Keep Grandma Upstairs: Jackie Kennedy’s Family Secrets & The Lie Her Mother Told

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

This article is part of an ongoing series about the racial, religious and ethnic identity of First Ladies, beginning with the recent discoveries about First Lady Michelle Obama and her ancestry from both an Irish immigrant family of Georgia slave-owners and African slaves emerging from Rachel Swarns new book on the subject, American Tapestry. That story can be read at: It will consider the family histories of Jacqueline Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Pat Nixon, Florence Harding, Edith Wilson and Mamie Eisenhower,  and conclude with a look at Ann Davis Romney’s Atheist and Welsh immigrant father, wife of the current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The series is not a definitive guide to genealogy, nor from the perspective of the professional genealogists but rather to illustrate the uniquely American issues of “identity,” the choices made by individuals with various ethnic origins who, by personal choice for various reasons, associate themselves with one part of their background over others. More importantly, the series focuses on how such choices of identity by spouses have served the political and campaign purposes of Presidential candidates and Presidents.

The 1960 election victory of the Democratic presidential candidate, Roman Catholic John F. Kennedy helped to unravel a long-held anti-Papist sentiment in Protestant-majority America. Lingering sensitivity to ethnic and religious identities, however, prevented full disclosure about the truthful background of a woman the world soon seized upon with fascination – and never let go. Her full name was Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy and she was, of course, his own wife.

Jack and Jackie Kennedy on the brick patio of their Hyannis, Massachusetts home.

The first massive waves of Irish immigrants to the U.S. began in the 1840s, a result of starvation and hunger caused by the potato famine in Ireland.

An anti-Irish caricature familiar to 19th century America.

Settling largely in the northeastern cities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia, these Irish immigrants were disdained by the majority of those who had come earlier from Ireland’s north,and who were almost exclusively Protestant, often known as “Scotch-Irish” or “Orange Irish.”

The bigotry was evident not only the famous signs hung in stores and factories which needed workers yet warned “No Irish need apply,” but ugly cartoons and jokes told in exaggerated Irish brogues.

The anti-Irish sign “No Irish Need Apply,” was even set to music with sarcasm.

Beneath it all was a paranoia that Irish Catholics were advancing a conspiratorial seizure of the American government by the Pope in Rome, on a quest to convert the entire world to Catholicism.

This was based on the presumption that their loyalty to Rome trumped loyalty to their adopted country and was still in evidence as late as the mid-20th century; no matter how well-educated or successful a family might become, Irish Catholic were still barred from many of the exclusive social networks of wealthy and elite Anglo-Saxons.

Nobody felt  and sought to defy this rejection more than Joseph Patrick Kennedy, the millionaire businessman and father of U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy, who determined to get his son elected as the first Catholic U.S. President.

John F. Kennedy (seated), his father Joseph behind him and his grandfather – his mother’s father – Mayor Fitzgerald of Boston, seated beside him.

As the 1960 election got underway, the media focused intently on the Kennedy family story,  telling of how in just four generations, they’d come from potato famine Ireland to business and politics, intending to get into the White House. The Kennedys were proudly Irish.

The big story that the national media entirely missed during the election of 1960, however, was the candidate’s wife family.

With her Mediterranean complexion, time spent living in Paris, passion for Gallic culture and ability to flawlessly speak its language,  indeed by her very maiden name of Bouvier, the media and the public believed what they were told. She was the descendant of French Catholic aristocrats, as she’d been raised to believe.

For those undecided voters who hesitated about pulling the lever for Kennedy based on stereotypic bigotry, the vision of an old world aristocrat with the instinct to reign in her blood may have added an aesthetic appeal to the idea of Kennedy as President and mitigated any racist misgiving about him.

Nor were voters led to believe that it would be an entirely Catholic White House, for though vague on details, the word was put out in a widely-syndicated news story that Mrs. Kennedy’s socialite mother belonged to Virginia’s most prominent colonial First Family, the Lees, and was a Protestant Episcopalian, a member of the American sect of the Church of England.

A landmark in Pont Saint-Esprit, the southern French village on the Rhone River, from which Jackie Kennedy’s French great-grandfather’s family immigrated to the U.S.

In reality, Jackie Kennedy was less Bouvier and more Lee, only having one great-grandparent who was French. Further, her immigrant Bouvier ancestor was not a nobleman but a furniture-maker from the town of Pont Saint-Esprit, closer to Marseilles than Paris.

Jacqueline Kennedy with her grandfather John Bouvier who began the myth of royal French ancestors.

Mrs. Kennedy had merely conveyed what she genuinely assumed to be true. She had been inculcated in this fake upper-class ancestry fabricated by her grandfather, John Bouvier, Sr. A Wall Street banker known as “the Major,” he was striving to do all he could to raise his family’s prestige when they moved from Nutley, New Jersey to New York City.

Jack Bouvier and his mother Maude Seargent, Jackie’s father and grandmother.

Emphasizing his one grandparent with the French last name as the only important ancestor of the family even led Major Bouvier to virtually obliterate the fact that his wife Maude (Jackie’s paternal grandmother), was the daughter of working-class immigrants from Kent, England.

Jackie Kennedy’s choice of ethnic identity as “French,” however, was as influenced by her mother’s family as her father’s. If the Bouvier claim to being “French” was an exaggeration of truth, it drew attention away from the fact that the Lee claim to being English Protestant was an outright lie.

In fact, Jackie Kennedy was fully half-Irish Catholic, all four of her mother’s grandparents having come to America during the potato famine, just like the Kennedys.

Jackie Bouvier and her grandfather James T. Lee, handing her a riding award.

Her grandfather James Thomas Lee had an amazing American story of his own.

Son of impoverished immigrants from Cork, Ireland, whose father started out as a New York City school public superintendent while working his way up through City College of New York to Columbia University and becoming a practicing physician, Jim Lee was equally impressive. Jackie’s grandfather became a Chase Manhattan Bank president and, ultimately, one of the most successful real estate developers of luxury apartment buildings up and down Fifth and Park Avenues.

The Lee River, running through Cork, Ireland.

A rendering of one of Lee’s luxury buildings.

With his wealth came a yearning to raise his social status just like Major Bouvier. Jim Lee, his wife, the former Margaret Merritt, and three daughters lived on Park Avenue in the autumn, winter and spring. In the summer, they moved into the exclusive enclave of East Hampton, New York. There,  his surname that was more Anglo than Irish, allowed him to “pass” as such, without confirming any type of ethnic identity.

Only later was it learned that the elderly, heavy-set woman who spoke with a thick Irish brogue, and was always forbidden from coming downstairs when there were guests was not the mysterious “house-maid” which the family oddly claimed her to be. She was, in fact, Margaret Lee‘s immigrant mother, Jackie Kennedy’s great-grandmother.

Jackie Lee Bouvier, her mother’s sister and maternal grandmother Margaret Merritt Lee. Daughter of Irish immigrants, as was her husband, Mrs. Lee’s mother was kept upstairs when guests were visiting their home.

Lee’s daughter Janet (Jackie’s mother), felt compelled to create some cover. While attending Sweetbriar College, located in Virginia, a southern classmate paused upon learning that Janet’s surname was Lee, the same as the state’s most legendary family, which included the famous Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Declaration of Independence signer Richard Henry Lee.

The young Janet Norton Lee, mother of Jackie Kennedy, who denied her Irish ancestry and fabricated the claim that her family was related to the Lees of Virginia.

Technically, while enrolled at Sweetbriar and thus residing in Virginia, Janet felt free to describe herself as a “Lee of Virginia,” and eventually claim it as her identity.

Although baptized, confirmed and married as a Catholic, after breaking church rule by divorcing Jack Bouvier and then remarrying to the Presbyterian Hugh D. Auchincloss, Janet became an Episcopalian, the traditional religion of the Lees of Virginia.

Janet Auchincloss dancing with Joe Kennedy at the wedding of their children. Joe didn’t know that Janet was as fully Irish as himself.

