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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 July, 2004, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Profile: Elizabeth Edwards
John and Elizabeth Kerry with daughter Emma Claire, 6, and son Jack, 4
John and Elizabeth had two more children after their son was killed
Vice-presidential candidate John Edwards has been dismissed by some critics as little more than a pretty boy, but his wife Elizabeth describes herself as "the anti-Barbie".

She is an on-again, off-again dieter, admits to dyeing her hair - and is known for her formidable intellect.

Like her husband, Mrs Edwards is a former lawyer whose life was dramatically altered in 1996 when their 16-year-old son Wade was killed in a car crash.

Mr Edwards went into politics.

Mrs Edwards left her successful career as a bankruptcy lawyer and began volunteering in the computer lab at Wade's school.

She has described her oldest child's death as "an AD/BC moment" - one that separated her family's life into before and after.

Academic aspirations

The daughter of a Navy pilot, Mrs Edwards studied the Romantic poets at university and originally planned to be an English professor.

But she switched to law and became so impressive a courtroom thinker that one opponent described her intellect as a weapon of mass destruction.

He is exactly the same person as when we met - to my chagrin, he also looks the same
Elizabeth Edwards
on her husband
Political scientist Larry Sabato was struck by her handling of a question on the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision in favour a gay marriage, USA Today reported.

Mr Sabato - who had half-expected her to dodge the question - said she gave a "mini-lecture on the legal principles involved" just a day after it was handed down, having read the decision the night before on the internet.

But Elizabeth Edwards' supporters also emphasise factors she has in common with ordinary working mothers - coaching soccer, volunteering for Parent-Teacher Associations, shopping on the internet.

John Kerry's wife Teresa has spoken of her "Mother Earth" quality.

Mrs Edwards has joked about the boyish appearance of her husband, who is four years her junior.

"He is exactly the same person as when we met," she says.

"To my chagrin, he also looks the same."

Family

After the death of their son, the Edwards decided to have more children, and Elizabeth began hormone therapy.

A daughter, Emma Claire, is now six, and a son, Jack, is four. They also have an older daughter, Cate, who is 22.

John Kerry may have had his eye on southern and rust-belt votes when he picked working-class southerner Mr Edwards as his running mate.

But on the campaign trail, Mrs Edwards has been fighting for another vital constituency - Florida, where she was born and where her parents and sister now live.

"Don't you embarrass me before my family," she told voters in the state. "We gotta win Florida."




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