Jackie Kennedy Juvenile/Educational Biography
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis
(July 28, 1929-May 19, 1994)
Jacqueline Bouvier, called Jackie, was born July 21, 1929, to John (Jack) Vernou Bouvier, III, and his wife Janet Norton Lee. She was the older of 2 daughters born to the wealthy couple. Her parents divorced when she was 13; however, she maintained close relationships with both of her parents and the extended families that developed when both remarried. Her stepfather’s home, Hammersmith Farm, was where Jackie developed her intense love of horses and developed her exceptional riding skill.
She was educated in private schools as was customary for the children of her parents’ social circle, first at the Chapin School in New York City for kindergarten and grammar school, Holton Arms School in Washington, D.C. for late grammar school and the first year of high school, and Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, for high school. She was accepted at Vassar College, which she attended for two years. She decided to travel abroad for her junior year and studied at the University of Grenoble and at the Sorbonne in Paris. When she returned to the United States in 1950, she completed her senior year in college at George Washington University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French literature. Several years later she studied American history as part of the continuing education program at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Always a reader and a writer, Jackie was writing essays, stories, and poems as a child. Her work was frequently published in local newspapers. When in high school, she drew a cartoon series and, as a result, won the literature award given to an outstanding student writer in her graduating class. During her senior year in college, she won the prestigious Prix de Paris contest, sponsored by Vogue magazine. The prize was a year’s internship, half to be spent at the New York headquarters and the other half in Paris as a junior editor of the magazine. Because her mother did not want her to leave the country again, Jackie was forced to turn down the honor. Instead, she took a job with the Washington Times-Herald as its Inquiring Camera Girl, interviewing people and taking their photographs.
Her wedding to the junior senator from Massachusetts, John (Jack) Fitzgerald Kennedy, took place on September 12, 1953, at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island. This was the society wedding of the year, drawing a guest list from America’s political and artistic elite. The young couple settled into their townhouse in the historic section of Georgetown, and Jackie busied herself with answering constituent mail, translating articles, drafting her husband’s 1956 endorsement of Adlai Stevenson, and serving as a kind of coordinating editor for Jack’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Profiles in Courage, published while he was hospitalized for back injuries suffered during his service in the Navy during World War II. Their first child, Caroline, was born in 1957; their son John Jr., born in November 1960, was the first child born to a president-elect. One other son, Patrick, born in 1963, lived only 2 days.
The 1960 presidential campaign was conducted while Jackie was pregnant with John Jr. Therefore, she played only a limited role. However, she wrote a column for the Democratic National Committee and was available for television and newspaper interviews. She also taped radio commercials for Jack in foreign languages, especially French and Spanish. Jack won in an extremely close election. At the Inaugural ceremony, Jackie appeared in a stunning pillbox hat and matching coat, signaling a new era in fashion.
The Kennedy White House was first and foremost family-friendly. Caroline was only 3 and John-John, as he was know to America, was a newborn. Jackie was determined to maintain her family’s privacy. However, she was equally determined to return the White House to the condition of a well-loved national treasure. By March of 1961, Jackie was searching government warehouses for White House furnishing and asking wealthy Americans to give furniture, painting, art objects, and the like on permanent loan to the White House. The restoration of the White House was done with private funds and Jackie helped create a White House Historical Association that was able to raise additional funds through the sale of a book Jackie designed, The White House: An Historic Guide. In addition, she successfully urged for the creation of the position of White House Curator, a move that designated the public areas of White House and the building itself as a kind of national museum.
Jackie’s interest in the arts was clearly visible in her push for the creation of a presidential arts advisor and advisory board. This interest had been obvious in the number of American writers and poets invited to the Inaugural and the numerous invitations extended to artists to attend White House functions. The creation of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Arts achieved her goal, she later reflected.
What was less known was Jackie’s knowledge of and interest in substantive international affairs. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, she remained at the President’s side, translating memos and providing support. He kept her informed of each move. Afterwards, he presented Jackie with one of the same silver calendars he gave his military advisors who had stood by him during the crisis. She traveled extensively as ambassador for the United States, speaking often about America’s policies. Her trips frequently took her to Latin and South America where she spoke in flawless Spanish. Because of her personal warmth, she was able to establish personal relationships with many world leaders, including Charles DeGaulle, Jawaharlal Nehru, Edward McMillan, and Ayub Kahn.
Jackie is perhaps best remembered for the appearance on a CBS special A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy that aired on February 14, 1962. This was America’s first look at her White House restoration project. She led the cameras through each of the public rooms, carefully noting the changes and the new old furnishings on permanent loan. She clearly made the point that this was America’s house.
On November 22, 1963, Jackie accompanied her husband to Texas for a campaign tour to help statewide candidates in his vice-president’s home state. While in a motorcade through the streets of Dallas, President Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Jackie was not injured. Still wearing her bloodstained clothing, she stood beside Lyndon B. Johnson as he took the oath of office for the presidency aboard Air Force One and accompanied her husband’s body back to Washington. Following the historical accounts of Lincoln’s funeral and her own sense of propriety, she led the nation through days of anguish and hurt that culminated in the late president’s funeral and burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
As a presidential widow, Jackie remained in Washington for several months before moving to New York City. Although her children were still quite young, she became deeply involved in the creation of the John F. Kennedy Library and in the academic direction of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Jack’s alma mater. She married Aristotle Onassis in 1968 and lived part of each year in Athens, Greece or in Paris, France. Following his death in 1975, she returned to New York City and worked as an editor, first at Viking Press and then with Doubleday. She died of lymphoma, a form of cancer, in her 5th Avenue apartment on May 19, 1994. She is buried beside President Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery. Her son John died July 16, 1999 in an airplane accident; Caroline is the only surviving child.