First Ladies: Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy

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Jacqueline Lee “Jackie” Kennedy Onassis was the wife of President John F. Kennedy. She worked to renovate the White House and discover the history of the house.

Jackie Kennedy

She was also present when her husband was assassinated.

Jacqueline Lee “Jackie” Bouvier was born on July 28, 1929 in Southampton, New York. She was the daughter of John Vernou “Black Jack” Bouvier III and Janet North Lee Bouvier. Her sister, Lee, was born in 1933.

From an early age she was enthusiastic about horses and equestrienne. Horse-riding was a lifelong passion of hers. She also took ballet lessons, was an avid reader, and excelled at learning languages, with French being particularly emphasized in her upbringing.

Her parents separated in 1936, divorcing several years later. Her mother married Standard Oil heir Hugh Dudley Auchincloss, Jr in 1942. The new marriage produced a half brother and half sister.

She graduated from Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut. Jackie was acknowledged for “her wit, her accomplishment as a horsewoman, and her unwillingness to become a housewife”.

She made her society debut in 1947 and then enrolled as Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She later transwered to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and graduated in 1951.

After college, she and her sister celebrated by graduating to Europe for the summer. On her return, she was given the job of Inquiring Camera Girl for the Washington Times-Herald, after several other false stops.

Jackie Kennedy

She briefly became engaged to a young stockbroker, John G.W. Husted, Jr. She broke off the engagement three months later.

In May 1952, she was introduced to U.S. Representative John F. Kennedy

by mutual friends. The couple was married on September 12, 1953.

Jackie stood by her husband’s side as he dealt with numerous health issues and surgeries.

In 1955 she had a miscarriage and in August 1956, she gave birth to a stillborn daughter, Arabella.

On November 27, 1957, she gave birth to their daughter, Caroline.

While campaigning for his re-election to the Senate, John Kennedy realized that “value” Jackie brought to his campaign and that the crowd seemed to double when she was alone. Rose Kennedy observed Jacqueline as not being “a natural-born campaigner” due to her shyness and being uncomfortable with too much attention.

In January 1960, Jack Kennedy announced his candidacy for president. Jackie’s fashion choices became an intense interest of the media during the campaign.

Jackie Kennedy

Her husband was nominated president in early November 1960 and a few weeks later on November 25, she gave birth to a son, John Jr.

When her husband was sworn in as president on January 20, 1961, the media loved their youthfulness. She was the first First Lady to hire a press secretary, and carefully managed her contact with the media.

Jackie was a fashion icon during her husband’s presidency, and remained one for the remainder of her life.

Jackie worked hard to restore the White House. She made it her first major project as a First Lady to restore the house’s historical character. She worked hard to track down historical pieces from previous administrations. 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 First Lady to hire a White House curator.

On February 14, 1962, Jacqueline took American television viewers on a tour of the White House. She won a special Emmy Award in 1962 for her special. Kennedy was the only First Lady to win an Emmy.

Jackie Kennedy

She also dedicated her time to the promotion of American arts and preservation of its history.She did contribute to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment of the Humanities.

During the Kennedy administration, she visited many countries, more than any of the preceding First Ladies. When they visited France, even President Kennedy joked, “I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris – and I have enjoyed it!”

On August 7, 1963, she had a son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, five weeks early. He died at two days.

Jackie entered a deep state of depression. She went with her sister to the yacht of Aristotle Onassis for a break. She reutrned to Washington on October 17, 1963.

Jackie Kennedy

President Kennedy asked her to accompany him to Texas for a political trip. This would be the first time she joined her husband on a trip within the U.S.

On November 22, 1963, she dressed in a pink pillbox hat and matching Chanel suit for a full day of appearances. While riding through the motorcade, shots were fired and President Kennedy was rushed to Parkland Hospital where he was announced dead.

Jackie refused to change her dress that day, stating “I want them to see what they did”. She stood before Lyndon B. Johnson as he took the oath for the presidency.

Jackie took an active role planning her husband’s funeral, which was modeled after Abraham Lincoln’s funeral.

A week after her husband’s death, she gave an interview with a reporter from Life Magazine, in which she compared the Kennedy years to Camelot. The Kennedy Administration became known as the Camelot era.

She also oversaw the establishment of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

After her husband’s assassination, she leaned heavily on his brother, Robert F. Kennedy. He became a surrogate father to her children. She supported RFK’s decision to run for president in 1968. After his assassination on June 5, she feared for her life and that of her children and reportedly said “If they’re killing Kennedy’s, then my children are targets … I want to get out of this country”.

Jackie Kennedy

On October 20, 1968, Kennedy married her long-time friend Aristotle Onassis, a wealthy Greek shipping magnate who was able to provide the privacy and security she sought for herself and her children. She was now known as Jacqueline Onassis, but also lost her Secret Service protection. The marriage was not well received by the American public.

At first the Onassis marriage seemed a happy one, but in time they grew apart and separated. The marriage deteriorated rapidly when Onassis son was killed in a plane crash in 1973. Aristotle Onassis died on March 15, 1975.

Jackie ensured that her children continued a connection with the Kennedy family by having Ted Kennedy visit them often. She drew close to Ted Kennedy.

Jackie Kennedy

After the death of her husband, Onassis returned permanently to the United States, splitting her time between New York City, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

She became an editor for first Viking Press and then Doubleday. She also participated in cultural and architectural preservation.

From 1980 until her death, Maurice Tempelsman was her companion and personal financial adviser.

Jackie Onassis remained the subject of considerable press attention.

In 1993, it was discovered that she had swollen lymph nodes and began chemotherapy. She continued to work as long as possible, until about two months before her death.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died on May 18, 1994.

Following her death, John F. Kennedy Jr. stated to the press, “My mother died surrounded by her friends and her family and her books, and the people and the things that she loved. She did it in her very own way, and on her own terms, and we all feel

Jackie Kennedy

lucky for that.”

She was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, alongside President Kennedy, their son Patrick, and their stillborn daughter Arabella.

Jacqueline Kennedy remains one of the most popular First Ladies of the United States. She has consistently been listed in the top 10 list of the “most admired people of the second half of the 20th Century”. This is for her fashion sense, poise and dignity.