Jill Michelle Duggar was born on May 17, 1991 to Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. She is the fourth out of their nineteen biological children, and their second oldest daughter. She was purposely given a name that starts with the letter J because her older siblings’ names all began with the same letter, and Michelle didn’t want the new baby to someday feel left out. At the time of Jill’s birth, her family was living in a house at her parents’ car lot. Michelle describes Jill as an “easy” baby, which to her was a sign that God was rewarding the Duggars’ decision to not use birth control.
Jill herself uses the word “reserved” to describe her personality as a child. She enjoyed make-believe play, and often pretended to be either a mom or a nurse. She began taking piano lessons when she was five years old, adding the violin several years later at eleven, and eventually the harp.
When Jill’s oldest sibling was about eight- making her about five- her parents began to implement an early version of the “buddy system,” and although it isn’t clear who the older buddies were at this time, the first member of Jill’s eventual “buddy team” was her sister Joy-Anna, who was born when Jill was six years old. The exact nature of Jill’s responsibilities at this time are unknown, although she has stated in the past that she used to change Joy’s diapers.
When Jill was a child, she wanted a pink blanket that looked like the one Jana owned. The Duggars couldn’t afford to buy Jill another blanket when she already had one, so upon her mother’s suggestion, Jill decided to pray. Soon after, her father found a quilted pink blanket in a wrecked and abandoned car that he was about to send to the crusher, which became a symbol for Jill’s answered prayer.
When Jill was seven years old, her father decided to run for the Arkansas House of Representatives. During his campaign, she would frequently accompany her family as they went door-to-door talking to voters. After Jim Bob won the election, the Duggar family temporarily relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas, and Jill often went with her father to work. This inspired Jill to later become active in politics as a teen, including campaigning for Rick Santorum in his 2012 bid for President of the United States.
At age 12, Jill decided to become a Christian because she wanted to make sure that she would go to heaven after she died, and shortly after she was baptized by her father. Some of the reading material available at the Duggar family home included biographies of well-known Christian missionaries, which Jill greatly enjoyed.
In 2005, Jill attended the birth of her younger sister, Johannah Faith, and in 2008, she attended the birth of her sister Jordyn-Grace Makiya. She credits these two experiences for initially sparking her interest in midwifery. When Jill was 16 (sometime between May 2007 and May 2008), she attended twelve weeks of childbirth classes as the support person for a friend of hers who, at just 14 years old, was about to become a single mother.
As early as 2008, Jill begin participating in short-term mission trips with family and friends through SOS ministries. Several of these trips were documented on the show 19 Kids and Counting, and Jill’s experiences inspired her to start learning Spanish.
At the end of 2009 and through part of 2010, Jill spent a lot of time at a hospital after her youngest sister, Josie was born prematurely, and watching the nurses in action provided further inspiration. Jill, along with three of her sisters, completed neonatal resuscitation training around this time. In 2010, Jill and Jana also became certified first responders and joined the local volunteer fire department, following in their brother John-David‘s footsteps. In May 2011, Jill traveled to Joplin, Missouri along with Joshua, John-David, and Jana to assist in relief efforts after an F5 tornado destroyed much of the city.
In September 2011, Jill announced that she would be pursing a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, however, she ended up choosing quite a different path. Around Christmas 2011, Jill met Derick Dillard for the first time when he came to her house with a church group of carolers- but just like the first time her mother met her father, Jill doesn’t really remember her first encounter with her future husband. Not long after their meeting, however, Derick asked Jim Bob to be his prayer partner as he embarked on a two-year mission trip to Nepal.
In the book Growing Up Duggar, which was published on March 4, 2014, Jill writes that “several years ago” she did some baby-sitting for a doula. Although she states that she wasn’t initially interested in entering the field herself, Jill began attending births with her doula friend, and eventually became her assistant. This experience put her into contact with a licensed midwife who moved to the area “last year” in relationship to when Jill was working on the book. She offered Jill an apprenticeship, and after Jill prayed and discussed it with her parents, by June 2012, Jill was listed as a lay midwife apprentice for Venessa Giron.
After assisting in a number of births, Jill decided to get officially certified. She enrolled as a distance learning student at a midwifery school in Texas, and although the program requirements included occasional on-site training and testing, Jill received most of her hands-on experience throughout her apprenticeship with Venessa.
Meanwhile, Jill’s father had been playing matchmaker between his prayer partner, Derick Dillard, and his daughter. He had been impressed by Derick’s “godly” character, and started to talk to each one about the other. After listening in on a few phone conversations without Derick’s knowledge, Jill had her first real conversation with Derick in March 2013.
They didn’t speak again until August, but at the end of the summer, Jim Bob provided Derick with Jill’s phone number, which allowed them to talk about their values and life goals- under supervision, of course. Over the next few months, Jill and Derick bonded over their similar beliefs and shared interest in international missions, and although at that point their budding relationship was completely long-distance, the miles between them didn’t stop Jill from falling in love.
In November 2013, Jill- accompanied by her father, Jim Bob- traveled to Nepal to meet Derick in person, which is shown in the 19 Kids and Counting episodes “Going the Distance for Love” and “The Big Question.” Jill spent two weeks in Nepal, and while she was there, Derick asked Jill to enter into a courtship.
Jill and Derick’s relationship was long-distance until Derick returned from his mission trip in January 2014. The next month, Derick asked Jim Bob for Jill’s hand in marriage, and he proposed in March 2014 using a song that he had asked someone to write just for the occasion. At the time, followers were hopeful that Derick might be slightly less extreme in his religious beliefs, especially because he attended college at a secular university.
Jill and Derick were married on June 21, 2014 in front of over a thousand people, with the TLC cameras rolling. By that time, Jill states that she had finished her clinical hours and had turned her focus towards studying for the certification exam. Jill and Derick agreed to a covenant marriage, which is an option in Arkansas and two other states that makes it harder for couples to divorce.
That August, Jill announced her first pregnancy, and from the start she planned to give birth at home. She went 11 days overdue, and when her water finally broke, she spent 48 hours in labor before noticing that her baby was in fetal distress and heading to the hospital. After declining Pitocin to speed things up, Jill labored for about 12 more hours before Israel David Dillard was born via c-section, about ten minutes before midnight on April 6, 2015.
In May 2015, Jill’s older brother, Joshua, became the center of a public scandal when a police report that had been obtained through the Freedom of Information Act was published by InTouch Weekly magazine, revealing that when he was a teenager, he had been accused of molesting five underage girls, four of whom were his sisters (his sisters later filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit over the release of the reports).
The next month, Jill and her sister Jessa identified themselves as two of Joshua’s victims when they participated in a television interview with former Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly. Both sisters defended their older brother, stating that they forgiven him long ago and that the release of the police report was “1,000 times worse” than Josh’s actions. However, the girls’ responses gave some viewers the impression that they were not speaking for themselves.
That same month, Jill’s husband left his job as an accountant for Walmart, which according to the Dillards was a decision made earlier that year. This became publicly known in early June, when an online gossip magazine sent an e-mail to Derick’s Walmart account and received an automated reply which stated that he was no longer with the company. On June 17, Derick and Jill registered a non-profit organization called Dillard Family Ministries, and a few weeks later, the Dillards announced that they would be embarking on a long-term mission trip the next month.
By July 5, they had traveled to an undisclosed location in Central America, news which they shared in a since-deleted blog post that also asked for donations to help fund their “family ministry.” The Dillards cited security concerns as the reason they did not share their exact location; however, it was later revealed that the Dillards had been participating in a short-term mission trip sponsored by SOS ministries.
Despite giving followers the impression that they would be overseas for an extended period of time, once the trip ended, the Dillards returned to the United States for a month-long respite from the mission field, including a trip to New York in mid-August to participate in the taping of a TLC documentary about sexual abuse, as well as a jaunt down to Tennessee to attend the wedding of family friend Michael(a/la) Bates on August 15. The next day, the Dillards returned to Central America, accompanied by Jill’s younger sister Joy-Anna and family friend Carlin Bates, who stayed for about two weeks.
On August 31, Jill published a blog post explaining that the trip to New York had been planned in advance, which also happened to coincide with the Bates wedding, and the very same day, the Dillards headed back to the United States for yet another wedding. By then, about half of their time as missionaries so far had been spent traveling, and they were widely criticized for spending money so extravagantly- which also prompted many people who donated to Dillard Family Ministries to question how the funds were being used.
At the beginning of September 2015, Derick claimed that the Dillards had been “commissioned” by their home church, implying the official support of a regulatory organization; however, without a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, neither he nor Jill had the necessary qualifications to be an appointed missionary (although on September 16, Jill became officially certified as a CPM, which Derick claimed would benefit their ministry). By the end of September, many angry donors were asking for their money back, and in spite of this, the Dillards attended a church fellowship event in their honor on October 3, where they continued to ask for financial support.
By the middle of the month, the Dillards’ website had been altered to allow previous donors to request refunds, possibly in light of a new source of income: at the end of September, TLC had announced the production of 2-3 television specials that would feature Jill and her sister Jessa, and promotion of the series began a few weeks later. Although TLC assured viewers that Josh Duggar would not appear in any future programming, many critics were unhappy that the Duggars were returning to television in any capacity.
Meanwhile, the Dillards returned to Central America on October 19, this time letting the public know that they were headed to El Salvador. Their departure was shown in the Jill & Jessa: Counting On episode “Baby Shower & A New Home,” and after the conclusion of the original three-part special, the show continued to focus heavily on the Dillards’ life in El Salvador throughout its first full season.
Upon their return to Central America, Jill and Derick spent several weeks studying Spanish in Guatemala, and in January 2016, it was announced that they would once again be working with SOS ministries. While they were overseas, the Dillards were criticized for spending most of their time and donors’ money proselytizing to Catholics, especially in light of the ongoing Zika virus outbreak, which prompted a CDC recommendation that women in the area take measures to avoid becoming pregnant- something that Jill had no intention of doing.
Over the year, the Dillards frequently emphasized the dangers of their life overseas. Historically, Jill had been vocal about her passion for international missions, but her emotional reaction to a crash that occurred when a shower curtain rod fell in her El Salvador residence made many followers wonder if she was struggling with depression. In August 2016, amid rumors that Derick was struggling with his health, the Dillards returned to the United States, with plans to take Bible classes and do ministry work until returning to Central America the upcoming fall. Followers noted that Jill appeared noticeably more relaxed while she was home, although Derick’s sickly appearance continued to elicit concern.
By December 2016, the Dillards were still in the United States, but an announcement made just before the end of the year revealed a possible reason for the delay- Jill was pregnant with their second child. They didn’t end up leaving again until February 2017, although the couple stated ahead of time their plans to come back to the U.S. for the birth. By the end of the month, the Dillards were being criticized once again for soliciting donations, especially in light of their continued participation in the show Counting On (shortened from its original name the previous summer).
In the middle of May, Jill wrote a post on the Dillards’ website telling readers that a friend of theirs had been murdered in an El Salvadorian slum, and by the 21st, the Dillard family had returned to the United States, just ahead of Joy Anna Duggar’s wedding and the upcoming birth of the Dillards’ second son. In June, Jill and Derick took an anniversary/babymoon getaway to a bed-and-breakfast in Pennsylvania.
On July 8, 2017, Jill gave birth to Samuel Scott Dillard, and the announcement posted on the Dillard Family website- along with a photograph of Derick and his newborn son- immediately prompted many followers to begin asking questions. The information that Jill labored for forty hours and ended up delivering via another c-section, paired with the monitoring equipment visible in the photograph, prompted wild speculation about the details of Samuel’s birth, especially in the weeks following as the Dillards continued to be unusually silent on social media, at least regarding that particular topic.
At the beginning of August, a surprising distraction shifted focus away the mysterious birth, but not in a positive way for the Dillard family. On August 2, Derick lashed out at teenage reality star Jazz Jennings (whose show is also on TLC, and follows her life as a transgender individual) in a series of transphobic tweets, which sparked immediate outrage across social media. Amidst the harsh criticism, on August 10, the Dillards announced the discontinuation of Dillard Family Ministries, along with the news that they would not be returning to Central America.
Although the wording of the announcement gave the impression that the decision had been theirs, a report two days later suggested that Jill and Derick had actually been fired for coming up short as missionaries in numerous ways. But the Dillards rebounded quickly, and by August 16, they appeared to have shifted their focus to the college ministry at Cross Church- turning to their fans once again to ask for financial support, a need that was perhaps related to their notable absence from the latest promotions for the upcoming season of TLC’s Counting On. Not surprisingly, the request was not well received, and by September, the online fundraiser had been shuttered.
Up until this point, the Dillards had resided in housing provided by Jill’s father in between their stints as missionaries in Central America, but by the beginning of September 2017, they had moved, which sparked rumors of a rift between the Dillards and the Duggar patriarch. Even if the reality wasn’t quite so dramatic, it was clear that the Dillards were beginning to move in a new direction. Despite his fundraiser woes, Derick managed to enroll in the Cross Church School of Ministry for a year-long program, and Jill by default was coming along for the ride. It quickly became clear that their new ministry was slightly more liberal than the home church Jill had attended as a Duggar, and some followers wondered if Jill would benefit from being exposed to a more mainstream brand of Christianity.
On November 9, Derick posted another series of vitriolic tweets aimed at Jazz Jennings, and this time the public outcry drew a response from TLC. Although the statement was worded in a way that did not make it clear how the decision was made, they announced that Derick had not participated in the show Counting On for several months.
Quickly, the online chatter turned to the question of whether or not Jill would still appear on the series, and her surprising behavior over the next few weeks suggested that she was moving on from the Duggar brand. Just days after the news of her husband’s departure from Counting On was announced, she was photographed wearing pants, which was a big deal in light of the strict modesty rules she had followed up until then. Later that month, she also added a nose piercing to her look. In December 2017, Derick confirmed that Jill would no longer be participating in Counting On, which elicited some concerns from followers who understood that Jill herself likely didn’t have the final say in the matter.
Since leaving TLC, Jill has maintained a social media presence, although she often receives less positive feedback than she appears to be seeking due to the somewhat awkward nature of her posts, which often include over-the-top praise for Derick. Many have speculated that she is attempting to deflect from the antics of her increasingly unpopular husband, whose Twitter activity came to a head at the beginning of March, after a particularly offensive Tweet that took aim at survivors of the February 2017 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The flood of responses to Derick’s post unleashed yet another storm of tweets from the raging ex-reality personality, which is described in excellent detail here and here, but in summary insinuated that neither he nor Jill had ever been paid by TLC (and also revealed that their son Samuel had spent two weeks in the NICU). Derick’s claims have raised many questions about the level of control Jim Bob has retained over the money from TLC; however, despite reports of a feud between the Duggars and the Dillards, a recent video of the Dillard family at the home of Jill’s parents suggests otherwise.
As 2018 ticks on and Jill adjusts to a life that is perhaps turning out to be different than she had imagined, she has spent her time tagging along on her husband’s school mission trips, attempting to revamp the Dillard family website, and continuing to attend home births with her former mentor, who lost her license several years ago. It is unclear what Jill’s plans are after Derick completes his ministry program later this year, although based on her latest social media activity, it’s relatively safe to say that they won’t involve a radical shift in her beliefs anytime soon.
If there is any information that I haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or via e-mail, and I will update this biography accordingly. I try my best to be factual, but feel free to give me a heads up if you find a mistake and I will make the correction as soon as possible!
- A recent photo of Jill (Duggar) Dillard
- The four oldest Duggar children
- Young Jill Duggar holds a baby
- Jill Duggar in Central America for a short-term mission trip
- Jill Duggar holding two newborn babies
- Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard in Nepal
- Derick Dillard proposing to Jill Duggar
- The wedding of Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard
- Derick, Jill, and Israel Dillard
- Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald on The Kelly File
- The Dillard family in Central America
- Jill & Derick Dillard traveling with Joy-Anna Duggar and Carlin Bates
- A promotional image for Jill & Jessa: Counting On
- Israel, Jill and Derick Dillard (as Pistol Pete) with Cathy Dillard
- Jill Dillard at a Cross Church college ministry event
- Jill Dillard wearing pants
- Jill Dillard excited to drink chocolate milk
- Jill Dillard attends a home birth with Venessa Giron