First Lady Jacqueline Lee “Jackie” (Bouvier) Kennedy Onassis was a symbol of strength to a traumatized nation following the assassination of one of the country’s most forceful political figures, President John F. Kennedy, who served from 1961 to 1963.
the inauguration of john f. Kennedy in 1961 brought to the White House and into the heart of the nation a beautiful young wife and the first young children of a president in half a century.
She was born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, the daughter of John Vernon Bouvier III and his wife, Janet Lee. Her early years were divided between New York City and East Hampton, Long Island, where she learned to ride almost as soon as she learned to walk. she was educated in the best of private schools; she wrote poems and short stories, drew illustrations for them, and studied ballet. her mother, who had divorced, married hugh d. Auchincloss in 1942 and brought her two daughters to “Merrywood,” her home near Washington, D.C., and spent summers on her property in Newport, Rhode Island. Ella Jacqueline was dubbed “the debutante of the year” in the 1947-1948 season, but her social success did not prevent her from continuing her education. As a vassar student, she traveled extensively, spending her first year in France before graduating from George Washington University. these experiences of hers left her with great empathy for people from foreign countries, especially the French.
In Washington, she took a job as an “inquisitive photographer” for a local newspaper. Her path soon crossed with that of Senator Kennedy, who had the reputation of being the most eligible bachelor in the capital. Their romance progressed slowly and privately, but her Newport wedding in 1953 drew nationwide publicity.
With the marriage, “Jackie” had to adjust to her new role as the wife of one of the most energetic political figures in the country. her own public appearances were highly successful, but limited in number. After the sadness of a miscarriage and stillbirth of a daughter, she was born Caroline Bouvier in 1957; John Jr. he was born between the 1960 elections and the day he took office. patrick bouvier, born prematurely on august 7, 1963, passed away two days later.
To the role of First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy brought beauty, intelligence and refined taste. Her interest in the arts, publicized by the press and television, inspired an attention to culture never before evident at the national level. she devoted much time and study to making the white house a museum of american history and decorative arts, as well as a family residence of elegance and charm. But she defined her primary role as “taking care of the president,” adding that “if you mess up raising your kids, I don’t think anything else you do right matters much.”
mrs. kennedy’s fearless courage during the tragedy of her husband’s murder earned him the admiration of the world. thereafter, it seemed the public would never allow her the privacy she desired for herself and her children. she moved to new york city; and in 1968 she married wealthy greek businessman aristotle onassis, 23 years her senior, who died in march 1975. from 1978 until her death in 1994, mrs. Onassis worked in New York City as an editor for DoubleDay. At her funeral, her son described three of her attributes: “a love of words, the ties of home and family, and her spirit of adventure.”
The first ladies biographies on whitehouse.gov are of “the first ladies of the united states of america” by allida black. copyright 2009 by the white house historical association.
Learn more about Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy’s husband, John F. kennedy.