President: John F. Kennedy
Preceded by: Mamie Eisenhower
Succeeded by: Lady Bird Johnson
Born: Jacqueline Lee Bouvier
July 28, 1929
South Hampton, New York
Died: May 19, 1994 (aged 64)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting Place: Arlington National Cemetery
Spouse(s): John F. Kennedy (m. 1953; died 1963)
Aristotle Onassis (m. 1968; died 1975)
Domestic Partner: Maurice Tempelsman (1980-1994)
Children: Arabella, Caroline John Jr., Patrick
Father: John Vernou Bouvier III
Mother: Janet Lee Bouvier (Janet Norton Lee)(Janet Lee Auchincloss)
Jacqueline Lee Kennedy Onassis (née Bouvier /ˈbuːvieɪ/; July 28, 1929 – May 19, 1994) was an American book editor and socialite who was First Lady of the United States during the presidency of her husband, John F. Kennedy, from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963.
Bouvier was born in Southampton, New York to Wall Street stockbroker John Vernou Bouvier III and his wife, Janet Lee Bouvier, in 1929. In 1951, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from George Washington University and went on to work for the Washington Times-Herald as an inquiring photographer.
In 1952, Bouvier met then-Congressman John F. Kennedy at a dinner party in Washington. Following his election to the Senate in 1952, the couple married on September 12, 1953, in Newport, Rhode Island. They had four children, two of whom died in infancy. Following her husband's election to the presidency in 1960, Jacqueline Kennedy was known for her highly publicized restoration of the White House and emphasis on arts and culture, as well as for her style, elegance, and grace. Only 31 years old when her husband was inaugurated, she was the youngest First Lady since Frances Cleveland. She was also the first Catholic to serve as First Lady.
On November 22, 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy was riding with the President in an open-air motorcade in Dallas, Texas, when he was assassinated. Following his funeral, she and her children largely withdrew from public view. In 1968, she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Following Aristotle Onassis's death in 1975, she had a career as a publishing editor in New York City. She died on May 19, 1994 of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, aged 64.
During her lifetime, Jacqueline Kennedy was regarded as an international fashion icon. Her famous ensemble of a pink Chanel suit and matching pillbox hat has become a symbol of her husband's assassination. Even after her death, she ranks as one of the most popular and recognizable First Ladies and was listed as one of Gallup's Most-Admired Men and Women of the 20th century in 1999.
Early life (1929–1951)
Family and childhood
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was born on July 28, 1929, at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital in Southampton, New York, to Wall Street stockbroker John Vernou "Black Jack" Bouvier III and socialite Janet Norton Lee. Bouvier's mother was of Irish descent, and her father had French, Scottish, and English ancestry. Named after her father, Bouvier was baptized at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan; she was raised in the Catholic faith. Her sister Lee was born in 1933.
Bouvier spent her early childhood years in Manhattan and at Lasata, the Bouviers' country estate in East Hampton on Long Island. She idolized her father, who likewise favored her over her sister, calling his elder child "the most beautiful daughter a man ever had". Biographer Tina Flaherty pointed out Jackie's early confidence in herself, seeing a link to her father's praise and positive attitude to her, and her sister Lee has stated that she would not have gained her "independence and individuality" had it not been for the relationship she had with their father and paternal grandfather. From an early age, Bouvier was an enthusiastic equestrienne and successfully competed in the sport; horse-riding would remain a lifelong passion. She also took ballet lessons, was an avid reader, and excelled at learning languages, with French being particularly emphasized in her upbringing.
In 1935, Bouvier was enrolled in Manhattan's Chapin School, which she attended for grades 1–6. She was a bright student but often misbehaved; one of her teachers described her as "a darling child, the prettiest little girl, very clever, very artistic, and full of the devil". Bouvier's mother attributed her daughter's behavior to the way that she finished her assignments ahead of classmates and then acted out in boredom. Her behavior improved after the headmistress warned her that none of her positive qualities would matter if she did not behave.
The marriage of Bouvier's parents was strained by her father's alcoholism and extramarital affairs; the family had also struggled with financial difficulties following the Wall Street Crash of 1929. They separated in 1936 and divorced four years later, with the press publishing intimate details of the split. According to her cousin John H. Davis, Bouvier was deeply affected by the divorce and subsequently had a "tendency to withdraw frequently into a private world of her own". When her mother married Standard Oil heir Hugh Dudley Auchincloss, Jr., Bouvier and her sister did not attend the ceremony, because it was arranged quickly and travel was restricted due to World War II. Bouvier gained three step-siblings from Auchincloss' two previous marriages, Hugh "Yusha" Auchincloss III, Thomas Gore Auchincloss, and Nina Gore Auchincloss; she formed the closest bond with Yusha, who became one of her most trusted confidants. The marriage later produced two more children, Janet Jennings Auchincloss in 1945 and James Lee Auchincloss in 1947.
After the remarriage, Auchincloss' Merrywood estate in McLean, Virginia, became the Bouvier sisters' primary residence, although they also spent time at his other estate, Hammersmith Farm in Newport, Rhode Island, and in their father's homes in New York City and Long Island. Although she retained a relationship with her father, Bouvier also regarded her stepfather as a close paternal figure. He gave her a stable environment and the pampered childhood she never would have experienced otherwise. While Bouvier adjusted to her mother's remarriage, she sometimes felt like an outsider in the WASP social circle of the Auchinclosses, attributing the feeling to her being Catholic as well as being a child of divorce, which was not common in that social group at that time.
After six years at Chapin, Bouvier attended the Holton-Arms School in Northwest Washington, D.C. from 1942 to 1944, and Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut, from 1944 to 1947. She chose Miss Porter's because it was a boarding school that allowed her to distance herself from the Auchinclosses, and because the school placed an emphasis on college preparatory classes. In her senior class yearbook, Bouvier was acknowledged for "her wit, her accomplishment as a horsewoman, and her unwillingness to become a housewife". Jacqueline later hired her childhood friend Nancy Tuckerman to be her Social Secretary at the White House. She graduated among the top students of her class and received the Maria McKinney Memorial Award for Excellence in Literature.
College and early career
In the fall of 1947, Bouvier entered Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She had wanted to attend Sarah Lawrence College, closer to New York City, but her parents insisted that she choose the more geographically isolated Vassar. Bouvier was an accomplished student who participated in the school's art and drama clubs and wrote for its newspaper. Due to her dislike for the college, she did not take an active part in its social life and instead traveled back to Manhattan on the weekends. She had made her society debut in the summer before entering college and became a frequent presence in New York social functions. Hearst columnist Igor Cassini dubbed her the "debutante of the year". Bouvier spent her junior year (1949–1950) in France—at the University of Grenoble in Grenoble, and at the Sorbonne in Paris—in a study-abroad program through Smith College. Upon returning home, she transferred to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French literature in 1951. During the early years of her marriage to John F. Kennedy, she took continuing education classes in American history at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
While attending George Washington, Bouvier won a twelve-month junior editorship at Vogue magazine; she had been selected over several hundred other women nationwide. The position entailed working for six months in the magazine's New York City office and spending the remaining six months in Paris. Before beginning the job, Bouvier celebrated her college graduation and her sister Lee's high school graduation by traveling with her to Europe for the summer. The trip was the subject of her only autobiography, One Special Summer, co-authored with Lee; it is also the only one of her published works to feature Jacqueline's drawings. On her first day at Vogue, the managing editor advised her to quit and go back to Washington. According to biographer Barbara Leaming, the editor was concerned about Bouvier's marriage prospects; she was 22 years of age and was considered too old to be single in her social circles. Bouvier followed the advice, left the job and returned to Washington after only one day of work.
Bouvier moved back to Merrywood and was hired as a part-time receptionist at the Washington Times-Herald. A week later, she approached editor Frank Waldrop and requested more challenging work; she was given the position of "Inquiring Camera Girl", despite Waldrop's initial concerns about her competence. The position required her to pose witty questions to individuals chosen at random on the street and take their pictures for publication in the newspaper alongside selected quotations from their responses. In addition to the random "man on the street" vignettes, she sometimes sought interviews with people of interest, such as six-year-old Tricia Nixon. Bouvier interviewed Tricia a few days after her father Richard Nixon was elected to the vice presidency in the 1952 election. During this time, Bouvier was also briefly engaged to a young stockbroker, John G. W. Husted, Jr. After only a month of dating, the couple published the announcement in The New York Times in January 1952. She called off the engagement after three months, because she had found him "immature and boring" once she got to know him better.
