008: Granholm signed legislation designed to give technology company Hemlock Semiconductor tax breaks as an incentive to expand further in Michigan. Source: Associated Press, August 6, 2008.
September 5, 2008: Granholm said she would not commute the four-month prison sentence of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Source: Detroit Free Press, September 6, 2008.
Special Achievement Award, U.S. Department of Justice; Newsmaker of the Year, Crain's Detroit Business, 2002.
"Jennifer Mulhern Granholm." Biography Resource Center Online. Gale Group, 2002.
Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009.