Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was born on July 28, 1929, in Southampton, New York. Her father, John, was a wealthy stockbroker on Wall Street whose family had come from France in the early 1800s. Her mother, Janet, had ancestors from Ireland and England.
Janet Bouvier was an accomplished rider, and Jackie was only a year old when her mother first put her on a horse. By age 11, she had already won several national championships. The New York Times wrote in 1940:
"Jacqueline Bouvier, an eleven-year-old equestrienne from East Hampton, Long Island, scored a double victory in the horsemanship competition. Miss Bouvier achieved a rare distinction. The occasions are few when a young rider wins both contests in the same show."
Jackie also enjoyed reading. Before she started school, she had read all the children’s books on her bookshelves. Her heroes were Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, Little Lord Fauntleroy’s grandfather, Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind, and the poet Byron. Mrs. Bouvier wondered if Jackie might one day be a writer.
Going to School
After kindergarten, Jackie started first grade at Miss Chapin’s School on East End Avenue in New York. One of her teachers, Miss Platt, thought Jackie was "a darling child, the prettiest little girl, very clever, very artistic, and full of the devil." At times she did get into mischief and would be sent to the headmistress, Miss Ethel Stringfellow, who wrote on her report card: "Jacqueline was given a D in Form because her disturbing conduct in her geography class made it necessary to exclude her from the room."
When Jackie was ten years old, her parents divorced. It was a difficult period for her, especially because at the time few children had divorced parents. She also came from a Catholic family, and the Catholic Church disapproves of divorces. Jackie had always been a private person, but now she became still quieter, keeping her thoughts to herself.
Despite these hard times, Jackie had many advantages and opportunities in life. She took classical ballet lessons in the old Metropolitan Opera House. She began taking lessons in French. In 1942, when Jackie was about to turn thirteen, her mother married a businessman named Hugh Auchincloss who had children from previous marriages. Besides her younger sister, Lee, Jackie now had two stepbrothers, Yusha and Tommy, and a stepsister, Nina.
In June 1947, Jackie graduated from Miss Porter’s School, a boarding school for girls in Connecticut. She continued her education at Vassar College in New York, where she studied history, literature, art, and French. Jackie spent her junior year studying abroad in Paris, France. She lived with the de Renty family at 76 Avenue Mozart. Madame de Renty had two daughters, Claude and Ghislaine, and one four-year-old son, Christian. Jackie later wrote about her experience:
I loved it more than any year of my life. Being away from home gave me a chance to look at myself with a jaundiced eye. I learned not to be ashamed of a real hunger for knowledge, something I had always tried to hide, and I came home glad to start in here again but with a love for Europe that I am afraid will never leave me
She returned to the United States to finish up her last year of college, transferring from Vassar College to The George Washington University because she preferred being in the city and close to her family.
Jacqueline Bouvier: The Inquiring Photographer
Jacqueline started her first job in the fall of 1951 as the "Inquiring Camera Girl" for the Washington Times-Herald newspaper. Roving around the city, she took pictures of people she encountered, asked them questions on the issues of the day, and wove their answers into her newspaper column. Among those she interviewed for her column was Richard M. Nixon. She also covered the first inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
During this time, Jacqueline met John F. Kennedy, who was a congressman and soon to be elected senator from Massachusetts. On September 12, 1953, they married at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island. After their honeymoon in Mexico, the Kennedys returned to Washington DC. Early on in their marriage, Senator Kennedy suffered crippling pain in his back from football and wartime injuries and had two operations. While recovering from surgery, Mrs. Kennedy encouraged him to write a book about several US senators who had risked their careers to fight for the things they believed in. The book, called Profiles in Courage, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. That same year, the Kennedys’ first child, Caroline, was born.
In January 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. He began traveling all around the country and Jacqueline often accompanied him. During the campaign, she learned that she was pregnant and her doctors instructed her to remain at home. From there, she answered hundreds of campaign letters, taped TV commercials, gave interviews, and wrote a weekly newspaper column, "Campaign Wife," which was distributed across the country. On November 8, 1960, John F. Kennedy beat Republican Richard M. Nixon in a very close race. Two and-a-half weeks later, Mrs. Kennedy gave birth to their second child, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr.