My Favorite things about Jackie
On July 28, 1929, Jacqueline Bouvier was born in a small Southampton hospital in New York. With her birth came beauty and grace, courage and strength. The world would never be the same again.
Jacqueline Bouvier was born to John Vernou Bouvier III and Janet Lee. John, or Jack, as he was usually called, was thirty-seven years old, and a New York stockbroker. Jack, "drippingly handsome", was also called Black Jack because of his tan skin, his dark blue eyes, and black hair. Jackie, as Jacqueline was always called, was very close to her father. They spent days together, taking trips to the zoo, toy stores, and ice cream parlors. Jack was very good-natured and would do anything to please his daughter.
Janet was twenty-two years old when she gave birth to Jackie. She was very attractive and stylish, and a skilled horsewoman, known for her determination and aggressiveness. She was a rather strict mother, and would even spank her daughters if she felt it necessary. She came from a very wealthy family, as did Jack.
Jackie was accustomed to a glamorous lifestyle. They had their Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan for the winter and their elegant family estate at East Hampton, Long Island, in the summer. Jackie had a comfortable living, surrounded by maids, butlers, nurses, and chauffeurs.
On March third, 1933, Jackie was joined by a baby sister, Caroline Lee. One day when Jackie and Lee, as Caroline was always called, were in their apartment elevator, Lee looked up at the elevator man and complimented him on his shock of blonde hair standing straight up from his forehead. She told him,
"Ernest, you look very pretty today." Jackie looked at Ernest and then turned to Lee.
"How can you say such a thing, Lee? It isn’t true. You know perfectly well that Ernest looks just like a rooster!"
Jackie was a very active and determined girl, just like her mother. She took dancing and ballet lessons, she showed dogs, she rode horses in horse shows, and she went to finishing schools that taught her how to behave with politeness and decency.
Besides being very determined, Jackie also had a mischievous side. Once, when Jackie was only four years old, she was at Central Park with Lee and her nanny. Jackie wandered away from them and was found by a police officer, who took her to the police station. He called Jackie’s mother, and when her mother arrived to pick up Jackie, Jackie was happily talking to the policeman. Janet asked the policeman what had happened, and he told her that Jackie had walked up to him in the park and said, "My nurse is lost!"
When Jackie attended Miss Chapin’s School For Girls in New York, Jackie’s mischievousness got her the reputation of "the very worst girl in the school". She would get into trouble just about every day, and she’d have to visit the head-mistress, Ethel Stringfellow. Stringfellow later said, "I mightn’t have kept Jacqueline, except that she had the most inquiring mind we’d had in the school in thirty-five years." Jackie’s girl friends even thought she was different. They thought she was independent-minded, at times withdrawn, willful, and a bit rebellious. They complained that sometimes they had the feeling that she wasn’t really there.
When Jackie was ten years old, her parents got a divorce. There had been many quarrels over money and Jack’s affairs. Although the family had seemed to be very wealthy, Jack was greatly in debt because of some very bad investments. Jack was not a good businessman, and he spent much more money than he made. Jack had also had several extramarital affairs, many of which Janet knew of. Janet finally divorced him in 1939. After the divorce, Jack continued to pamper his daughters. He took them to expensive restaurants, he bought them fancy clothes, and he took them on vacations to the beach. Once, he even rented a puppy for Jackie to walk through Central Park. In 1942, Janet married Hugh D. Auchincloss, a wealthy Washington lawyer. Janet, Lee, and Jackie moved to his estate outside of Washington, D.C.
The next year, Jackie entered a boarding school in Connecticut called Miss Porter’s School. She excelled at art, English, and literature. Because of Jackie’s love for writing, she wrote many short stories and poems, and even contributed articles and cartoons to the school newspaper. Besides Jackie’s love for writing, she also loved to read. A fellow classmate Lily Pulitzer said of Jackie, "…She also seemed highly intellectual. I never saw her without a stack of books in hand, even when she wasn’t studying." Jackie was very involved in theatre and acting; she also liked to write plays, including a musical she wrote in her junior year which was performed.
Although she was very smart and involved in many things, she continued to be mischievous and rebellious. She smoked cigarettes, wore too much makeup, and once she even dumped a chocolate pie upside down in a much-hated teacher’s lap. In Jackie’s senior yearbook, under "Ambition", she had: "Not to be a housewife."
After graduating from Miss Porter’s School in 1947, Jackie went to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She studied the history of religion, Shakespeare, and literature. She was also learning Spanish, Italian, and French. She continued to receive top grades, but she wasn’t as involved in school activities as she was in Miss Potter’s School. Jackie was more focused on her social life. She had started to date, and she went to parties and dated frequently. However, she later referred to many of her dates as "beetle-browed bores".
Everyone at Vassar saw Jackie as extremely shy, and although she would ask many questions about a person, she would never reveal anything about herself. Selwa Showker, a friend of Jackie’s at Vassar, said, "…There’s an elusive quality about her, an inexplicable shyness. She doesn’t reveal herself and was always very protective of her inner self.…She had a way of focusing on a person that left one dazzled; it was most flattering."
During Jackie’s junior year, she decided to spend a year in Paris. She studied at the Sorbonne, learning about French art and literature. She loved the big-city life in Paris, and she often went to museums, the ballet, and the opera. When she returned to the United States, she transferred to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. because she didn’t want to go back to Vassar. While attending GWU, Vogue magazine held a writing contest for college seniors. The winner received a one-year trainee position with Vogue magazine, spending six months in Paris and six months in New York. Jackie was excited to enter, and she even won, but she decided to stay back and be close to her family. In 1951, Jackie graduated from George Washington University. She had perfected her painting skill, and she could speak Spanish, Italian, and French fluently.
Jackie applied for a job at the Washington-Times Herald, and she got hired as an "Inquiring Reporter". She found people on the streets, asked them witty and unique questions, and then took their picture. She became very good at it, and everyone loved her column. She became known as the "Inquiring Photographer". Some of the interesting questions she asked were:
"Do you think a wife should let her husband think he’s smarter than she is?"
"If you were going to be executed tomorrow morning, what would you order for your last meal on earth?"
"If you had a date with Marilyn Monroe, what would you talk about?"
During Jackie’s senior year at GWU, one of Jackie’s friends invited her to a dinner party one night. At this party, Jackie was introduced to a handsome congressman from Massachusetts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Jackie was not impressed by Jack, as he was called, but by the next April, Jackie and Jack began dating regularly. In May of 1953, when Jackie was in London covering the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, Jack proposed to Jackie over the phone. She immediately agreed.
On September twelfth, 1953, John and Jackie were married at St. Mary’s Church in Newport. It was a "storybook" wedding, and everything went perfectly except for one thing. Jack Bouvier had planned to give Jackie away, but when he checked into the Viking Hotel, he began drinking. Jackie refused to even let her father attend the wedding. Instead, Hugh Auchincloss gave Jackie away. Jack and Jackie’s wedding reception was held at her stepfather’s house, called Hammersmith Farm. They then left for their honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico.
After their honeymoon, Jack and Jackie found an estate in McLean, Virginia, and Jackie began to decorate their new home. They both wanted kids, and they even set aside part of their home as a nursery, but Jackie’s first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. Some other problems had also arisen. After their marriage, they began to realize their differences. Jackie was a very private person, whereas Jack loved to be in the limelight. When Jack took Jackie to parties, Jack would leave Jackie and talk to everyone at the party. Jackie was much quieter, and quite often, she answered questions with just her beautiful smile.
Another problem was the hectic lives they led. In November of 1952, Jack had become the Massachusetts senator, and he was quite busy with all his senator duties. Talking about the early years of their marriage, Jackie said, "…we were like gypsies living in and out of a suitcase. It was turbulent. Jack made speeches all over the country and was never home more than two nights at a time." "…I was alone almost every weekend. It was all wrong. Politics was sort of my enemy, and we had no homelife whatsoever."
A larger problem had grown, however, and that problem was Jack’s back. He had injured it playing football in college, and again in World War II. His back pain had greatly increased, and on October eleventh, 1954, Jack entered Cornell University Medical Center in New York to take some tests. Jack’s doctors wanted to find the reason for his chronic back pain, so they decided that he needed to have a spinal operation. He had the operation on October twenty-first, but an infection set in and he went into a coma. However, after a few weeks, Jack came out of the coma. He went home for the holidays, but then the infection flared again and he needed a second operation. The second operation was a success, and Jack decided to write a book while he was in the hospital. Jackie spent every day with Jack and brought him books and other things for his research. She also helped him out by taking dictation and typing his book. The book, called Profiles in Courage, went to the top-seller list and it won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1956.
Jackie was pregnant again, but their second baby, in 1956, was a stillborn baby. This was a great disappointment to them both. Another disappointment came on August third, 1957. Jackie’s father, Jack Bouvier, went into a coma. Jackie and Jack flew in to be with him, but he had died an hour before they arrived. He died from cancer of the liver. Jackie planned her father’s funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and she had garlands of daisies in white wicker baskets. She said, "I want everything to look like a summer garden."
