Also Available for Jackie Kennedy:
Bibliography    Timeline    Juvenile Biography    Lesson Plans    MSS

Copyright, Attention: This website and its contents contain intellectual property copyright materials and works belonging to the National First Ladies’ Library and Historic Site and to other third parties. Please do not plagiarize. If you use a direct quote from our website please cite your reference and provide a link back to the source.

First Lady Biography: Jackie Kennedy


Place: Southampton Hospital, Southampton, New York
Date: 1929, July 28 
John "Jack" Vernou Bouvier, III, born 1891, May 19, East Hampton, New York, stock broker, New York Stock Exchange; died 1957, August 2, New York, New York
Janet Norton Lee, born 1907, December 3, New York, New York; attended Sweetbriar College, Virginia, and Vassar College but did not graduate from either institution; a noted horsewoman and a multiple trophy winner. Janet Lee married John Bouvier, 1928, July 7, at St. Philomena's Church, East Hampton, New York; died, 1989, July 22, Newport, Rhode Island.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's parents divorced in 1940. Janet Bouvier married a second time on 1942, June 21, to Hugh D. Auchincloss (1897-1972). She married a third time on 1979, October 25, to Bingham Morris. Morris's first wife had been a bridesmaid in the wedding party of his second wife (Janet Lee Bouvier).
Irish, English, French, Scottish; Jacqueline Kennedy was half-Irish, her mother being the granddaughter of four immigrants from County Cork, who came to New York during the 1840's potato famine. Jacqueline Kennedy's paternal grandmother Maude Sergeant was the daughter of an immigrant from Kent, England. Despite her maiden name, Jacqueline Kennedy's French ancestry was descent from one great-grandfather, making her only one-eight French. The first Bouvier to settle in America was carpenter Michel Bouvier, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1815 from Point Saint-Esprit in the Provence region.  One source claims the legend of ancestral descent of the Bouviers to include a later descendant of the Van Salees family, Dutch/African merchants that settled in New Amsterdam in the 17th century.
Birth Order and Siblings:
Eldest of two, she had a younger sister, Caroline Lee Bouvier Canfield Radziwill Ross (born 1933, March 3).
Through the second marriage of her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy had two half-siblings, Janet Jennings Auchincloss (1945-1985) and James Lee Auchincloss (born 1947); by Hugh D. Auchincloss's first marriage to Maria Chrapovitsky, she had a step-brother, Hugh D. ("Yusha") Auchincloss, Jr. (born 1927?); by Hugh D. Auchincloss's second marriage to Nina Gore Vidal, she had a step-sister, Nina Auchincloss Steers Straight (born 1935?), and a step-brother Thomas Auchincloss (born 1937?).
Although the author, playwright and social critic Gore Vidal has often been identified as a stepbrother to Jacqueline Kennedy, they both shared the same stepfather, but through different mothers.
Physical Appearance:
5'8", brown hair, brown eyes
Religious Affiliation:
Roman Catholic; Although she married a second time to a divorced man in a ceremony of his Greek Orthodox faith, thus breaking her faith's tenets, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis did not convert and was buried with full rites of the Catholic Church.
Chapin School, 1935-1942, New York City (kindergarten and grammar school); Holton Arms School, 1942-1944, Washington, D.C. (completed grammar school and first year of high school); Miss Porter's School, 1944-1947, Farmington, Connecticut (high school); Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York (freshman and sophomore years, college) 1947-1949; University of Grenoble and Sorbonne, Paris, France (junior year abroad program through Smith College), 1949-1950; George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (senior year, college), B.A. French literature, 1950-951; Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (American history continuing education classes), 1954
Occupation before Marriage:
At an early age, Jacqueline Kennedy wrote essays and poems which were sometimes published in local newspapers. In her high school newspaper Salmagundi, she penned a cartoon series and won the graduating award for literature. In 1951, she submitted an entry to Vogue magazine's Prix de Paris contest, the prize for which was to spend half a year in New York, and the other half in Paris as a junior editor for the magazine. The submission was rigorous, requiring an original theme for an entire issue, illustrations, articles, layout and design, an advertising campaign that could be tied into the issue's content. In the requisite essay, "People I Wish I Had Known," she listed playwright Oscar Wilde, poet Charles Baudelaire and ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev. Named one of the twelve finalists, she was then interviewed by the magazine editors and out of 1,280 entries she won the contest. Her mother, however, did not want her to leave the U.S. and made her turn down the prize. After college, she worked for the Washington Times-Herald as its Inquiring Camera Girl, earning $42.50 a week.  Her job was to both photograph and interview local citizens with one question each day; her first interview was with Pat Nixon and others included Vice President Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy whom she later married. The questions became increasingly political, including topics like the Soviet Union, the Korean War, and the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. One of her last assignments was to cover Queen Elizabeth's 1953 coronation.
First: 1953, September 12, to John F. Kennedy, born 1917, May 29, in Brookline, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States Senator (D-Massachusetts), former U.S. Congressman (D-Massachusetts), at St. Mary's Church, Newport, Rhode Island. John F. Kennedy died 1963, November 22, Dallas, Texas.
1968, October 20, to Aristotle Socrates Onassis, born 1906, June 15, in Smyrna, Turkey, international shipping magnate, airline owner, at Skorpios Island, Greece. He died 1975, March 15, The American Hospital, Paris, France. His first marriage was to Athina Tina Livanos (1926- 1973), in 1946 in New York City, New York.
Caroline Bouvier Kennedy (born, 1957, November 27); John F. Kennedy, Jr. (1960, November 25 - 1999, July 16); Patrick Bouvier Kennedy (1963, August 7 - 1963, August 9)
Stepchildren: Alexander Onassis (1948-1973), Christina Onassis (1950-1988)
Occupation after Marriage:
Although Jacqueline Kennedy remarked at her wedding that she wished to write a novel, her marriage suspended her writing ambitions. Nevertheless, as a Senator's spouse she found an outlet in responding to constituent mail, translating articles, drafting her husband's 1956 endorsement statement of Adlai Stevenson, and acting as something like a coordinating editor for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Profiles In Courage. She made short speeches in Italian, French and Spanish to ethnic constituents during his 1958 re-election campaign.
Presidential Campaign and Inauguration:
Since she was pregnant for most of the 1960 presidential campaign, Jacqueline Kennedy played a limited public role in it; she wrote a column "Campaign Wife," mixing personal stories with Democratic Party policy views on the aged and education that was distributed by the national party; she participated in television and newspaper interviews; she taped campaign radio commercials in foreign languages. Privately, she supplied her husband with numerous literary and historical examples and quotations that he used in his speeches. Jacqueline Kennedy influenced her husband to invite numerous artists in all disciplines to his 1961 inaugural ceremony as a symbol of the new Administration's intended support of the arts. Her appearance in a large pillbox hat for the swearing-in ceremony, however, eclipsed this news and began a popular millinery style.
First Lady:
1961, January 20 - 1963, November 22
31 years old
Jacqueline Kennedy entered the role of First Lady by declaring that her priorities were her young children and maintaining her family's privacy. Nevertheless, during the weeks before the inauguration, she began her plans to not only redecorate the family quarters of the White House but to historically restore the public rooms. She created a committee of advisors led by Americana expert Henry Dupont, with sub-committees led by experts on painting, furniture and books. By March 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy was scouring government warehouses in search of displaced White House furnishings, and soliciting the nation to donate important historical and artistic items. As part of this effort, she successfully pressed Senator Clint Anderson and the 87th Congress to pass what became Public Law 87286 that would make such donated items the inalienable property of the White House. Since the restoration project was privately funded, she helped to create a White House Historical Association, an entity which was able to raise funds through the sale to the public of a book she conceived, The White House: An Historic Guide. She also successfully pressed for the creation of the federal position of White House Curator to permanently continue the effort of protecting the historical integrity of the mansion. Her legacy of fostering an national interest in historic preservation extended to her own "neighborhood," when she reversed a previous federal plan to destroy the historic Lafayette Square across from the White House and helped to negotiate not only a restoration of old buildings there, but a reasonable construction of new buildings with modern use.
Jacqueline Kennedy also sought to use the White House to "showcase" the arts. She became the most prominent proponent for the establishment of the National Cultural Center in the nation's capital, eventually to be named for her husband. At the White House she hosted performances of opera, ballet, Shakespeare and modern jazz, all performed by American companies. After her meeting with French Minister of Culture Andre Malraux in May of 1961, he made a loan to the U.S. from France of the Louvre Museum's famous Mona Lisa painting, and Jacqueline Kennedy presided over the unveiling. From Malraux, she developed ideas on the eventual creation of a U.S. Department of the Arts and Humanities, an undertaking she discussed with Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell and one that she anticipated would emerge with the creation of a presidential arts advisor and advisory board in 1961. The eventual creation of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Arts achieved her goal, she later reflected.
Contrary to the image of "lovely inconsequence" that her friend, historian Arthur Schlesinger characterized her as feigning, Jacqueline Kennedy had an intense interest in the substantive issues faced by the Administration; she kept this covert, however, believing that public knowledge of her views would distract from the uncontroversial historic and arts projects she adopted. Privately, she was known to provide the President with withering assessments of political figures with whom he was negotiating, whether it was Pentagon brass or the Soviet Politburo. After the Bay of Pigs, Jacqueline Kennedy made a speech in Spanish, in Miami, December 1962, to the brigade of Cuban fighters who had landed in Cuba to carry out the ill-considered operation. Throughout the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, she remained at the President's side and he kept her informed of each top-secret move that the U.S. and Soviet Union were making; afterwards, in thanks for the emotional support she provided to him, he presented her with one of the same silver calendars commemorating the crisis that he gave to his military advisors who had helped him. As the fight for civil rights of African-Americans gained momentum, the First Lady illustrated a subtle support for it; when she created a kindergarten in the White House for her daughter and a few select youngsters, it was racially integrated and photographs of the group were publicly released. Jacqueline Kennedy made more international trips than any of her predecessors, both with the President and on her own: France, Austria, England, Greece, Venezuela and Colombia in 1961, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Italy and Mexico in 1962, Morocco, Italy, Turkey, Greece, France in 1963. On many of these trips, she forged personal friendship with world leaders, including France's Charles DeGaulle, India's Jawaharlal Nehru, Pakistan's Ayub Kahn, England's Harold McMillan, subtly furthering the interests of the President and the U.S. In South American nations, for example, she made speeches in Spanish hailing the promise of the Administration's Peace Corps. Believing that Kennedy's most important accomplishment was his 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, days after his assassination she penned a remarkable letter to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, calling on him to remain committed to nuclear arms reduction and urge smaller nations to do likewise.
Often sketching designs for her clothing as First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy fashion immediately drew international attention; more than any other First Ladies her style was copied by commercial manufacturers and a large segment of young women. While she appeared largely in the media in unauthorized wire service photographs and "paparazzi" snapshots, White House photographs were more frequently issued to the press than ever before and the role of the official in-house photographer was instigated as a result of Jacqueline Kennedy's own interest and instruction. She also made several television appearances, the most prominent being A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy, aired on CBS on February 14, 1962. It was the first glimpse into her restoration project and the most sustained exposure the nation had to this youthful and unique First Lady. The television special only further fueled media attention on her and she soon became the first First Lady to find herself on the cover of thousands of popular magazines. The first First Lady to also have her own press secretary, her visibility would permanently forge the media interest in the activities of the presidential spouses.
Post-Presidential Life:
As the president's widow in late 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy successfully sought President Lyndon Johnson's support for several measures she considered important to her late husband, including the revitalization of Pennsylvania Avenue. After living in Washington for several months, she moved to New York. Although raising her two young children was her priority, she also focused on the creation of the John F. Kennedy Library and became intricately involved in the architecture and landscaping, as well as the academic direction of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Frequently traveling abroad, she led an effort to halt the potential damage in Venice, Italy posed by rising water levels, and also attempted to broker better diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cambodia.
After her remarriage to Aristotle Onassis in 1968, she lived part of each year in Athens or on Skorpios Island, Greece, or in Paris, France, at his homes. She successfully lobbied Athens officials to retain an ancient marketplace. Following his death, she resumed her career in the writing profession, but as an editor, first at Viking Press, and then Doubleday; she often wrote the introduction to the books she edited and also worked on obtaining and laying out the illustrations.
Working with the New York Municipal Arts Society, she led a successful public information campaign to save New York's Grand Central Station, coming to Washington, D.C. to urge the Congress to pass landmark legislation; along these lines, she also lobbied legislators in the New York State capital of Albany, to prevent private organizations from altering or destroying their property if it was deemed historical architecture. Included among the civic activities in which she was further involved were the revitalization of the Broadway theater district, the Central Park Conservancy, the Literary Lions of the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum's Egyptian wing and the Costume Institute, and the American Ballet Theater at Lincoln Center.
Her apartment, New York, New York
1994, May 19
64 years old
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
* Jacqueline Kennedy is the first First Lady who was born in a hospital
*In attendance at her funeral mass were former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and incumbent First Lady Hillary Clinton