"I'll be a wife and mother first, then First Lady." — Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy
On January 20, 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy took the oath of office to become the nation's 35th President. At age thirty-one, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy had become the third youngest First Lady in our history. With her gracious personal style and her passion for history and the arts she worked hard to be worthy of her new role. Her first major project was the historical restoration of the White House. She created a White House Fine Arts Committee to guide and authenticate the work, created the White House Historical Society, the post of White House curator, oversaw publication of a guidebook for visitors, and established the White House Library and the Rose Garden. Once Mrs. Kennedy's restoration of the White House was nearly complete, she hosted a television TV tour broadcasted by CBS to more than 50 million Americans in February of 1962.
As First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy planned state occasions notable for their elegance, transforming the White House into a showcase of America's heritage and contemporary cultural and intellectual achievement. Through her activities Mrs. Kennedy instilled a new public regard for the arts. In the world of fashion, Mrs. Kennedy became a trend-setter. Designers, magazines, newspapers and the public were influenced by her style.
Mrs. Kennedy also accompanied her husband on state visits to Canada, Puerto Rico, France, Austria, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Columbia. She traveled as First Lady to Pakistan and India. Her interest in the cultures of the countries she visited and her fluency in languages made her a popular ambassador around the world.
The exhibit covers Mrs. Kennedy's childhood, support of the arts, leadership in historic preservation and role as an effective cultural ambassador. Particular attention is given to her work in restoring the White House and in developing its collection of art and historical furnishings. The display includes photographs, video footage of her televised tour of the White House and international travels, her artwork and clothing.
Featured in the exhibit is the pink hat and a fashionable abstraction of a rajah coat (a form that Nehru himself endorsed) which First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wore during her arrival at New Delhi's airport, where she was greeted by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi. Also on display is the red day suit worn by Mrs. John F. Kennedy to visit the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Ottawa, Canada on May 16, 1961. Other items are the camera Jacqueline Bouvier used as a reporter and photographer for the Washington Times-Herald and an Egyptian Statue given to the First Lady by the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in appreciation for her role in helping to save the ancient image temples of Abu Simbel in the Nile Valley.