Jackie Kennedy is fondly remembered as the stylish wife of slain American President John F. Kennedy. Jackie became the first Lady of United States in 1961 after John Kennedy became the American President and she remained so for a short period till 1963 when John was murdered. Jackie was a great enthusiast of art and encouraged preservation of historic architecture. She was very famous for her gorgeous looks and her beautiful and elegant style statements. Several years after Kennedy's death, Jackie married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis who also died, after which Jackie spent the rest 20 years of her life as a successful book editor. Jackie was known for her graceful interviews and photographs given to the press. Jackie Kennedy was known for her preference towards privacy in her personal and family life. She became the youngest First Lady in American History at the age of 31 when her husband became the President.
Jackie Kennedy Childhood
Jackie Kennedy was born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier on 28 July 1929 in Southampton, New York. Her parents were Wall Street stock broker father John Vernou Bouvier III and mother Janet Norton Lee. Jacqueline was the eldest of two daughters. Caroline Lee (fondly known as Lee) was Jacqueline’s sister born in 1933. Her parents divorced in 1940 after which her mother married Standard Oil heir Hugh D. Auchincloss, Jr. in 1942. Jacqueline was of mixed origin as her mother was an Irish and her father had French and English origin.
Jacqueline spent most of her childhood in New York City and East Hampton. When in New York, she spent time at the Bouvier family estate "Lasata". After the divorce Jacqueline and Lee shared their time in their mother's homes in McLean, Virginia and Newport, Rhode Island and their father's homes in New York City and Long Island. Jacqueline was enrolled in the Chapin School in New York City. As a young girl Jacqueline had immense interest in horse riding and her passion made her become a great equestrienne which she remained interested in for the rest of her life.
Youth and Education
Jacqueline Bouvier received her secondary education at the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland from 1942 to 1944. Later she moved to Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut where she pursued her further studies from 1944 to 1947. She went to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York where she stayed for two years before moving on to University of Grenoble and the Sorbonne in a program through Smith College, spending her junior year from 1949 – 1950 in France. In 1951 Jacqueline returned to the United Sates where she graduated from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in French literature. In 1951 Jacqueline travelled with her sister to Europe for a summer trip, while she was graduating and her sister was pursuing her high school graduation. The Europe trip was a significant one as Jacqueline worked on her autobiographical book, “One Special Summer” which bears Jacqueline’s drawings in it. Soon after completing her Graduation, Bouvier took up a job as the Inquiring Photographer for The Washington Times-Herald. In her interesting job, Bouvier was allowed to randomly choose individuals on the streets and ask witty questions before taking their pictures and publishing them beside the selected quotations from their responses in the newspaper. It was during this time that Jacqueline Bouvier was engaged to a young stock broker, John Husted for three months.
Marriage with John F. Kennedy
Jacqueline attended the same social parties as John Kennedy who was the United States Representative during the 1950s. Kennedy was introduced to Jacqueline by common friends in March 1952 at a (being attended by Jacqueline and John as both had common social circles and friends) dinner party that was organized by mutual friends of Kennedy and Bouvier. Soon after this they started dating each other. In 25 June 1953 Jacqueline and Kennedy officially announced their engagement. On 12 September 1953 Jacqueline got married to Kennedy at St. Mary's Church in Newport, Rhode Island in a Mass celebrated by Boston's Archbishop Richard Cushing. It was a social marriage that was attended by 700 guests attending the wedding ceremony and 1200 attendees for the wedding reception that took place at Hammersmith Farm. The couple had their honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico, and settled in McLean, Virginia. In 1955 Jacqueline had a miscarriage and the following year she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl. In 1956 the Kennedy couple sold their estate, Hickory Hill, to Robert Kennedy and his wife Ethel, and moved to a townhouse on N Street in Georgetown. Jacqueline Kennedy gave birth to a baby girl Caroline, in 1957 and to her son John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jrcin 1960.
John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Campaign
John F. Kennedy announced his Presidential candidature and started off with his massive nationwide Presidential campaign on 3 January 1960. Jacqueline had shown her interest to participate in Kennedy’s campaigns and political roles but as the campaign started off, she learnt that she was pregnant. Due to the previous failed pregnancies doctor advised Jacqueline Kennedy to stay at home. However, she did not remain completely detached from her husband’s campaign and participated from Georgetown by answering letters, taping television commercials, giving televised and printed interviews, and writing a weekly syndicated newspaper column named “Campaign Wife”. She also appeared personally at times.
As First Lady of the United States
On 8 November 1960 the US general election pronounced John F. Kennedy as the winner where Republican Richard Nixon was defeated by a narrow margin in the U.S. presidential election. Just two weeks after winning the Presidential election a son was born to the Kennedys. On 20 January 1961 John Kennedy was sworn in as the President of the United States and Jacqueline became the youngest American First Lady in the US history at the age of 31.
Jacqueline Kennedy enjoyed the public attention and the invariable spotlight that came with her First Lady label. She was known to give great interviews and gracefully pose for photographs. However, she maintained privacy for her children and herself. She became very famous for her White House interior restoration and her great taste in clothing and fashion. Jacqueline Kennedy is remembered for her great popularity as First Lady of United States. She was popular among foreign dignitaries as well for her grace.
She engaged herself in various social events at the White House and other state properties. As First Lady, Jacqueline took great time in inviting artists, writers, scientists, poets, and musicians to mingle with politicians, diplomats, and statesmen. She is greatly remembered for her organizing skills and social popularity. So much was her popularity and entertaining nature internationally known (among great foreign dignitaries) that once Soviet Premier Khrushchev was asked to shake President Kennedy's hand for a photo and Khrushchev quickly quipped, “I'd like to shake her hand first”, referring to Jacqueline Kennedy. In 1962, she travelled to India where she received great reception.
Jacqueline Kennedy took great efforts in restoring the historical value of the White House. She found it discouraging that the White House was bereft of any significant historic value during her pre-inauguration tour of the White House. It was during her first day of residence when she proposed of making the family quarters attractive and suitable for family life. Her planning of restoration included the addition of a kitchen on the family floor and allotting rooms for her children. Funds allotted to her for this got exhausted which led her to set up a fine arts committee to oversee and fund the restoration process. She also asked for furniture expert Henry du Pont’s consultation and help. Her efforts turned into gossip material but she did not stop and on 14 February 1962, Jacqueline Kennedy took American television viewers on a tour of the White House with Charles Collingwood of CBS where she said, “I just feel that everything in the White House should be the best—the entertainment that's given here. If it's an American company you can help, I like to do that. If not—just as long as it's the best.” She continued working with Rachel Lambert Mellon which included her overseeing of the redesign and replanting of the White House Rose Garden and the East Garden, which was renamed the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden after her husband's assassination. Her great efforts of restoration and preservation at the White House left a long lasting legacy in the form of the White House Historical Association, the Committee for the Preservation of the White House which was based upon her White House Furnishings Committee, a permanent Curator of the White House, the White House Endowment Trust, and the White House Acquisition Trust. Her White House Restoration campaign was a great help to the Kennedy administration. First Lady’s popularity and publicity grew with the White House restoration tape being shown in 106 countries. United States got its allies for the White House and international support for the Kennedy administration and its Cold War policies solely because of Jacqueline Kennedy’s worldwide public attention attracted during her restoration video.
Jacqueline had made visits to France, India and Pakistan where she made great impact with her intellectual values. She gained popularity and great reception in her foreign visits for her French speaking, great clothing and talking skills.
Personal Disaster and Kennedy’s assassination
In the early 1963 Kennedy became pregnant and stayed away from all official duties. Most of her time was spent at the Kennedys' rented home on Squaw Island, near the Kennedy family's Cape Cod compound at Hyannis Port, where she went into premature labor on August 7, 1963. A premature baby boy was born to the Kennedys. On 9 August 1963 the baby died of premature lung formation and hyaline membrane disease (presently known as respiratory distress syndrome). The Kennedys received a rude shock with the loss of their child and the couple came closer to each other after a long time to face the trauma together.
It was 22nd November 1963 when resident Kennedy was assassinated. Jacqueline and John Kennedy were being accompanied by Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nellie on a motorcade to the Trade Mart where the President was scheduled to speak at a lunch. First lady was sitting beside her husband and the limousine was on Elm Street in Dealey Plaza when President Kennedy was shot three times, the last shot hitting John Kennedy’s head. Jacqueline went to Dallas's Parkland Hospital where the president's body was rushed into a trauma room. Although, initially she was denied access to President Kennedy, she stated, “I want to be there when he dies”. She had refused to remove her blood stained clothes and had removed her wedding ring slipping it onto the President's finger saying, “Now I have nothing left”. Soon after the assassination Jacqueline Kennedy avoided the intense media glare and public curiosity that started focusing on her family.
In June 1968 President’s Kennedy’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy too was assassinated which scared Jacqueline very much. She wanted to protect herself and her children. She had said, “If they're killing Kennedys, then my children are targets...I want to get out of this country” and on 20 October 1968 she married Aristotle Onassis who was a wealthy, Greek shipping magnate who had the power to provide Jacqueline with her much desired privacy and security for herself and her children. Soon after her marriage Jacqueline lost her Secret Service protection and her Franking Privilege which was given to widows of Presidents. After her second marriage, she came to be known as “Jackie O”. Paparazzi started hunting and haunting her since then. Tragedies were not put to an end as Onassis’s only son Alexander died in a plane crash in January 1973 leaving Onassis fall ill and die in Paris on 15 March 1975.
After finding herself widowed for the second time, Jacqueline turned her attention to work that would make her life meaningful at the age of 46. In 1975 she took up the job of an editor at Viking Press as she had always been interested in writing and literature. In 1978 she resigned from Viking Press as there was a controversy over a book on the President’s assassination. Soon she joined Doubleday as an associate editor under an old friend, John Sargent, living in New York City. It was believed that she lived with Maurice Tempelsman, a Belgian-born industrialist and diamond merchant who was long separated from his wife from the mid 1970s till her death.
Jacqueline worked greatly in preserving and protecting America’s cultural heritage which include Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C, and Grand Central Terminal, New York's beloved historic railroad station. Even after her death she has been posthumously honoured in various forms of American culture. Several art societies, gardens and parks have been named after her. Some of the notable ones being, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal, Jacqueline Kennedy Garden in White house and many others are the great honors that are even today given out in loving memory of the much adored US First Lady.
In 1993, Jacqueline was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer. Her illness was made public in February 1993. With her daughter’s insistence Jacqueline gave up on her smoking habit. Her doctors and family members were quite hoping for her to get cured but by April the cancer had spread. She continued with her work with Doubleday. On 18 May 1994 she made her last trip home from New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center where she was greeted by a massive crowd of well-wishers, tourists, and reporters gathered on the street outside her apartment. She died in her sleep at 10:15 p.m. on 19 May.