Jack and Jackie sold their large McLean estate and rented a typical townhouse in Georgetown from January to May 1957. Then they bought a redbrick, federal-style townhouse. On November twenty-seventh, 1957, there came an addition to the Kennedy family. Jackie gave birth to Caroline Bouvier Kennedy at New York’s Lying-In Hospital. Now, with Caroline, Jack and Jackie’s marriage greatly improved, and they felt that they couldn’t be happier. Jackie wished her father could have lived to see Caroline, his first grandchild. She knew he would have been so happy to see Caroline.
Jackie loved being a mother, and she absolutely adored spending time with Caroline. Jackie read books to Caroline and told her stories, they played games together, they sang songs, and they chanted nursery rhymes. When Caroline was a little older, Jackie got Caroline a little table with drawing and painting supplies, and Jackie and Caroline painted together.
In 1958, Jack ran for a second term for senator. Jackie decided to help him with his campaign. She appeared at meetings and rallies, and spoke to people in Spanish, Italian, and French. After Jack won the election, he was urged to run for the Democratic nomination for President. He decided to run, and Jackie offered to help him again. Jack wasn’t sure if Jackie should help him, though. Jackie was younger and better dressed than the other wives of candidates. Jack didn’t know how the American people would react to his glamorous wife, but he finally agreed that she could help him. Jack had undoubtedly made the right decision, because everywhere Jackie went during the presidential campaign, she attracted crowds from near and far.
During 1959 and part of 1960, Jackie accompanied her husband on trips to New Hampshire, West Virginia, Wisconsin, California, Oregon, Ohio, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. Jackie began to really enjoy campaigning. Once, during the presidential primaries, Jackie was in a supermarket and she picked up a microphone and said, "Just keep on with your shopping while I tell you about my husband, John F. Kennedy." She told them all about his career in the Navy and the congress, and ended by saying, "Please vote for him."
Sometimes, though, campaigning was really stressful for Jackie. She said, "You shake hundreds of hands in the afternoon and hundreds more at night. You get so tired you catch yourself laughing and crying at the same time. But you pace yourself and you get through it. You just look at it as something you have to do. You knew it would come and you knew it was worth it." Jackie began giving campaign speeches in Spanish, Italian, and French. She held press conferences and fundraising teas, and she even organized listening parties for the debates between Jack and his opponent, Richard Nixon. Jackie also started a column in the newspaper called Campaign Wife, which brought Jack’s views to the attention of female readers.
All of Jack and Jackie’s hard work paid off in November when Jack won the election. Three weeks later, on November twentieth, 1960, Jackie gave birth to John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. Jackie was very glad that the campaign was over, and decided to make only the appearances that were absolutely necessary. Jackie said, "The official side of my life takes me away from my children a good deal. If I were to add political duties I would have practically no time with the children, and they’re my first responsibility." It was very challenging for Jackie to raise her children amidst all the publicity they were getting, and Jackie just wanted Caroline and John Jr. to live a normal life. Jackie felt as if she had been "turned into a piece of public property", and she did not want her children to experience that.
On January twentieth, 1960, a freezing cold and snowy day in Washington, D.C., John F. Kennedy became the thirty-fifth President of the United States. When Jack became the president, Jackie, thirty-one years old, became the First Lady. She was the third youngest First Lady ever. The two preceding First Ladies were more reserved and grandmotherly, whereas Jackie was young and vivacious. Jackie knew she could never be like them, and she didn’t want to be either.
As soon as Jackie was First Lady, she began to have an influence over the White House, and also the entire nation. Jackie had a great love for history, and she wanted people to see the history of the White House. "I think the White House should show the wonderful heritage this country has," she said. "…People who visit the White House see practically nothing that dates before 1900. Young people should see things that develop their sense of history." Jackie went right to work at searching for furniture that had belonged to some of the earliest American presidents. She found a mirror that had belonged to George Washington, and she put up a portrait of Benjamin Franklin from the 1700’s. After she finished her work, she gave a guided tour of the White House on television. She also wrote a guidebook for visitors to the White House, because she wanted people to know the special history of the things they saw. Jackie’s effort in her project was well worth it, because more people than ever before went to the White House to see how Jackie had changed it.
Once the newly renovated White House was completed, Jackie began to invite world-famous musicians and actors to perform there. A few who performed there were the great cellist Pablo Casals, the violinist Isaac Stern, and actor Basil Rathbone. She entertained lavishly, once hosting a party in honor of all those alive that received a Nobel Prize. In addition to hosting parties that provided artistic entertainment, Jackie also supported the arts in any way she was asked. She helped raise money for the National Cultural Center, now called the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Jackie also arranged for the loan of the Mona Lisa painting, and displayed it at the National Gallery of Art.
Jackie influenced the nation in the way she dressed. She had a clothes designer, Oleg Cassini, who designed new and original clothes for her, and her style became known as the "Jackie look". Practically every American female wanted to look like her. Jackie dressed casually- she loved slacks and shorts and riding habits. She loved the colors pink, green, and yellow, and she wore brightly colored clothes. She had a bouffant, or full, hairstyle, and she adored small square and round hats called pillboxes. Even though Jackie loved clothes and was very particular about what she wore, she was puzzled over why the public cared so much about how she dressed and did her hair. "All the talk over what I wear and how I fix my hair has me amused," she said. "What does my hairdo have to do with my husband’s ability to be president?"
Jackie also had a great impact on the entire world. She took many trips to different countries while she was the First Lady. Her first trip was in 1961, when she went to Europe with her husband. The people truly loved her, and at one gathering, Jack simply introduced himself by saying, "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris!" The following year Jackie went to India with her sister, and this country loved Jackie so much that the President gave her a thoroughbred stallion. Throughout the rest of Jackie’s years as First Lady, she also visited Mexico, Venezuela, Canada, Greece, Colombia, Turkey, and Morocco.
When Jackie was pregnant again in 1963, she only appeared in public twice, and the rest of the time she spent relaxing on Squaw Island. Weeks before the baby was due, on August seventh, 1963, she gave birth to a baby boy, whom they named Patrick. Patrick seemed to be completely normal and healthy, but young Patrick had an infection and he died two days later. This was Jackie’s third child that had died, and she and Jack were heartbroken.
In November of 1963, Jack decided to make a trip to Texas to change some minds about racism and civil rights. He asked Jackie if she would like to help him in his cause, and she accepted. They arrived in Dallas, Texas on November 23, 1963, and they were warmly greeted by five-thousand fans. On this particular day, Jackie wore a strawberry pink suit and a matching pillbox hat, an outfit which was to become well-known within minutes, recognized as the outfit Jackie wore on the day of her husband’s death. Jackie and her husband sat in the back of an open car, as they drove through the streets of Dallas, happily waving to the people crowded on the streets.
Suddenly there was a sharp crack, and Jackie turned to face her husband, who was beginning to slump forward, his hand at his throat. Then there was another gunshot, and the back of Jack’s head was torn away by a bullet. "My God, what are they doing?" Jackie screamed. "My God, they’ve killed Jack, they’ve killed my husband… Jack, Jack!" (They rushed to the nearest hospital, and the doctors tried frantically to save Jack, but the situation was hopeless. J.F.K., an exceptional President, a devoted husband, and a loving father, had died.
Flying back to Washington, D.C. via Air Force One, Jackie stood by as Vice- President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the next President. Bobby Kennedy met Jackie in Washington, D.C. and together, they planned Jack’s funeral. Jackie wanted her husband’s funeral to be just like Lincoln’s, because both Presidents had been assassinated. The day after their return from Dallas, President Kennedy’s body lay in the Capitol Rotunda, the coffin draped with an American flag. The President’s body was in the rotunda for two days, while 250,000 people passed by. On the second day of the viewing, Jackie took Caroline to the rotunda, and she told Caroline, "We’re going to say good-bye to Daddy, and we’re going to kiss him good-bye and tell Daddy how much we love him and how much we’ll always miss him." And with that, the two bent down and kissed the President’s coffin.
The next day, Jackie and J.F.K.’s two brothers, along with dozens of world leaders, walked behind the horse-drawn caisson that held her husband’s body. The caisson at the front of the funeral procession was followed by a riderless black horse with its stirrups hanging backward from the saddle. The service was at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, and Jack was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. At the burial, fifty fighter jets flew in formation overhead, and Jackie lit the eternal flame which would forever burn in honor of the President. Then, after a twenty-one-gun salute, the taps were played by a lone bugle, and the American flag was folded and given to Jackie. J.F.K. was lowered into the ground.
Jackie showed great courage and strength all throughout this traumatic event, and she set an example to the entire world. Less than two weeks after the death of her husband, Jackie, Carolyn, and John were out of the White House, and they had moved back to Georgetown. But they were surrounded by tourists and members of the press. They moved to New York, her kids enrolled in school, and they began to live a normal life. Jackie became really involved with her children, teaching them how to ride horseback, taking them rowing in Central Park, and vacationing in Hawaii and Switzerland. She took them to the circus and to the New York World’s Fair.
Jackie tried to live like she always had, but she had hard times, too. Every day she was haunted by her loss, and everywhere she went and everything she did reminded her of her husband. She cried all the time, and at worst, Jackie would even stay in her bed for hours, taking sedatives and anti-depressants. She became anti-social, and planned parties which she didn’t attend, made appointments she didn’t keep; she was wallowing in self-pity. Once, when she met with a man about the decoration of her new house, she just couldn’t take it any longer. Sinking into a chair, she buried her face in her hands and wept.
To add to Jackie’s pain, in June, 1968, Jack’s younger brother, Bobby Kennedy, was assassinated. In March, 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy had decided to run for President. On the night of the California primary election, Bobby was leaving the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, and he was shot and killed. This was terribly hard for Jackie, because she had become real close to him since the death of her husband. Jackie later told a friend, "I hate this country. I despise America and I don’t want my children to live here anymore. If they’re killing Kennedys, my children are number one targets.… I want to get out of this country."
In the summer of 1968, Jackie announced her engagement to Aristotle Socrates Onassis, a wealthy shipowner in his sixties. People were shocked to hear that Jackie was planning on marrying Onassis, whose reputation as a businessman was not very honorable. However, John H. Davis, Jackie’s cousin, was not surprised at Jackie’s announcement. He said that the Onassis marriage "…gave her the security and companionship she desperately needed after the second Kennedy assassination."
Jackie and Ari were married on October twentieth, 1968 on the island of Skorpios. After the wedding, Jackie, Carolyn, and John moved to Skorpios to live with Ari. One of the advantages of the marriage was the move to Skorpios, because it assuaged Jackie’s fears about the privacy and safety of her children, because Skorpios was a very isolated island. At first, Jackie and Ari’s marriage was successful, but soon the marriage began to go downhill. There were many quarrels over money problems because Jackie was wildly extravagant. Also, Ari’s son had just died in a plane accident, and he became bitter and depressed. He even thought about divorcing Jackie.
Aristotle did not get a chance to divorce Jackie, however. In January of 1975, he became seriously ill and entered the American Hospital in Paris. Two months later, on March fifteenth, Ari passed away. Even though Jackie’s life with Ari certainly wasn’t always rosy, she did not regret their marriage. After the funeral, she wrote a statement about Ari.
"Aristotle Onassis rescued me at a moment when my life was engulfed with shadows. He brought me into a world where one could find both happiness and love. We lived through many beautiful experiences together which cannot be forgotten, and for which I will be eternally grateful."
After the death of her second husband, Jackie had a new outlook on life. She realized that she never had had a true identity of her own. First she was a President’s wife, and then she was the wife of one of the richest men in the world. She now wanted to be independent, and to achieve success based on her own merits. She wanted to be known for what she did, not what her husband did. Jackie and her kids moved back to New York, and she had more free time to spend with Carolyn and John, to paint, sketch, and to read.
Soon after returning to New York, Jackie took her first job since her Inquiring Photographer days at Washington-Times Herald. She became a book editor. She was first a book editor at Viking, then she switched to Doubleday.
Everyone at Doubleday loved her, including the president of Doubleday, Steven Rubin. "She had this tremendous enthusiasm when she talked about a book," he said. "Every single person on the staff adored her. She really connected with the authors, too. She was warm, engaging, smart- a friend." A writer also opined that Jackie had a great enthusiasm. He said, "When Jackie got enthusiastic, you thought she was going to burst into song."
One day at the beginning of 1994, Jackie went to the doctor. Thinking she had just an average cold, she was taken aback when she was told she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer that attacks the immune system. The only treatment she could take was chemotherapy, which is often effective in treating cancer, but it also has many unpleasant side effects such as nausea. Jackie decided to take chemotherapy, and she again showed great strength; with pluck, Jackie said that the treatments weren’t so bad-she could read a book while they were given.
In spite of everything, Jackie persevered and maintained many of her usual activities. She was still working at Doubleday, she still spent quality time with her grandchildren, and she did things with her friends. She, and many others, expected that she would win this battle, just like she had won so many before. Unfortunately, when Jackie went back to the hospital for a check-up, she found out that the cancer had spread to other organs. At this point, the doctors could do nothing more to save her.
Jackie decided to spend her last days at home with friends and family. Caroline and John Jr. took their mother home, and they stayed by her side day and night, along with Maurice Tempelsmen. Ted Kennedy flew in to see her, Jackie’s priest came, and many other friends and family came to see with her for the last time. On May nineteenth, at approximately ten-fifteen, Jackie, sixty-four years old, passed on. As her son, John, put it, "She was surrounded by her friends and her family and her books and the people and things she loved… and now she’s in God’s hands."
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A page dedicated to all the First Ladies
Lots of neat stuff about Jackie, with some cool photos, too
Everything you want to know about the White House