September 12, 1953: Jacqueline Bouvier Married John F. Kennedy

Photo: Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

On September 12, 1953, Jacqueline Bouvier married Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, RI. She would become the youngest first lady and a symbol of strength to the nation after her husband’s assassination.

Born in 1929 to a prominent New York family, she met her future husband in 1951 while working as a photographer for the Washington Times-Herald. As a 24-year-old bride, Bouvier was already a fashion tastemaker and hoped for a streamlined wedding dress. Instead, she conceded to family pressure, and walked down the aisle in an ornate gown with a bouffant skirt made of 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta covered in wax flowers. 600 family members, friends, diplomats, senators, and social figures attended the ceremony, with 900 total attendees at the reception.

Seven years after their wedding, John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States in 1961. As First Lady, Jackie Kennedy brought her taste and appreciation for culture to the nation. Her fashion sense was admired and imitated by women across the globe. She made the White House a museum of American history and decorative arts and publicaly defined her primary role as taking care of the President and their two children.

Privately, she provided her husband with keen input about political figures and events, including the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. She made more international trips than any other previous first lady. In a show of support for the civil rights movement, she created a racially integrated kindergarten at the White House.

After the tragic November 22, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, Jackie was admired for her stoic display of dignity and grace. Even though she was in mourning, Jackie was determined to shape a positive narrative about her husband’s short tenure as POTUS. Only four days after the funeral, she granted an in-person interview to a Life magazine reporter at the Kennedy’s Hyannis Port, MA, home.

In that interview, Jackie famously invented the now ubiquitous association between the Kennedy era and Camelot, when she quoted the musical, “Don’t let it be forgot, that for one brief, shining moment there was Camelot.” To this day, Jackie Kennedy epitomizes elegance and perseverance.

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