Surprising Facts About Jackie Kennedy, America's Savvy First Lady
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (a.k.a Jackie Kennedy) was far more than the widow of President John F. Kennedy. She was also an extremely bright, savvy, skilled communicator and a fierce advocate for historic preservation.
As First Lady, she left behind as much of a legacy in the White House as her husband. Take a look at some of the most surprising facts about former First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
She Was a Headstrong Kid
Jackie was a confident child who was bright beyond her years when compared to many other children her age. While her brilliance sometimes caused her to have issues with her teachers — their classes often bored her — her self-assurance did not go unnoticed.
She Excelled at Horseback Riding
When Jackie was only a year old, her mother plopped her down on a horse — and the rest is history. Jackie fell in love with the challenges of horseback riding at a very young age. How skilled was she? The New York Times ran a story on her when she was only a girl of 11.
She Was a Total Bookworm
Jackie loved horses, but she wasn't bound to a single hobby. She was a savvy reader who could already read most of the books in her room before she even began school. In America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Jackie is quoted as saying:
She Was Every Teacher's Nightmare
In 1935, after wrapping up kindergarten, Jackie was enrolled in Manhattan’s elite, rigorous Chapin School. Unfortunately, the restrictive, slow-paced environment was a nightmare for her. She often acted out in class, probably out of sheer boredom.
Her Parents Had a Rough Relationship
Jackie's parents, John Vernou Bouvier III and Janet Lee Bouvier, had an extremely tumultuous relationship throughout their marriage. In public, Bouvier was a popular stockbroker on Wall Street. Behind the scenes, he was an alcoholic who frequently cheated on his wife. Their conflict worsened when the stock market crashed in 1929, and the family lost much of their former riches.
She Was a Young Poet
From a young age, Jackie Kennedy gravitated toward writing. Her mother always believed she could make writing her career in the future. Her strong writing talent and bright mind eventually helped her launch a career in journalism before ultimately serving in the White House.
She Was Fluent in Multiple Languages
Despite struggling to remain well-behaved in a school environment, Jackie loved one part of her school curriculum — learning a host of new languages. Before she even started school, she showed an interest in French, and her parents encouraged this unique fascination.
She Abandoned an Internship at Vogue
When Jackie was only 22 years old, she received the opportunity of a lifetime — a chance to work for Vogue. She was studying at George Washington University when she submitted an essay application for a 12-month internship at the world-famous women's magazine.
She Worked as a Newspaper Reporter
In 1951, Jackie scored her first real job: a secretarial post at the Washington Times-Herald. The job quickly bored her, and she responded by asking editor Frank Waldrop for a more challenging position. Within a week, she was promoted to Inquiring Photographer.
She Interviewed Her Husband Before They Dated
On a column assignment for the Washington Times-Herald in 1953, Jackie interviewed her future husband. She sat down with John Kennedy — then a Massachusetts senator — to ask him a question about politics and the media: "What's it like observing the pages at close range?"
She Almost Married Another Man
Before Jackie dated John, she had her heart set on another man: John Husted Jr. The New York stockbroker made quite an impression on her, and she wrote to a friend, Father Joseph Leonard, to say she was "so terribly much in love — for the first time — and I want to get married. And I KNOW I will marry this boy. I don’t have to think and wonder..."
She Took 30 Days to Accept Kennedy's Proposal
Although Jackie and John had a solid relationship, she didn't immediately say yes to his marriage proposal. It's understandable that with one broken engagement, she would want to think things over and make sure she was ready to marry. Additionally, she still worked for the Washington Times-Herald and was about to travel overseas to cover the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
She Held on to Her Journalistic Roots
As a child, Jackie swore off any future that involved becoming a housewife. This didn't change as John ran for re-election in the Senate, and she joined the campaign to work and travel with her husband. In turn, he recognized that crowds loved Jackie, and she helped his efforts.
She Renovated the White House
After her first visit to the White House at age 12, Jackie was unimpressed with the tour. When John took office in 1961, she was eager to make improvements, and those changes included updating and preserving the interior of the historic home.
She Struggled with Her Pregnancies
Jackie and John had two surviving children: Caroline and John Junior. Jackie was a stellar mother to her two children, but her path to becoming that mother was painful. She suffered a miscarriage (1955) and a stillbirth (1956) before giving birth to Caroline in 1957.
She Got Her Best Friend a Job
What better way to celebrate a new occupation than to invite your best friend to come work with you and help with your achievements? Thanks to her position as First Lady, Jackie was able to hire one of her closest pals.
She Made the White House Kid-Friendly
Jackie remodeled the entire third floor of the White House, making it into a nursery — a costly yet spectacular endeavor — for her children. She also added slides, a pool, a treehouse and other kid-friendly features to the White House for her children and visitors to use.
She Was Known for Her Sense of Style
Jackie was dressed to the nines on every occasion, and she tended to favor French brands, sophisticated gowns and dresses, and pillbox hats. Many American women idealized her fashion sense as the style to achieve, which made her propensity to wear expensive, foreign brands a bit off-putting at times.
She Won an Emmy Award
If you think the First Lady was already successful enough before moving into the White House, it gets better. Her renovations of the historic household caught the interest of a variety of publications and news stations, including CBS. They asked for permission to film a tour of the new and improved White House, and Jackie happily agreed.
She Invented a New Job
After witnessing the gripping power of the media on an individual's public image (particularly during the stressful time of her father's downfall), Jackie decided to hire her own press secretary. She viewed the position as vital in protecting her image and the image of her children.
She Knew That John Was Cheating
Jackie knew about many of John’s affairs. While she was very upset by his many indiscretions, she never seemed too surprised. She even pointed out the women her husband was sleeping with at social events, apathetic about their presence.
She Dealt with Postpartum Depression
After giving birth to Patrick, who passed away less than two days after birth, Jackie was devastated and seriously depressed. In her sadness, she wanted nothing to do with her family, her life, her responsibilities or the media. Her grieving continued for quite some time, and her friends began to worry about her wellbeing.
She Didn't Change Her Outfit After the Assassination
On the day that President Kennedy was assassinated, Jackie was wearing her most famous outfit — a pink suit and matching pillbox hat. When he was shot next to her in the car, her outfit was splattered with blood. Shockingly, she kept the suit on for Lyndon B. Johnson's swearing-in ceremony later in the day.
Her Suit Wasn't Actually Chanel
One of the biggest misconceptions about Jackie's famous pink suit, which she had worn on prior occasions, is that it was created by Chanel. In reality, the outfit was designed by Chanel, but Jackie's version was produced by a New York fashion salon called Chez Ninon.
She Was Friends with Andy Warhol
Artist Andy Warhol was intrigued by the horrific death of John F. Kennedy. He searched through magazines and newspapers to find photographs that encompassed the event, and his attention was riveted by the grief-filled photographs of Jackie Kennedy at events following the assassination.
Her Pictures Were in Hustler Magazine
After marrying Aristotle Onassis, Jackie experienced the privacy and other perks that came with her new relationship. Besides companionship, she lived overseas and enjoyed Onassis' security detail, never fearing for the safety of herself and her children as she did in the U.S.
She Saved Grand Central Station
What would New York be without one of its most famous landmarks, Grand Central Station? Without Jackie's help, the station’s destruction could have been a reality. In 1975, an office redevelopment project threatened the existence of the iconic Grand Central terminal. They planned to rip out the exterior of the landmark to build over the beloved station.
She Worked as an Editor Later in Life
Jackie had plenty of resources and funds at her disposal to live on until she died. However, instead of remaining idle, she got back to work writing, reading and editing. She started working at the New York editorial office of Viking Press in 1975.
She Edited Michael Jackson's Autobiography
When Michael Jackson was at the height of his pop music career, he probably wasn't thinking about writing. However, Jackie was intent on getting him to allow her to work as an editor on a detailed autobiography about his life. She flew out to California and offered the star a massive advance for the rights to his story.
She Gave Kennedy His "Camelot" Legacy
Kennedy's presidential administration was fondly referred to by many as "Camelot." Where did the nickname come from? Jackie. In an interview with Life Magazine, she discussed how she and her husband used to listen to Camelot at night. She referred to it in a haunting sentiment about the loss of her husband: