Who Was Jacqueline Kennedy?
On May 31, 1961, a large crowd packed the streets of Paris, France. Waving American and French flags, people were waiting for the president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and his wife, Jacqueline.
At last, the car rolled into view. The crowd roared. But they did not shout for the president. Instead, they called out, “Jackie! Jackie!”
A shy Jackie looked out the car window and waved. Seven months earlier, her husband had become the youngest person elected president of the United States. He was forty-three years old. Jackie was only thirty-one. She was unsure if she would make a good First Lady. But here she was—young and beautiful and charming—captivating the French people!
A harder test would come later. The president of France, Charles de Gaulle, did not really like anything, or anyone, who wasn’t French.
The next night, Jackie got ready for a special dinner in the Kennedys’ honor. She did not feel well. Her head throbbed. She did not know what to wear. Two dresses were laid out on the bed. An American designer had made one; a French designer named Hubert de Givenchy had made the other. Jackie chose the Givenchy. She was in France, so she wore something French!
Jackie smiled as she glided into the party that night. Her white gown shimmered. Gold clips sparkled in her hair.
At the long candlelit table, Jackie sat next to President de Gaulle. She charmed him with her French. She had lived in Paris for a year during college. She knew all about French art and French history. Because of Jackie, President de Gaulle turned to President Kennedy and said, “I now have more confidence in your country.”
Talking to reporters back home, President Kennedy jokingly introduced himself as “the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it.”
It wasn’t only the French president who was fascinated by Jackie. The whole world was. Jacqueline Kennedy had become the most famous woman on earth, yet all her life what she wanted most was privacy. Chapter 1: A Rich Family
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was born on July 28, 1929, in Southampton, New York, into a very rich family. Jackie’s father, John, was handsome and full of life. His wife, Janet, was quiet and shy. She loved riding horses.
The Bouviers had two homes. One was a fancy apartment on Park Avenue in Manhattan; the other was a beautiful mansion on Long Island. That was where the family spent summers. It was called Lasata, which was said to be a Native American name for “place of peace.”
But the Bouvier home was not peaceful. John (usually called Jack) and Janet argued a lot. Janet was practical. Jack liked to have fun and spend money.
Soon after Jacqueline was born, her father lost most of his money. On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed. It was the start of the Great Depression. Many people lost their jobs and homes. The Bouviers were not hit nearly as hard; still, the family had to move to a smaller apartment. Janet’s father owned the building and let them live there without paying rent.
From her father, Jacqueline got a nickname—Jackie. From her mother came Jackie’s love of horses. When Jackie was just a year old, Janet put her on a horse and began teaching her to ride.
On March 3, 1933, Jackie’s sister, Caroline Lee, was born. Caroline, who everyone called Lee, was more like the girls’ father—outgoing and daring.
Jackie was more like their mother. Besides horses, she loved books, and by the age of five, Jackie was reading on her own. She loved Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book
, and the adventures of Robin Hood. Her mother wondered if Jackie might grow up to become a writer.
In 1935, Jackie enrolled at Miss Chapin’s, an all-girls school in New York City. She got top grades but was also a bit of a troublemaker. Once, Jackie smeared face cream on the school’s toilet seats! She said she had been bored and just wanted to have a little fun.
At home, Jackie’s parents fought more than ever. Soon they decided to separate. Jack moved into a hotel. On the weekends, Jackie and Lee visited their father. They loved spending time with him—they visited the Bronx Zoo, took horse and buggy rides in Central Park, and went to restaurants.
It must have hurt her deeply that her parents were not living together. But Jackie did not show it. She kept her feelings to herself.
Besides her father, Jackie was very close to her grandfather Bouvier, whom she called Grampy Jack. They talked about history and current events. They wrote poetry together.
When Jackie was ten, her parents tried to get back together. But they still fought. Jack drank heavily, which was a big problem. In time, the marriage was over for good.
The Bouviers were Catholic, and the Catholic Church does not approve of divorce. Friends and even some relatives made mean comments to Jackie about her parents’ decision. But Jackie did not listen. She tuned them out. She withdrew more into herself.
The one place she felt free was riding her horse, Danseuse. By the time she was eleven, Jackie had won several riding awards.
Jackie also enjoyed ballet class and taking French lessons. And she loved going to her family’s beach house, where she could listen to the waves crashing on the shore.
Although Jack was no longer living with his daughters, he remained very important to them. He bought the girls fancy clothes and took them on trips. He did not set as many rules as their mother did. It was easier for Jackie and Lee to be with their father.
The girls competed for Jack’s attention, but Jackie was his favorite. She even looked like her father, with dark hair and eyes, and a big, wide smile. Jack explained to her how to dress and act. He thought a woman should be mysterious, never revealing too much about herself. Jackie remembered this all her life.
In June 1942, just before Jackie was thirteen, Janet married Hugh Auchincloss. Not only did Jackie now have a stepfather, she gained two stepbrothers, Yusha and Tommy, and a stepsister, Nina. Janet and Hugh also had two children together.
Jackie and Lee called their stepfather “Uncle Hughdie.” Uncle Hughdie was very rich. He had two homes, one in McLean, Virginia, and one in Newport, Rhode Island. The home in Rhode Island, called Hammersmith Farm, was one of Newport’s famous “cottages.” But Hammersmith was no ordinary cottage—there were three large homes on the property, which were called the Castle, the Palace, and the Windmill.
Janet and her daughters moved to Virginia with Uncle Hughdie, and Jackie attended Holton-Arms, another all-girls school. Although her home life was now more stable, Jackie kept even more to herself. Often, instead of going out with friends, she stayed in her room reading and writing poetry.
At fifteen, Jackie was sent to Miss Porter’s, an all-girls boarding school in Farmington, Connecticut. Besides the usual subjects, the school taught students how to act like proper ladies who would make good housewives. Jackie followed the rules—most of the time. She was a good student and became editor of the school newspaper.
When Jackie graduated, she wrote in the yearbook that her goal was “not to become a housewife.” She applied to college and was accepted at Vassar College. Jackie could not wait for a new chapter of her life to begin. Jacqueline Bouvier had an exciting future in mind for herself!
Copyright © 2016 by Bonnie Bader. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.