Who Was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis?
One of America's most beloved first ladies, Jackie Kennedy endured the assassination of her husband, John Kennedy, with the same dignity and charm that is her legacy.
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was born July 28, 1929 on Long Island, New York. Her early years were divided between Long Island, where she learned to ride horses almost as soon as she could walk, and New York City, where she was educated at the best private schools. Her parents, Janet and John Bouvier III, divorced and in 1942 her mother married Hugh Auchincloss. After studying at Vassar and spending a year at the University of Paris, Jackie graduated from George Washington University and took a job as a reporter for the Washington Herald-Times. She soon met a man some titled the most eligible bachelor in the capital, Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts. Their courtship developed privately, but their wedding on September 12, 1953 attracted national publicity.
As Mrs. John Kennedy, the private Jackie had to adjust to the spotlight of political life. When her husband decided to run for president in 1960, many inside his political circle felt she was too aristocratic for the average voter and would be of little use campaigning. But the crowds throughout America loved the idea of a first lady who was young and beautiful as well as sophisticated and educated. Americans also delighted in following the lives of Caroline, born in 1957, and John Jr., born in 1960.
After a few White House dinners, Jackie Kennedy became Washington's most popular hostess. She turned traditional state dinners into elegant but informal events with good conversation as well as good food. The guest lists included a mix of culture with artists, writers, and musicians mingling with politicians and businessmen. The youthful "Jackie look" also swept the fashion world, especially her trademark pillbox hat and pearls.
This first lady wanted to restore the White House, not redecorate it. She sought out authentic antiques and then published the first Historic Guide to the White House and gave the first televised tour of the White House in 1962. Her husband, however, was more impressed with her success in charming the public no matter where they traveled. Many believe that the mystique of the Kennedy family's Camelot era was due largely to her style and grace.
Privately they disagreed over her personal expenditures and his philandering. But they kept a united public front, especially when it came to the campaign trail. In November, 1963, she traveled with him to Texas in what they regarded as an early campaign trip for his reelection in 1964.
The world will forever recoil at the images of this beautiful woman drenched in the blood of her husband, a victim of an assassin's bullet in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Back in Washington DC, she supervised her husband's funeral with a quiet charm and dignity that further increased her popularity.
Soon after she became a widow she and her two young children moved to New York City. She married Aristotle Onassis in 1968 and he died in 1975. From 1978 until her death she worked as an editor for Doubleday. She died May 19, 1994 and was buried next to John Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery.