1. Her maiden name was Jacqueline Lee Bouvier
Though she was remarried after the death of her first husband, former US President John F. Kennedy, the public will always know to her as Jackie Kennedy, the quintessential First Lady. Before she was a Kennedy, however, she was Jacquelin Lee Bouvier (she was born regal), the daughter of a Wall Street stockbroker and socialite mother.
We know Jackie for her fashion-forward style, and her classy approach to dressing tastefully. She was never one to dress plainly. Even at a young age, she was already establishing herself as an icon. Apart from being well-dressed, she was also intelligent and had a fondness for animals.
2. She always looked her best, even at a young age
Let’s take a moment to appreciate how photogenic young Jackie Bouvier is. It’s like she stepped out of a high-fashioned magazine for tots. However, don’t mistake her natural ability to pose for a camera suggest it was all for show. Her mother, Janet Bouvier, was a renowned horse-rider and competitor and had Jackie in the saddle at age one.
By the time she was 11 years old, she was winning competitions and was even mentioned in The New York Times. “Jacqueline Bouvier, an eleven-year-old equestrienne from East Hampton, Long Island, scored a double victory in the horsemanship competition…The occasions are few when a young rider wins both contests in the same show,” The Times read.
3. She knew how to turn up the charm
Not only could she handle a horse, but Jackie was also well-read. As a child, her favorite story-book 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 (yes, Gone with the (freaking) Wind).
Don’t let her bookish charm fool you. She wasn’t a demure, quiet reader. In fact, she was the complete opposite. Her kindergarten teacher, Ms. Platt described her young pupils as, “a darling child, the prettiest little girl, very clever, very artistic, and full of the devil.” She was rambunctious, but for a good reason.
4. She was often sent to the headmaster’s office in school
Jackie would be so mischievous in class that she would get sent to the headmistress’s office. Yes, the future First Lady was sent to the principle’s office! Her headmaster, Miss Ethel Stringfellow had this to write 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.”
Can you imagine little Jackie causing mischief and trouble for her teachers? Makes you wonder what kind of troublemaker she was. Was she the class clown? The giggler? Or the faux-fart vigilante? It’s hard to believe that the young woman who would one day live in the White House was anything less than obedient and studious.
5. She struggled with her parents’ divorce
Though she had what seemed to be infinite amounts of energy and intelligence, nothing prepared her for the turmoils of her parents’ divorce. At age ten, her parents filed for a divorce and little Jackie was beyond devastated. At the time, divorces were a rarity, and she felt alienated and ostracized from the world around her.
Add that her family were Roman Catholics, you’ve got a recipe for social and religious disaster. Though she was rowdy in school, she was a fairly quiet person. However, after the divorce, she became more withdrawn and reclusive. She mainly kept her thoughts to herself. Nonetheless, the divorce didn’t keep Miss. Bouvier from living her best life.
6. She loved the arts
As a socialite, she had numerous opportunities to further her education in the arts. For instance, she studied ballet at the old Metropolitan Opera House and. If that wasn’t enough, she taught herself, French. She was also known to be a naturally gifted writer, something that she would pick back up again along the road of her life.
In her adolescence, she wrote poems and essays that were published in newspapers. In her high school years, she wrote a cartoon series that won the graduating award for literature. She was smart and creative. Besides being a brainy creative type, she was also a natural beauty.
7. She went to Paris and her life changed forever
Jackie had more privileges than most young woman of her time. After she graduated high school, she attended Vassar College in New York. At Vassar, she studied history, literature, art, and French. She took a year to study abroad in Paris, mastering her command of the French language.
Jackie fell in love with Paris. It was in the City of Romance that she truly blossomed into a young woman. “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 later recalled.
8. Her beginnings as a writer
After her year abroad, Jackie came back to the States and transferred to George Washington University in Washington DC. While there, she missed home, her family, and being in the city. When she graduated in 1951, she entered a writing contest sponsored by Vogue (not a bad place to start as a newly graduated writer).
Of all the submissions, Jackie’s landed first place. The topic of her piece was: People I wish I had known. Her essay on Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, and Serge Diaghiler obviously caught their attention and interest. She was offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to intern in Paris for a year. Her parents, however, were not thrilled.
9. She turned down work with Vogue magazine
Opportunity is rare, but when something as priceless as an internship at one of the most prestigious fashion and lifestyle magazines in the world comes a-knockin’, you better answer. Unfortunately, Jackie’s parents didn’t see it that way. They were afraid that if she accepted the offer, she’d never look back (Uh….yeah. That’s the point).
Jackie’s parents pressured her not to take the job at Vogue, and instead suggested a European tour with her sister. Convinced to accept, she took their offer and stayed in DC. One thing was for certain, however: Jackie did not want to be a housewife. She knew she was destined for greater things.
10. She was a journalist for the Washington Times Herald
After she returned from her European tour, 23-year-old Jackie was ready to make something of herself. She wanted to have a career where her intellect and drive would be recognized, nurtured, and valued. Because of her passion and talent for writing, she became a journalist for the Washington Times Herald.
She took the role seriously, too. She was on the scene, covering of some of the most important events of the day, including the inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. She even snagged an interview with then-president, Richard Nixon. However, fate would intervene once again.
11. She almost married someone else
As she grew in her career, she caught the eye of a handsome and eligible bachelor. No — it’s not who you think. In 1952, Jackie announced her engagement to a New York stockbroker named John Husted. However, the engagement wouldn’t last. She broke it off with Husted, citing the fact that he was too immature and boring.
Then, during a dinner party in 1952, Jackie was introduced to a handsome young politician named Jack Kennedy. The two hit if off, and by 1953, the two lovebirds were engaged. Happy and in love, she wore a simple ball gown, famously dubbed “the Anne Lowe,” coupled with a delicate lace veil at their wedding.
12. She lost her first child
The earlier part of their marriage were a series of good memories in the making. Young and in love, Jack and Jackie traveled together — not for vacation, but for the political trail. Her husband lost the vote when he ran for the vice presidential nomination in 1956. Meanwhile, Jackie was expecting her first child.
However, despite their excitement, it was not meant to be. The baby did not survive. To bury her pain and grief, she immersed herself into Jack and his political campaign. But her loss was soon lessened when Jackie found the joys of motherhood. In 1957 she gave birth to her first child, Caroline Kennedy.
13. She found love through her children
By 1960 John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the United States. Jackie believed her duty was to support her husband and her family in any capacity she could. She felt that if her husband was taken care of, the American people would be taken care of too. She prided herself on her duties as the household matriarch.
She did it with style. From the young age of five, Jackie had always been in the spotlight. As such, she had to always look her best — dressed, and ready to impress. Many American women were inspired by Jackie Kennedy, not just because of her youth and beauty, but also because of her simple yet classy fashion choices. Soon, everyone wanted to dress like Jackie.
14. Representing the USA
Jackie was a woman of class and elegance. She was the wife of the POTUS, and therefore, she felt she should dress like one. At first, Jackie was really into European fashion and enjoyed French designs. However, her father-in-law was concerned about how the American people would react to her foreign fashion preferences.
Her father-in-law decided to call American fashion designer, Oleg Cassini. Don’t know who he is? Think about it this way: Beside the puffy skirts and petticoats, Cassini’s designs were the staple styles of the 1960s. He designed a beige suite for the First Lady, one that reflected her poise and refinement. When she stepped out in it, the American public went wild.
15. The pink dress
Since the day of JFK’s inauguration, women all over the country wanted to dress just like Jackie. Her style was minimal but classy (and affordable). No matter where she went or who she talked to, Jackie always stunned. The dress shown in picture below was worn at a dinner in honor of the French Minister of Culture, Andre Malraux.
The dinner had been organized by Jackie herself, and she had a hidden agenda for buttering up Andre Malraux. Jackie was determined to show the American people art and culture, and wanted Malraux to ask permission for the Mona Lisa to come to the US on tour. As with many people, Malraux couldn’t say no to a request from First Lady Jackie O.
16. A fashion icon
That dress began a chain of fashion-forward trends that are still going to this day. Her outfits were simple and easy to mimic. During a time where puffy skirts, petticoats, veils, and gloves ruled the world of fashion, Jackie kept it simple in the most elegant way. To this day, designers look to Jackie for inspiration.
Many of them use the signature A-line design to channel her 1960s style. She tended to lean toward pastel colors, such as soft buttercream yellows, beige, and white. She also loved powder blues and pinks, and seldom wore bright colors. Once in a while, she was seen rocking a vibrant red or navy blue, depending on the occasion.
17. Regal, not Royal
Tall and slim (she was 5’7″), Jackie could get away with wearing boxy outfits and slim skirts. She wore trapeze coats with large buttons and almost never carried any kind of embellishments. If she wanted to indulge in accessories, she’d wear a small brooch or her famous two or three-stringed pearls.
Her shoes were also something to marvel. As a tall woman, she was afraid of overshadowing foreign diplomats, so she’d opt for small heels. One letter to her personal shopper emphasized her shoe choice: “…pointed toe but not too exaggerated — no tricky vamp business — usually, I get Italian shoes at Eugenia of Florence — so you know the style I like — elegant and timeless”.”
18. She was a talented horseback rider
She never did give up her love of horses either. She loved them so much that she rode even during her time at the White House. She taught her children how to ride, and was even gifted a horse by the president of Pakistan. While on a trip to Pakistan, she had the privilege to ride with president Muhammad Ayub Khan.
Her riding captivated the Iranian president (the woman had been winning championships since age 11). That same evening, the president decided to gift the first lady with a beautiful necklace, and his 10-year-old horse, Sardar —the same horse she had ridden that afternoon. Flattered as she was, she still had reservations about accepting his gifts.
19. Exercising her privileges as First Lady
As you can imagine, Jackie was over the moon with his gift. Though accepting such a tremendous gift may have drawn looks of disapproval, Jackie gave in to the temptation and accepted. She called Sardar her “favorite treasure,” and when it was time to head home, she asked JFK to let her new gift skip customs (imagine!).
Of course, he agreed, but not without teasing her. “The government had dropped all its other work on domestic and international affairs in order to devote full-time attention to Sardar,” Jack reportedly quipped. Of course, her special treatment did draw some backlash from the public and other government officials.
20. A congressman apologized to her horse
Republican Congressman Walter McVey complained about his own misfortune after he was rejected from a Military Air Transport Service flight when he heard that a horse got its hooves on an Air Force plane. He was pretty upset about the whole thing. But of course, it proved unwise to criticize the First Lady’s horse.
“Sardar has more influence than a congressman,” McVey said. After a few sobering moments of clarity, he understood what it was probably a mistake to insult the president’s wife, and rightfully apologized to Jackie…and Sardar. Above, you can see Jackie practicing her jumps with her beloved horse.
21. She was a natural diplomat
As the wife of a president, Jackie Kennedy had multiple jobs to fulfill — one of which was being an ambassador of goodwill and representing the country’s leader. On occasion, she was expected to travel on behalf of her husband. In doing so, she created alliances that benefited the country.
After her trip to Paris, Vienna, and Greece, the president was kind enough to send his first lady a note of gratitude. “Once in a great while, an individual will capture the imagination of people all over the world,” Jack wrote, “…you have done this; and what is more important, through your graciousness and tact, you have transformed this rare accomplishment into an incredibly important asset to this nation.”
22. She made a point to learn foreign customs
It pays to be educated and well-mannered. Her education and love for culture had earned her respect and admiration from around the world. She knew several languages and taught herself foreign customs. In conjunction to speaking French, she also spoke Italian, Spanish, and Latin.
No matter where she went or what her mission was, she never failed to disappoint. The way she postured herself was something to admire, and many women looked up to her as a role model of how a woman should be. She was timeless and elegant. However, her life would soon take a turn for the worse.
23. She had to be strong at her weakest moment
As painful as it was, the First Lady always had to have a sense of composure, even when dealing with the death of her husband. On November 22, 1963, on a drive down Dallas, Texas, her husband’s life would be taken both from her and the American people. Many mourned for the death of their president; many openly wept. Jackie, sensing the country’s need for a champion, held strong.
It wasn’t enough to look strong — she had to be strong and handle national and familial affairs. She had to witness Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn into presidency, only hours after her husband’s death. She had to explain to her children why they would no longer be seeing their father. And she was devastated.
