Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy saw the world through the eyes of an artist. Whether she was painting a picture, writing a poem, or introducing art to others, she tried to make the world a more beautiful place. How did she bring her interests and talents to the White House in her role as first lady of the United States?
Jacqueline Kennedy painted this picture of the White House for her husband when he was president. He hung it in the Oval Office. How can you tell it was a scene from long ago? (Answer key here).
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, or "Jackie" as her family called her, was born on July 28, 1929 in Southampton, New York. Her father's ancestors were from France; her mother's had emigrated from Ireland. The two families became very wealthy.
Jacqueline Bouvier with her dog Bonnett in 1935. As a child, Jackie had several dogs and entered them in dog shows. [PX 81-32:51]
Jackie loved the summers she spent near the ocean in East Hampton, New York. She swam, played outdoors, and rode horses. She began riding when she was less than five years old, and won two national contests by the time she was eleven! She loved the challenge of riding. It gave her quiet time to think, too.
Later, as a mother, she shared her love of riding with her children, John Jr. and Caroline. [ST 498-1-62]
Jackie also loved to learn. She spent hours reading books, and writing stories and poems. She liked to draw and paint, too. She was ten when she wrote and illustrated this poem called "Sea Joy."
How does the poem show Jackie's love of the sea?
Growing up in New York was exciting. Jackie took ballet lessons and learned to speak French. But it was a difficult time, too. Her parents divorced a week before her eleventh birthday. She spent even more quiet time by herself. Two years later, her mother remarried, adding step-brothers and sisters to her family.
This is the Auchincloss family, around 1946. Jackie's mother, Janet Bouvier, married Hugh D. Auchincloss, who was from a wealthy New York family. About how old is Jackie in the photograph?
After graduating from high school, Jackie entered Vassar College in New York, where she studied history, literature, art, and French.
She spent her junior year of college in France. It was one of the best years of her life. Jackie spoke French, studied hard, visited museums and monuments, and attended concerts and parties with new friends. Instead of returning to Vassar College for her senior year, she finished college near her family, at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Jacqueline Kennedy returned to Paris with President Kennedy in 1961. This photograph, taken about a mile from where Jacqueline lived during her year of study in Paris, shows a crowd ready to greet the president. What was the weather like that day? [PX 96-33:67]
After graduation, Jackie returned to Europe with her sister Lee. They kept a journal about their travels. Jackie created the drawings and poetry, and wrote some of the journal entries. Lee wrote about their ocean journey, and their adventures in London, Paris, Venice, and Florence.
Jackie's illustration shows the sisters at a concert in Paris. Her sister Lee had dressed quickly for the fancy event. When they met the Indian Ambassador, Lee's underclothes fell down to her feet! Can you find Lee?
Soon after she returned home, Jackie started a job doing office work at the Washington Times-Herald newspaper. She convinced the editor she was serious about writing, and he gave her a chance. As "Inquiring Camera Girl," she asked people in Washington, D.C. interesting questions, took their picture, and then wrote about their answers in a newspaper column. She even covered the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in England!
Jacqueline Bouvier used this camera to earn $42.50 per week as a reporter and photographer for the Washington Times-Herald.
Jackie first met Senator John F. Kennedy at a dinner party in 1951. They married on September 12, 1953 at her family's summer house in Newport, Rhode Island.
Ann Lowe, an African-American clothing designer and seamstress created Jacqueline's wedding gown. The dress required more than 50 yards of silk taffeta (half the length of a football field), and took Lowe over two months to make. [PX 81-32:61]
Jacqueline knew that marrying a senator meant that life would be busy. The couple would have little time to themselves. She did her best to lead a normal life, especially after she became a mother. Her daughter Caroline was born in 1957 and her son John Jr. was born in 1960. On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy became president. Jacqueline was only 31 years old. [ST-C22-1-62]
As first lady, she focused on making the White House a home for her family. She set up a kindergarten for Caroline and other children. There was also a swimming pool in the White House, a swing set, and a tree house on the White House lawn.
Mrs. Kennedy worked with Caroline and her classmates on their kindergarten projects. How is she helping in this photograph? What are they learning in school? To see the details, you may want to click below to see the full image. [KN-28674]
Mrs. Kennedy wanted to make big changes to the White House for the American people, too. As a child, she was disappointed by her visit there. She had expected a special place that would show the history of the important people who had lived there. In her role as first lady, she could change all of that. She searched through every closet and storage space to find special objects, furniture, and art from earlier times.
Mrs. Kennedy found this desk in the White House broadcast room. She had it restored and moved into the Oval Office. What material was used to make the desk? What symbol can you find on the desk?
Many experts helped her make the White House a beautiful, historical place, a "living museum." After months of hard work, Mrs. Kennedy was ready to show the world the newly-restored White House. Over a hundred million people in fifty countries watched her on television as she gave a guided tour of her home. She received a special award, an Emmy, for the program.
During her childhood visit to the White House, Jacqueline Kennedy had wished there had been a souvenir booklet. By establishing the White House Historical Association in 1961, she made sure The White House: An Historic Guide would be available to the public for years to come. Over 4 million people have learned about the history of the White House through this book.
With Mrs. Kennedy as first lady, the White House was never boring. There were special dinners, concerts, and plays for guests from around the world. For these events, she wrote detailed notes to the White House staff so that they would know which soup to serve, who would sit where, and who might perform a concert or ballet.
Isaac Stern, one of the most famous musicians of the 20th century, performed at a dinner for France's Minister of Culture, Andre Malraux. What instrument did Mr. Stern play? [KN-C21656]
Jacqueline Kennedy had an eye for fashion long before she moved into the White House. As first lady, she met with famous designers who created her clothing for elegant parties, award ceremonies, and trips to other countries. She had a style of her own and people around the world were interested in the clothes she wore.
To see more of the first lady's clothes, click here. Which dress or coat do you think Jacqueline Kennedy wore on a daytime boat ride in India? Which one did she wear to the inaugural gala the night before her husband officially became president?
Mrs. Kennedy traveled all over the world representing the United States. She went to France, Austria, and Greece with President Kennedy, and Italy, India, and Pakistan as well. People liked that she was interested in other cultures and could speak Spanish, French, and Italian.
This is Jacqueline Kennedy at the Taj Mahal in India. Why do you think people in India called her Ameriki Rani, "the Queen of America"? [ST-C62-1A-62]
A year before the upcoming 1964 presidential election, Mrs. Kennedy joined the President on a trip to Texas to meet voters and elected officials. On November 22, 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy's life changed forever when President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. She planned his state funeral that millions of people all over the world watched on television. People admired her courage during this sad time.
On November 25, 1963, President Kennedy was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. The funeral was attended by heads of state and representatives of more than 100 countries. [AR 8255-3K]
After President Kennedy's death, Mrs. Kennedy helped to plan and create the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, to honor her husband. She selected the architect I.M. Pei to design a building that would reflect the ideas and values of President Kennedy.
One of 13 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated on October 20, 1979. In addition to over 21 exhibits, it houses more than 8.4 million pages of documents, 400,00 photographs, and 8 million feet of film.
Many people will always remember how Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy captured the attention of the people all around the world with her intelligence, beauty, and grace. She cared deeply about her family and country. She dedicated herself to raising her children well and to making the world a better place through art, literature, and a respect for history.
Jacqueline Kennedy died on May 19, 1994 and was buried next to President Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery across the river from Washington, D.C.
JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUMColumbia Point, Boston MA 02125 (617) 514-1600