Posts tagged Jacqueline Kennedy
Posts tagged Jacqueline Kennedy
By Nicolaus Mills, professor of American Studies at Sarah Lawrence College
Fifty years ago on May 29, 1964, Jackie Kennedy, accompanied by her two children, returned to Arlington National Cemetery. There she placed a sprig of lilies of the valley on President Kennedy’s grave.
The occasion was JFK’s 47th birthday, and Mrs. Kennedy’s homage seemed only natural. But today it is possible to see more than a tribute to her husband in Mrs. Kennedy’s actions. It is also possible to see her deciding the time had come for her and the nation to end their period of mourning.
The day, which was intensely covered by the media, began with Mrs. Kennedy attending mass at St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Washington, where Bishop Phillip M. Hannan, who had eulogized the president following his assassination, gave the requiem sermon. Mrs. Kennedy, who had been so stoic at her husband’s burial six months earlier, wore no veil on this occasion and allowed herself to be seen crying openly.
A crowd of 1,000 people was waiting on the hillside across the Potomac when Mrs. Kennedy visited President Kennedy’s gravesite after the service, but it was as if Mrs. Kennedy looked on this spring day as one in which she was free to express her full range of feelings without worrying about being judged.
She knelt by the president’s grave, then watched as her son took the gold tie clasp in the form of his father’s World War II boat, PT-109, that he had on his coat, and placed it on the pine boughs covering the grave.
By 4:30 p.m, Mrs. Kennedy was at the Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, home of her father-in-law, Joseph P. Kennedy, for an international telecast on President Kennedy’s life, but the most revealing indication of the specialness the day held for her came in the interview she did for the May 29 Life magazine.
On December 6 Mrs. Kennedy had been the subject of a Life cover story. In a widely remembered interview with journalist Theodore White, she had made a point of comparing the Kennedy administration to King Arthur’s legendary Camelot. Referencing the popular Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical Camelot, she had told White that the specialness her husband and his administration had achieved was too unique to be duplicated.
“She came back to the idea that transfixed her,” White wrote. “Don’t let it be forgot, that was there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot—and it will never be that way again,” White quoted Mrs. Kennedy as saying.
In her Life interviewof May 29, Mrs. Kennedy was still elegiac about her husband, but this time she was not preoccupied with the idea of the Kennedy administration as mythic. She spoke instead about preparing an exhibit of the president’s mementos that would tour the country and be used to raise funds for the Kennedy Library.
The point of the library, she stressed, was to let the president’s example be a guide to the future, not just evoke nostalgia for the past. The ’60s, Mrs. Kennedy was implicitly saying, needed a fresh start, and she was not going to stand in the way of that fresh start or turn herself into a professional widow.
Two months later, Mrs. Kennedy announced that she was giving up her home in Georgetown and moving to New York. The move freed her from the crowds that gathered daily in Georgetown to watch her comings and goings, but above all, the move let her start a new life on terms of her choosing.
In New York, Mrs. Kennedy became a leading figure in the city’s cultural life. The preservation of St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue and, most important, the preservation of Grand Central Station, which for a time during the ’70s lost its landmark designation, were among her triumphs.
“Jackie Onassis will save us,” the famed modern architect Philip Johnson commented when she took the lead in the fight to stop a proposed 59-story office tower from being erected over Grand Central Station. Johnson’s praise, made in 1975, captures how dramatically Mrs. Kennedy altered the public’s view of her and how easy it is to forget, living as we do in the age of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, that, prior to the ’60s, presidential wives were seen but rarely heard, especially after their husbands left office.
In deciding what to do after she moved away from Washington, Mrs. Kennedy had before her only the modern example of Eleanor Roosevelt, who, following her husband’s death, took an active role in the United Nations and continued writing her newspaper column. But Mrs. Roosevelt was in her sixties when her husband died after 12 years in office. In 1964 Jackie Kennedy was just 35, the widow of a first-term president, when she began setting historical precedents of her own.
JFK Jr about his mother’s passing
"I was in my late teens when we first rode together in New Jersey. My horse had an unattactive habit of foaming at the mouth. Jackie was very well turned out in white britches. My horse laid his head in her lap and smeared her with green slime from hip to knee. She just smiled and turned her horse around, and my horse did it to her other leg. She never turned a hair. She was an incredibly gracious person."
~ Christine Todd Whitman, governor of New Jersey
"She was one of the most informal people I’ve ever known. When she was married to Jack, we’d go sailing together. I’ll always remember her sitting there so peaceful, putting her bare feet in his lap. She was so genuine."
~ William Styron, author
"The First Lady asked me how many people passed through the White House on tours. When I told her thousands did, she said they should sell something to the tourists and use the profits to help redecorate the White House. She decided to make a small book. It cost 42 cents and sold for a dollar. Over the years it has brought in $42 million."
~ Clark Clifford, JFK adviser
"She was a tough editor. She was rigorous about correcting usage. typical sidenotes were, ‘Omit’ and ‘Do something!’ "
~ Jonathan Cott, author of four books edited by Jackie
"In 1974, when her maid Provi had the day off, Jackie would answer the phone in a fake Spanish accent. ‘Allo,’ she would say, hoping callers wouldn’t recognize her voice. She told me, ‘I have to do that to get rid of people.’ "
~ Barbara Gibson, formerly Rose Kennedy’s personal secretary
"She always wore clothes in private before she wore them at public appearances. The week before she went to Dallas, she wore the pink suit with the pillbox hat to our play group. She was very excited about the trip, very happy to be going."
~ Meredith Dale, whose daughter Rosalind played with John Jr. in the early ’60s
"There was a bridal dinner the nigh I before Caroline’s wedding, when John gave a touching toast about how close they were. He said, ‘All our lives "there’s just been the three of us.’ Instead of losing his sister, he had become very close to Ed Schlossberg. He ended saying that the three of them now welcome a fourth. Later, I told Jackie how I would want that kind of closeness for my sons. She looked me right in the eye and said, ‘It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.’ "
~ Doris Kearns Goodwin, biographer
In memory of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (July 28, 1928 - May 19, 1994)
1994: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis walking in Manhattan with Caroline, John Jr., Edwin Schlossberg, and granddaughter Rose.
By Kevin Cullen
It is fairly safe to assume that if Jacqueline Kennedy had even a hint that her correspondence with an Irish priest would become public, not to mention sold off at auction, she would have been horrified.
But she probably wouldn’t have been surprised.
As part of a family that has tried, mostly in vain, to control the unrelenting glare of public scrutiny, Jackie Kennedy had been the most successful in managing her own legacy. At least until now.
Publicity has always been both a blessing and a curse for the Kennedys. The family, especially old Joe Kennedy, used carefully managed publicity to build a fortune and a political dynasty. But the Faustian part of that deal is how the family’s most intimate moments have often played out in public, almost as a voyeuristic form of entertainment for some.
Every towering achievement, from Jack Kennedy’s election as the first Catholic president in 1960 to young Joe Kennedy’s recent election to Congress, has been matched if not surpassed by a slew of tragedies that seem disproportionate to the family’s size.
Real people, not caricatures
Given that Kennedy-watching, like the royals beat, is a cottage industry, it is easy to forget that there are real people, not caricatures, behind all the photographs and books.
Last year, in the midst of the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of Jack Kennedy’s assassination, I had dinner with young Joe Kennedy, the newly minted congressman. He had been after me to talk about an issue dear to him, the disenfranchisement of Haitian migrant workers who cut sugar cane in the Dominican Republic.
Joe spent his years in the Peace Corps, founded by his great-uncle JFK, in the Dominican Republic and was worried about a recent ruling by the Dominican supreme court that could leave many Haitian migrant workers stateless. He talks about helping migrant workers in the Dominican Republic with the same passion that his grandfather Bobby talked about helping Caesar Chavez’s migrant workers in California.
As we talked about a subject with which most Americans couldn’t be bothered, I noticed that the TV on the wall over Joe’s shoulder was showing the open car as it made its way down Dealey Plaza in Dallas on the afternoon of November 22nd, 1963. When I told Joe what was on the TV behind him, he didn’t turn around. He had been animated while talking about helping migrant workers but now he was suddenly subdued.
“I’ve tried not to watch any of it,” he said, looking down, fumbling with his silverware.
For Joe Kennedy, for his whole extended family, this was not some media event, not some opportunity for every Joe Soap in the world to recall where they were when JFK was shot. For young Joe Kennedy it was another reminder that he never got to know his father’s uncle who became president. It was another reminder that he never got to sit on the lap of his grandfather who wanted to be president. It was, for young Joe Kennedy, not a national moment of reflection and commemoration, but a sombre, personal reminder that he was part of a family that has been given much but also has had so much taken away.
Young Joe Kennedy articulated the blessing and the curse.
“The outpouring has been moving,” he said of so much attention to the anniversary of his great-uncle’s murder. “What he embodied and represented, in challenging us to be a better country, for us to be better citizens, to be better people, is still important. That challenge still resonates. If you are willing to answer that call, you can serve in the military, in the Peace Corps, whatever form.
“But, you know, he was a father, a husband, an uncle, a son. And our family still misses him.”
Jackie missed him, too, for the rest of her days. And she was determined to limit the intrusion, which would explain why she maintained such a long, intimate correspondence with Fr Joseph Leonard.
Jackie was an outlier, always was. She was always her own person in a family where conformity is prized. Jackie’s independent, curious spirit emerges in these letters and, as with her friendship with Cardinal Richard Cushing, her choice of Fr Leonard as a confidant shows her preference for priests who were more warm than pious.
These letters going on the auction block, after emerging in the pages of The Irish Times, the Boston Globe and then everywhere else, shows just how difficult it is for someone as wildly famous and purposely mysterious as Jackie Kennedy to manage a legacy, especially from the grave. At the end of the day the most private of first ladies comes out looking better, I think, but she would not have wanted it to happen this way.
Jacqueline Kennedy was questioning her faith. She was no longer certain there was a God and, if there was, why he would steal away her young husband.
“I am so bitter against God,” she wrote a few months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
“I think God must have taken Jack to show the world how lost we would be without him,” she wrote “But that is a strange way of thinking to me – and god will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see him.
The letter, one of several shared with the Globe in the last several weeks, is one in a trove of secret correspondence that the former first lady had over nearly 15 years with Father Joseph Leonard, an Irish priest. Kennedy, who was elegantly mysterious for so long, divulges in great detail some of her most intimate feelings. Over the course of more than 30 letters, she questions the faithfulness of her husband, mourns the death of her son, and shares excitement about her first job as a journalist at Washington Times-Herald.
There are discussions of art and literature, mixed with private thoughts and exchanges of books.
“It’s so good in a way to write all this down and get it off your chest,” she wrote at one point. “Because I never do really talk it with anyone.”
The letters, which for decades have sat in a drawer at All Hallows College in Dublin, are now coming to light after being discovered, sold, and prepared for an auction.
Owen Felix O’Neill, a rare books dealer, shared some of the letters with the Globe and also provided them to the Irish Times. The letters may be auctioned next month — with an estimate of up to $1.6 million — although O’Neill says he is also in discussions with several book publishers about selling them beforehand.
The Globe authenticated the letters that it received with specialists in the correspondence of presidents and first ladies. The Globe also obtained other letters from their correspondence through the John F. Kennedy Library.
In the letters reviewed by the Irish Times, Kennedy writes about her early marriage — “I love being married much more than I did even in the beginning” – but also her worries that her husband would become like her father, who “loves the chase and is bored with the conquest — and once married needs proof he’s still attractive so flirts with other women and resents you.”
She also had a description of her mother-in-law, Rose Kennedy.
“I don’t think Jack’s mother is too bright – and she would rather say a rosary than read a book,” she wrote.
Kennedy grew close to Leonard over a handful of visits to Dublin, the first coming in 1950 when she and her step-brother, Hugh Dudley Auchincloss III, toured Europe during the summer. Kennedy’s step uncle, W.S. Lewis, first met Leonard in the 1920s, and recommended they meet up with the priest on their trip.
Leonard picked them up at the airport and drove them around Dublin, and taking them to a horse show. He recommended other places to go in Ireland – including kissing the Blarney Stone while leaning over backward, which they did – and Jackie bonded with him over their shared Catholicism.
“She loved the stories about the kings and castles in Ireland,” Auchincloss said in an interview. “She has a wonderful series of conversations with him and then came back to America and got into a correspondence.”
Kennedy later asked Leonard to marry her and the future president, as well as to christen Caroline, according to Lewis’s book “One Man’s Education.”
Jackie Kennedy and her husband, then a young US senator from Massachusetts, went to Dublin in 1955 and again met with Leonard. On that trip, Jackie later wrote, she bought her husband a tiny silver pillbox and had it engraved. He always carried that pillbox with him, “even when he died.”
Her early letters are conversational and chatty, divulging details about trips that she took with her sister to Europe, where they triggered a fight among men at a bullfight in Spain, capsized in a torchlight process in Venice, and met with an art scholar in Florence.
“I will write you again very soon,” she ended one letter. “You are a much more conscientious correspondent than I am, but I will make up for it.”
She also writes about the breakup of her brief engagement with John Husted, the man she was supposed to marry in 1952.
“I’m ashamed that we both went into it so quickly and gaily but I think the suffering it brought us both for awhile afterwards was the best thing,” she wrote. “We both needed something of shock to make us grow up.”
She also, at times, appears young and vulnerable. In one letter she references the books that Leonard continues to send to her.
“It seems to me you know everything and from all you’ve read and learned you can pick and choose the most lovely things for me,” she wrote. “Does it give you a sense of power to think you’re molding someone else mind and taste? I hope it does and certainly no one ever had a more willing piece of putty to work with.”
The Globe also obtained some of the letters that Leonard sent to Kennedy. A few weeks after Christmas in 1962, he sent a letter to “my dearest Jacqueline” thanking her for sending a book about the White House.
“I shall like the President to know how profoundly I appreciate the courage, equanimity, and wisdom with which he is carrying out the duties of his great office, and yourself to realize that I look upon your friendship as one of the greatest consolations and blessings of a long life,” he wrote.
“I pray you, him and the children every day without fail and hope you will remember me in yours,” he wrote. “With love to you both, I am, as I have ever been your devoted and affectionate old friend.”
He also wrote a letter just after learning about the death of her son, Patrick.
“I hope that yourself and his President will allow me to join in your grief of the death of your little son, who is now beginning his glorious and eternal life,” he wrote, before quoting scripture.
“I can’t refrain from adding that I believe Patrick Bouvier will do more for his father and much for his spirituality / transforming, than if he had lived to be a very old man like I am,” he continued. “And I say all that, owing to my friendship with his President and yourself, I look forward to his helping me also, for I need it.”
Several months later, she was grieving again, over the death of President Kennedy. Leonard wrote a few weeks after the assassination.
“I shall not write a letter of sympathy,” he wrote. “I could not find the words. Instead, I shall ask you to do me a favour, and that is, to let me unite my simple feelings of love, grief and desolation to your profound and heartfelt ones.”
He called President Kennedy “a Christian martyr” because he spoke out for the rights of the poor and neglected.
“I think that you have given the women, not only of the USA but of the world, a representation of the ideal of the Valiant Woman as she appeared in the eyes of Solomon,” he wrote.
Leonard, who revealed that he had not been well, said he wrote to the Vatican for special permission to say Mass while sitting down.
“Strange to say the permission arrived on the day and almost at the hour the President died, so that I had the consolation of saying Mass for the repose of his soul on Sunday 24th,” he wrote, before closing, “Our friendship has been one of the greatest blessings and happiness of my life.”
It was likely one of the last letters they exchanged. Several months later, Leonard died. As soon as Kennedy found out, she called for flowers to be sent. According to some attendees of the funeral, the flowers arrived outside the church just as seminarians were hoisting the coffin to their shoulders to carry Leonard into the Mass.
“The flowers were placed atop the casket and they carried it into the church,” Father Raymond J. Boland, a former seminarian at All Hallows College, recalled in a 2008 interview with a newspaper for the Kansas City diocese where he was serving.
First Lady of the 1960s
The contact sheet from Jacque Lowe’s first shoot with John Kennedy at their home in Hyannis Port, Mass, 1958: ‘He was reserved but when my dad asked if Caroline and Jackie could be involved, he became more at ease, providing a more intimate shot.’ Thomasina Lowe is the daughter of the late Jacques Lowe, a photographer who met Kennedy in 1958. Lowe’s intimate access to the Kennedys created some of the most iconic images of JFK’s presidential and family life. Photograph: Estate of Jacques Lowe.