Marriage to John F. Kennedy
Bouvier and Kennedy were married on September 12, 1953, at St. Mary's Church in Newport, Rhode Island, in a mass celebrated by Boston's Archbishop Richard Cushing. The wedding was considered the social event of the season with an estimated 700 guests at the ceremony and 1200 at the reception that followed at Hammersmith Farm. The wedding dress, now housed in the Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts, and the dresses of her attendants were created by designer Ann Lowe of New York City.
The newlyweds honeymooned in Acapulco, Mexico, before settling in their new home, Hickory Hill in McLean, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Kennedy developed a warm relationship with her in-laws, Joseph and Rose Kennedy. In the early years of their marriage, the couple faced several personal setbacks. John Kennedy suffered from Addison's Disease and from chronic and at times debilitating back pain, which had been exacerbated by a war injury; in late 1954, he underwent a near-fatal spinal operation. Additionally, Jacqueline suffered a miscarriage in 1955 and in August 1956 gave birth to a stillborn daughter, Arabella. They subsequently sold their Hickory Hill estate to John's brother Robert, who occupied it with his wife Ethel and their growing family, and bought a townhouse on N Street in Georgetown.
Jacqueline gave birth to a daughter Caroline on November 27, 1957. At the time, she and John Kennedy were campaigning for his re-election to the Senate, and they posed with their infant daughter for the cover of the April 21, 1958 issue of Life Magazine. They traveled together during the campaign, trying to narrow the geographical gap between them that had persisted for the first five years of the marriage. Soon enough, John Kennedy started to notice the value that his wife added to his congressional campaign. Kenneth O'Donnell remembered that "the size of the crowd was twice as big" when she accompanied her husband; he also recalled her as "always cheerful and obliging". John's mother Rose observed Jacqueline as not being "a natural-born campaigner" due to her shyness and being uncomfortable with too much attention. In November 1958, John Kennedy was reelected to a second term. He credited Jacqueline's visibility in both ads and stumping as vital assets in securing his victory, and he called her "simply invaluable".
In July 1959, historian Arthur M. Schlesinger visited the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port and had his first conversation with Jacqueline; he found her to have "tremendous awareness, an all-seeing eye and a ruthless judgment". That year, Jack Kennedy traveled to 14 states, with Jacqueline taking long breaks from the trips so she could spend time with their daughter Caroline. She also counseled her husband on improving his wardrobe in preparation for his intended presidential campaign the following year. In particular, she traveled to Louisiana to visit Edmund Reggie and to help her husband garner support in the state for his presidential bid.
First Lady of the United States (1961–1963)
Campaign for presidency
On January 3, 1960, John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for the presidency and launched his campaign nationwide. In the early months of the election year, Jacqueline Kennedy accompanied her husband to campaign events such as whistle-stops and dinners. Shortly after the campaign began, she became pregnant and decided to stay at home in Georgetown due to her previous high-risk pregnancies. Kennedy subsequently participated in the campaign by writing a weekly syndicated newspaper column, Campaign Wife, answering correspondence, and giving interviews to the media.
Despite not participating on the campaign trail, Jacqueline became the subject of intense media attention with her fashion choices. On one hand, she was admired for her personal style; she was frequently featured in women's magazines alongside film stars and named as one of the 12 best-dressed women of the world. On the other hand, her preference for French designers and her spending on her wardrobe brought her negative press. In order to downplay her wealthy background, Jacqueline stressed the amount of work she was doing for the campaign and declined to publicly discuss her clothing choices.
On July 13 at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, the Democratic Party nominated John Kennedy for President of the United States. Jacqueline did not attend the nomination due to her pregnancy, which had been publicly announced ten days earlier. From Hyannis Port, she watched the September 26, 1960 debate—which was the nation's first televised presidential debate—between her husband and Republican candidate Richard Nixon, who was the incumbent Vice President. Marian Cannon, the wife of Arthur Schlesinger, watched the debate with her. Days after the debates, Jacqueline contacted Schlesinger and informed him that John wanted his aid along with that of John Kenneth Galbraith in preparing for the third debate on October 13; she wished for them to give her husband new ideas and speeches. On September 29, 1960, the Kennedys appeared together for a joint interview on Person to Person, interviewed by Charles Collingwood.
As First Lady
On November 8, 1960, John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Republican opponent Richard Nixon in the U.S. presidential election. A little over two weeks later on November 25, Jacqueline gave birth to the couple's first son, John F. Kennedy, Jr.. She spent two weeks recovering in the hospital, during which the most minute details of both her and her son's conditions were reported by the media in what has been considered the first instance of national interest in the Kennedy family.
Her husband was sworn in as president on January 20, 1961. As a presidential couple, the Kennedys differed from the Eisenhowers by their political affiliation, youth, and their relationship with the media. Historian Gil Troy has noted that in particular, they "emphasized vague appearances rather than specific accomplishments or passionate commitments" and therefore fit in well in the early 1960s' "cool, TV-oriented culture". The discussion about Jacqueline's fashion choices continued during her years in the White House, and she became a trendsetter, hiring American designer Oleg Cassini to design her wardrobe. She was the first presidential wife to hire a press secretary, Pamela Turnure, and carefully managed her contact with the media, usually shying away from making public statements, and strictly controlling the extent to which her children were photographed. Kennedy was portrayed by the media as the ideal woman, leading academic Maurine Beasley to observe that she "created an unrealistic media expectation for first ladies that would challenge her successors". Nevertheless, the First Lady attracted worldwide positive public attention and gained allies for the White House and international support for the Kennedy administration and its Cold War policies.
Although Jacqueline stated that her priority as a First Lady was to take care of the President and their children, she also dedicated her time to the promotion of American arts and preservation of its history. The restoration of the White House was her main contribution, but she also furthered the cause by hosting social events that brought together elite figures from politics and the arts. One of her unrealized goals was to found a Department of the Arts, but she did contribute to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, established during Johnson's tenure.
White House restoration
Jacqueline had visited the White House on two occasions before she became First Lady, the first time as a grade-school tourist in 1941 and again as the guest of Mamie Eisenhower shortly before her husband's inauguration. She was dismayed to find that the mansion's rooms were furnished with undistinguished pieces that displayed little historical significance and made it her first major project as First Lady to restore its historical character. On her first day in residence, she began her efforts with the help of interior decorator Sister Parish. She decided to make the family quarters attractive and suitable for family life by adding a kitchen on the family floor and new rooms for her children. The $50,000 that had been appropriated for this effort was almost immediately exhausted. Continuing the project, she established a fine arts committee to oversee and fund the restoration process and solicited the advice of early American furniture expert Henry du Pont. To solve the funding problem, a White House guidebook was published, sales of which were used for the restoration. Working with Rachel Lambert Mellon, Kennedy also oversaw 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. In addition, Kennedy helped to stop the destruction of historic homes in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., because she felt these buildings were an important part of the nation's capital and played an essential role in its history.
Prior to Kennedy's years as First Lady, furnishings and other items had been taken from the White House by presidents and their families when they departed; this led to the lack of original historical pieces in the mansion. To track down these missing furnishings and other historical pieces of interest, she personally wrote to possible donors. She also initiated a Congressional bill establishing that White House furnishings would be the property of the Smithsonian Institution, rather than available to departing ex-presidents to claim as their own, and founded the White House Historical Association, the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, the position of a permanent Curator of the White House, the White House Endowment Trust, and the White House Acquisition Trust. She was the first presidential spouse to hire a White House curator.
On February 14, 1962, Jacqueline took American television viewers on a tour of the White House with Charles Collingwood of CBS News. In the tour she stated that "I feel so strongly that the White House should have as fine a collection of American pictures as possible. It's so important ... the setting in which the presidency is presented to the world, to foreign visitors. The American people should be proud of it. We have such a great civilization. So many foreigners don't realize it. I think this house should be the place we see them best." The film was watched by 56 million television viewers in the United States, and was later distributed to 106 countries. Kennedy won a special Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Trustees Award for it at the Emmy Awards in 1962, which was accepted on her behalf by Lady Bird Johnson. Kennedy was the only First Lady to win an Emmy.