On July 28, 1929, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was born in Southampton, Ny. to the prominent Bouvier family. She would grow up become the youngest first lady in history as the wife of President John F. Kennedy. Her iconic, polished style became fashion goals for women around the globe. Then, after the assassination of her husband in 1963, she emerged as a galvanizing symbol of strength for a mourning nation.
Bouvier spent her formative years circulating in an elite social circle and attending private schools. At an early age, she exhibited an impressive artistic talent, writing poems and essays, which were sometimes published in local newspapers. In 1951, Bouvier’s creativity and remarkable eye for style helped her win Vogue magazine’s prestigious Prix de Paris. As the winner, it was required that she would spend half a year in New York and half a year in Paris, working as a junior editor. However, she turned down the prize upon her mother’s objection to her daughter living in Paris. Listening to her mother’s advice would end up changing the course of American history.
A year after walking away from Vogue’s offer, Bouvier met her future husband, John F. Kennedy, in 1952, while working as a photographer for the Washington Times-Herald. On September 12, 1953, Bouvier and Kennedy married at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Ri. As a 24-year-old bride, Bouvier was already a fashion tastemaker and hoped for a chic, 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. Six hundred family members, friends, diplomats, senators, and social figures attended the ceremony, with 900 total attendees at the reception.
Seven years after their wedding, JFK was elected the 35th President of the United States in 1961. As First Lady, 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 publicly 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 first lady. In a show of support for the civil rights movement, she created a racially integrated kindergarten at the White House.
After the November 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, Jackie was admired for her stoic display of dignity and grace. Even though she was in mourning, she 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 Kennedys’ home in Hyannis Port, Mass.
In that interview, Onassis created the now-ubiquitous association between the Kennedy era and Camelot, when she quoted her late husband’s favorite couplet from the “Camelot” musical, “Don’t let it be forgot, that for one brief, shining moment there was Camelot.”
In October 1968, Kennedy married long-time friend Aristotle Onassis, a Greek shipping magnate. Aristotle passed away in 1975.
“Jackie O” died on May 19, 1994, after a battle with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “She did it in her very own way, and on her own terms, and we all feel lucky for that,” her son John F. Kennedy, Jr. said.