Jackie Kennedy Onassis set a First Lady precedent that was impossible to follow. Dressed to impress, sharp as a whip, and the belle of every ball she attended, Jackie’s legacy is hard to beat. However, there are some secrets about her endlessly famous marriage to John F. Kennedy that are only seeing the light of day now. Here’s what really happened between the pair — and how Jackie made her choices.
Born Into Wealth
Jacqueline “Jackie” Bouvier was born on July 28th, 1929, in Southampton, New York, to the very prestigious and wealthy Bouvier family. Her father was a successful stockbroker on Wall Street, while her mother was a well-known socialite. Interestingly enough, the Bouviers had actually come from modest financial origins, and they had only just started acquiring a substantial fortune.
This allowed Jackie to develop an early sense of ambition and desire to make something of her life, a drive that would lead her to unimaginable heights, and consequently, indescribable lows. But despite her origins, Jackie wasn’t interested in riding anyone’s coattails — she was determined to make her own name for herself.
A Child Prodigy
Throughout her school years, Jackie excelled in all her classes, mastered the French language, and became an experienced horseback rider who won multiple races. However, she was also a bit of a troublemaker, as one of her teachers could attest to, referring to her as “a darling child, the prettiest little girl, very clever, very artistic — and full of the devil.”
Jackie’s father lavished her with praise constantly, even going so far as to calling her “the most beautiful daughter a man ever had.” Mr. Bouvier’s constant love and adoration for Jackie gave her the valuable confidence she would need to follow her passions, and to be the woman she became. But despite the comforts of her home life, Jackie’s teen years would be fraught with complications.
A Heartbreaking Blow
When Jackie was still a young girl, her parents got divorced. The disruption to her sense of normalcy reportedly led to her withdrawing often “into a private world of her own.” This kind of experience is hard for any child to go through, but considering Jackie would be now moving away from her father, with whom she shared a very special bond, it was particularly painful.
Eventually her mother remarried, and they all moved out to McLean, Virginia to live with their new family, the Auchinclosses. But Jackie still kept in touch with her father, and she later decided to go to boarding school in a bid to get away from her step-family. People still had no idea about her fierce ambition simmering beneath the surface.
Not Your Typical Student
Back when it was common for women to get married at a young age, Jackie shocked her peers with her lofty career goals. She wanted to be independent. She was determined to be respected in her own right, and not because she was married to a powerful man. In her senior yearbook, she was described for “her unwillingness to become a housewife”.
In this way alone, Jackie can be pointed to as a woman who trail-blazed the way for other strong women to rise to power. This fire to succeed in the world would continue to burn in later years as well, but for now, there were other reasons she was becoming extremely popular.
A Young Lady Of High Society
For her college years, Jackie originally wanted to attend Sarah Lawrence College, so she could be closer to New York City. However, due to the request of both her parents, Jackie ended up attending Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, which was closer to where her father lived.
Distance, it turned out, wasn’t an issue for her. Even though she wasn’t living in New York City, she frequently traveled to Manhattan so that she could attend upscale parties and show off her lavish dresses. This was Jackie’s “coming out party” as a young socialite in the world — and columnist Igor Cassini even called her the “debutante of the year”. But this was just the tip of the iceberg for her.
It wasn’t long before male suitors came out of the woodworks in an attempt to woo Jackie. One of these men was John P. Marquand Jr., whom she had met while studying abroad in Paris during her college junior year. The pair started a romance that was serious enough to even lead to an engagement.
However, Jackie called it off because she eventually decided he was “immature and boring”. Beyond that, there were other reasons some speculate that the engagement was called off. Some say that Jackie’s mother disapproved of the tandem, because Marquand didn’t come from wealth. Even if that hadn’t worked out, though, exciting things were happening with Jackie’s career.
A Massive Career Opportunity
After graduating college, Jackie applied for a junior editor position at Vogue magazine. She got the job, standing out among hundreds of other women who’d applied. Yet after all that, on her first day at work, a high-ranking employee recommended that she quit in order to find a husband, telling Jackie that her age of 22 was too old to still be single.
Despite her ambition to be independent, Jackie actually took that employee’s advice, believing that perhaps her superior was right. The decision seems utterly counter-intuitive, considering how coveted her position at Vogue was. But Jackie would soon prove how easily she attracted success — and her next step was even more thrilling.
Jackie Became A ‘Camera Girl’
Although she kept her eyes peeled for a husband, Jackie still had a passion for reporting. She soon got another job as a part-time receptionist at the Washington Times-Herald. But receptionist work was too bland for Jackie. And so, after a while, she told her editor, Frank Waldrop, that she wanted a more challenging job.
He then allowed her to be the “Inquiring Camera Girl”, a job that required her to approach random people on the street and ask them questions. During this time, one of the people she approached was Tricia Nixon, the daughter of then-Vice President Richard Nixon. Soon enough, she was to meet the man who would defeat Nixon’s presidency bid: her future husband, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Jackie Bouvier and John F. Kennedy were introduced to one another by mutual friends, and they had both come from similar circles of power and wealth. Their financial upbringing was only one of the many things the pair had in common, and the two seemed like a match made in heaven.
However, behind the scenes, Jackie wasn’t super into it at first. After he took her out to an impressive first date on a yacht, she reportedly remarked that he had a “funny body” with “toothpick legs”. But soon enough they hit it off, and after countless dates, the idea of marrying him didn’t seem out of the question.
Proposal From The Future President
The power couple dated long enough for John to feel comfortable enough to ask her to be his wife — but she refused. However, it was not because she didn’t want to. Rather, it was because she was busy with her career, spending time in Europe covering the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
After once having given up a career opportunity in favor of her marriage prospects, now she was doing the exact opposite of that! When Jackie returned to the United States, at last, she was finally ready to give John F. Kennedy her decision. It was then that she happily accepted his proposal of marriage. And the wedding they had planned was shaping up to be an event of epic proportions.
A Historical American Event
Given how wealthy and popular both of their families were, Jackie Bouvier and John F. Kennedy’s 1953 wedding became one of the most heavily anticipated events that year. With 700 guests at the ceremony, and 1,200 people filling up the afterparty, folks didn’t forget it in a hurry.
Their Roman Catholic wedding was blessed by none other than the Pope himself, as well as the Boston Archbishop Richard Cushing, who led the ceremony. As for the luxurious reception, it took place on Hammersmith Farm, the Rhode Island estate where Jackie had spent much of her childhood. But as amazing as the wedding itself was, the young couple had their own handful of problems in paradise.
A Series Of Tragic Blows
The first few years of their marriage was fraught with a handful of painful struggles. Although the newlyweds tried in earnest, they were unsuccessful at getting pregnant for the first two years of their marriage. When Jackie finally did become pregnant, she had a miscarriage. Sadly, this was followed by another pregnancy, which resulted in a stillbirth.
On top of all that, John was dealing with intense back pains at the time. One can only imagine how tough this must have been for the young couple. Regardless of their socioeconomic status, nothing could have prepared them for the pain of losing a child. This was a rough time for Jackie, but a new reason for optimism was now knocking at the door.
Jackie Was JFK’s Secret Weapon
Once John delved deeper into the politics game, it gave both him and Jackie something positive to strive for. Sometimes all one needs in life is a healthy distraction — and politics provided just that for the Kennedy newlyweds. This was even more true when they discovered that Jackie herself was actually helping John’s campaign quite a lot.
Throughout his campaigns across America, statistics showed that double the amount of people came to attend when Jackie was by his side. Jackie also gave birth to their daughter Caroline around this time. And yet now, even as things were beginning to look promising for their family, some other problems were starting to surface.
No Way Out
As successful as John had become, it was during this time period that Jackie began to grow suspicious of him cheating on her. There had been one night in particular where John came home very late one night, and Jackie suspected that he’d been with another woman.
All the speculation ultimately led to her considering divorcing him — but John’s father didn’t want that to happen. Worried about his son’s political future, he reportedly offered Jackie a cool $1 million to stay married to him. Ultimately, Jackie caved, and decided to try to keep their marriage as solid as a rock. And that’s not all she did to help her husband’s career.
The Campaign Wife
When JFK announced that he was running for president, Jackie supported him in any way that she could. Pregnant at home with another child, she wasn’t able to travel with him, but she published weekly articles under a newspaper column titled “The Campaign Wife”.
Regardless of the drama they had gone through, Jackie was as supportive as a wife could be during this time, building John up to the public in her articles. Considering the fact that people respected her opinion so much, word got around that her husband was the real deal. It worked: John was elected president, and even afterward, Jackie helped him in ways few people were aware of.
Darlings Of The Media
John and Jackie Kennedy brought to the White House a young, vibrant energy that hadn’t existed there before. They were constantly taking photos and giving the press something to write about. Jackie was a big part of this change, given her background as an active high-class socialite.
She understood that the world was changing, and that the public responded positively to visual communication. In a sense, they were the first presidential couple to utilize the newly invented television to their utmost advantage, and Jackie was a huge part of that movement. But Jackie soon started contributing to the White House on an even grander scale.
Restoring The White House
One of Jackie Kennedy’s biggest accomplishments was restoring the White House during her term. Not many people know that the furnishings of the White House as we know them today were nothing close to what they had been before she arrived. At the time, Jackie wasn’t impressed by the furnishings, nor by the lack of historically significant items.
“I feel so strongly that the White House should have as fine a collection of American pictures as possible,” Jackie declared. “It’s so important.” So Jackie not only set up a fund to renovate the building’s interior, but also reached out to people who had withdrawn historical items from the White House in the past. Beyond her flair for decorating, her image was going to have a massive effect on the culture of her day.
The Queen Of Fashion
Jackie Kennedy had always been a lover of fine fashion. But when she became First Lady, she naturally took that obsession to its logical next step. She grew heavily focused on presenting an image of success, and hired French-American fashion designer Oleg Cassini to design her daily wardrobe.
During her time in the White House, her icon as a trendsetting fashionista was at its peak, and she was even dubbed as one the “12 Best Dressed Women In The World”. However, with all that respect came some naysayers, who criticized her for reportedly spending up to $145,000 a year on clothes (which was worth a lot more back then). But it wasn’t just her fashion sense that had the world buzzing.
An International Star
It’s common for presidents to visit other leaders around the world, but just how often does the First Lady take charge in these adventures? Such was the case with Jackie, who used her French-speaking skills to charm not just the leaders, but the entire country of France.
In fact, when she and John went to visit the leader of France, she made such a strong impact that some people joked that it was in fact Jackie who had brought John along with her, and not the other way around! In a similar occurrence, when she and John visited the leader of the Soviet Union, he asked to shake her hand before that of her husband. But there was one specific friendship Jackie had who people are still remembering fondly.
Jackie’s Relationship With The Queen
There is a bit of a debate regarding what really happened with Jackie Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II. On the Netflix drama series The Crown, Jackie was depicted making fun of Buckingham Palace, and calling it a “second-rate hotel”. However, insiders tell a much different tale — that the two women actually bonded over common struggles.
When Jackie asked her for advice about dealing with public pressure, the Queen responded, “One gets crafty after a while and learns how to save oneself.” Jackie reportedly told the press how grateful she was to have met such a charming woman. However, there were other women Jackie may have not been as pleased with.
Happy Birthday Mr. President
During a fundraiser event ten days before John F. Kennedy’s birthday, movie star Marilyn Monroe took the stage to serenade him with a sweet passionate “Happy Birthday” song, now infamous. It was one of those rare historic moments that people still talk about to this day — but not necessarily for the right reasons.
Monroe’s extra sultry rendition made people wonder if there was something romantic going on with her and the president. What’s more, it certainly didn’t help matters that Jackie wasn’t in the audience. Feeling jealous while watching it on television, Jackie once again began to consider seeking a divorce from her husband. That was all until a day that changed the course of history.
A Day Frozen In History
Everyone who lived in the ’60s probably remembers exactly where they were when they heard about John F. Kennedy’s assassination. On that devastating day in November 1963, Jackie had just agreed to accompany her husband to Dallas, Texas, where John had been planning to give a presidential speech at a fancy luncheon.
Jackie Kennedy was sitting right next to her husband in the car when it happened, and witnessed the assassination firsthand. As the world watched in shock, Jackie was on the front lines in this indescribably traumatic event. It goes without saying that surviving and bearing witness to such horror had an immense effect on her. Despite their rocky relationship in the past, moving forward, Jackie had a lot of wonderful words to say about her husband.
Jackie Compared Her Husband To Camelot
In an interview with Life magazine, Jackie Kennedy described her late husband’s presidency to Camelot. She compared their reign in the White House to that of the Arthurian world. She went on to say that although there will be great presidents to come, there will never be another Camelot.
There’s a reason that no matter how hard things grew between the two of them, they stuck together throughout it all. They had a like-minded vision for the future of America, and they knew that nothing was more important than that. Soon enough, another voice from the family would rise up and try to bring honor to its name.
Jackie Helped Her Brother-In-Law’s Campaign
A few years passed before John’s little brother, Bobby Kennedy, thought about running for president. Seeing how well he had been doing in the polls, his advisors strongly recommended the move. However, he and Jackie had gotten quite close, and out of respect he said, “That depends on what Jackie wants me to do.”
Jackie supported him fully, confident that he would succeed, which would have made his brother (and her late husband) more than proud. However, as yet another tragic casualty of this violent period in American history, Bobby was also assassinated in 1968 in Los Angeles. To be hit twice with such terrible events in the family, Jackie’s feelings of devastation were understandably on another level. She responded the only way she knew how.
Starting A New Life
Heartbroken over the tragic events that had befallen her and her loved ones, Jackie moved away from politics and into a new life. She married Greek billionaire Aristotle Onassis, and settled down with him on his private island in the Mediterranean Sea.
In her later years, she continued to contribute to American society in multiple ways: from preventing the demolition of Manhattan’s beloved Grand Central Terminal, to supporting future presidents in their campaigns as well. Up until the day she died, and ever since, Jackie Kennedy Onassis is considered to be one of the most influential figures in 20th-century American history.
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