24. Moving on with her life
During the dark hour of the president’s death, the nation looked to her for guidance. She had to set an example; she had to stay strong. However, even though she was grieving, time marched on. She took care of her children and made sure the vacuum of leadership was handled smoothly.
After JFK’s death, Jackie worked toward establishing the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in honor of her husband. Once she had memorialized his legacy, Jackie soon found herself accepting the change in her life without Jack. Five years later, she was remarried to Aristotle Onassis in 1968.
25. Jackie O, champion for the arts
Between her poise as first lady and composure after the loss of her husband that Jackie became an iconic national figure for generations to come. And as time passed, she had no choice but to move on with her life. She had done so much for the American people (and not just in the fashion world). During her time as First Lady, Jackie had also contributed to the arts.
She revived the American spirit of the US by promoting its culture and its achievements. She even renovated the White House. She wanted the American people to take pride in their culture, inviting everyone to embrace their nationality, and acknowledge the achievements we’d made as a nation.
26. Can we talk about that camel coat?
As the First Lady, Jackie planned dinners for diplomats and renowned figures. She invited artists, scientists, poets, and had musicians mingling with political figures. It was time to express ourselves and connect. After one successful dinner, violinist Isaac Stern wrote to Mrs. Kennedy in thanks for her hospitality.
Stern writes, “It would be difficult to tell you,” he wrote, “how refreshing, how heartening, it is to find such serious attention and respect for the arts in the White House. To many of us, it is one of the most exciting developments on the present American cultural scene.” Jackie won hearts (rightly so).
27. Tragedy strikes again
After her husband died, the public was in mourning. They appreciated how strong the widow was on behalf of the country. To them, she would always be Jacqueline Kennedy. However, they would soon be disappointed when she married Aristotle Onassis. The nation was in an outrage.
She had been alone for five years and moved on (good for you, Jackie!). Even though she found herself in a second marriage, once again, her second husband would face an early departure and would leave Jackie in mourning. Although she was alone, Jackie once again picked up the pieces of the life she knew and started over. She became an editor.
28. Chic has a new name, and it’s Jackie O
She refused to take on the archetype of a grieving widow. She became a book editor, and a successful one at that. She promptly moved to New York where she became a consulting editor at Viking Press. All those years in journalism paid off (plus it’s kind of hard to say “no” to the former first lady).
After being a consultant with Viking Press, she moved on to Doubleday and landed a job as senior editor until her death in 1994. While she was an editor, she would push several books for publication such as, Moonwalk, by none other than Michael Jackson, and The Cartoon History of the Universe by Larry Gognick.
29. Keeps it simple
You have to admit, it took guts to go on living her life after what was one of the most traumatic events in American history. She chose to live — she owed it to herself and her children — to move on and regain control over her life. The media, even after all this time, still fawned over her. She even took one paparazzo to court.
That’s right: One pestering photographer by the name of Ron Galella trailed Jackie for years. The guy just wouldn’t let up. So, Jackie took him to court for harassment and invasion of privacy. She won the case, and Galella wasn’t allowed to be anywhere within 25–30 feet from Jackie or her children. Case dismissed.
30. Good-bye to our fair first lady
After getting married for the second time, the buzz started to finally to settle and quiet down. For the remainder of her life, Jackie would know peace. Away from the spotlight, she lived normally and relished her newfound privacy. Though she was no longer the wife of JFK, she will always remain as the first lady.
There aren’t many photos of Mrs. Jackie Onassis after her marriage with her second husband. Perhaps it was made to preserve her image as an American social icon, or maybe we just can’t let go of her being the “perfect first lady.” Whichever the case, seeing Jackie right before her death in 1994 is humble and it reminds us of the mortality of our heroes.
31. Always awe-inspiring
Jackie wore many hats before her death in 1994. She was the daughter, a wife, mother, equestrian, diplomat, journalist, ambassador, and editor. However, that’s what’s so wonderful about Jackie — she always kept the American people in mind. She sought to stride toward a brighter future.
She did so well-dressed, composed, and with class. She came to represent not just the people of the nation, but an entire decade; an entire generation. She’s a woman that to this day represents elegance, class, and is widely considered an American icon. A writer standing behind the leader of the free world, one can’t help but wonder if she helped Jack come up with one of his most cited quotes: Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. Her life and actions exemplified just that.