Born in Switzerland, Kunin escaped from Nazi Europe to America with her family in 1940. She earned degrees in journalism and English, worked as a journalist and professor, and married and raised four children.
In 1972, she won election as State Representative from a newly apportioned district in Burlington. In her second term, she served as Minority Whip for the then-Democratic minority, and in her third term became the first woman to chair the influential House Appropriations Committee.
In 1979, she won election as Vermont’s second female Lieutenant Governor, serving two terms. After an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1982, she ran again in 1984.
Sixty-four years after women in Vermont received the vote, Madeleine Kunin was elected the first female governor in the state’s history.