The absence of any family background or information on the Lee family, however, led anti-Semitic gossips to speculate that they were really the “Levis,” a Jewish family. This fallacy was kept alive for decades by those who might be categorized as “ex-family members.” It was repeated well into the 1990s by both Jackie Kennedy’s first cousin Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale (famous for the documentary Grey Gardens about her and her mother), and author Gore Vidal, whose mother was the second wife of the man who later married Jackie Kennedy’s divorced mother as his third wife.

By the time her son-in-law was running for President in 1960, however, the woman which his campaign publicly identified only as “Mrs. Hugh D. Auchincloss, III,”  was cautious enough to abstract her exact genealogy by stating she was “from the Maryland Lees, an aristocratic offshoot” of the more famous ones across the state line.

By the 1960 campaign, Jackie Kennedy realized that her mother was lying, having explored her origins in Cork during a post-college trip to Ireland with her stepbrother, but she passed the charade on to the public rather than risk stirring Janet’s famous wrath.

Jackie Kennedy at the ancestal home of President Kennedy in Ireland.

Only after a 1967 trip with her children to Ireland and a visit with Kennedy relatives there did she confront Janet with the truth. It provoked a heatedly defensive denial from Janet, cooled only by the quick wit of of Jackie’s stepfather who quipped that he’d always assumed his wife was “a Lee of Shanghai.”

In Ireland, Mrs. Kennedy took her children out riding, in County Wexford.

Jacqueline Kennedy being welcomed by Irish President Eamon de Valera and his wife. (Corbis)

Whether or not the trip to Ireland provoked any sense of connection for Jackie Kennedy, she never said. The intense sentimental  feelings aroused in her by everything Irish has always been ascribed to those cultural connections with her late husband, but it can be speculated that it was also a displaced sense of her own yearning to connect with distorted identity given to her by her mother, and not realized until she was a young adult.

For herself, by the time she made her famous trip to France with President Kennedy on the first leg of his first state visit to Europe in the spring of 1961, Jackie Kennedy’s sense of identity with her more marginal French ancestry had become so entrenched internally, it overrode any she felt for her Irish ancestry. 

Jackie Kennedy on her first day in Paris during which her identity as a French-American was forever solidified n the public mind, 1961.

Walking in the rain: Jackie Kennedy Onassis in Paris, 1973.

Her perfect French shocked French President Charles De Gaulle and prompted him to remark that it was hard to believe she was American. That remark prompted Jackie to affirm, “My ancestors were French.”

For the rest of her life, Jackie’s French connection remained as strong as it was authentic to her, by personal choice.

She not only spent far longer periods of time in France during her second marriage, from 1968 to 1975, to Aristotle Onassis who owned a Paris apartment on the Avenue Foch, but continued to return there after his death.

Janet Lee Bouvier with her second husband, the witty Hugh D. Auchincloss, 1964. (Corbis)

As for Janet Auchincloss, she continued to distance herself from her Irish background until her death in 1989.

So persistently did she convince others that she was related to the Lee family of Virginia, that she even managed to use this false claim to join the board of regents of Stratford Hall, the historic birthplace of Robert E. Lee.

None of the other members dared to challenge her claim. She was a formidable woman with a formidable temper- to say the least.

At that point, she perhaps had convinced herself it was true.

Nor, in a larger sense, could she be entirely blamed for feeling as she did.

In her youth, the ugly bigotry and the stereotypes of Irish-Americans may have caused those not raised to feel proud of Ireland’s rich culture to feel shame for the way they were perceived in the United States; it was not uncommon for many of them who were striving for access to the closed worlds of power and wealth held by the Anglo-Saxon establishment to do whatever it took, including denial of background, to gain entrance into the more elite society.

For the rest of her life, Janet Auchincloss denied her Irish heritage. She is seen here, at far right, with Rose Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy in 1980.

The Lee family’s lie may illustrate a sadder, more poignant side of the immigrant story, but it is part of the American story, not unlike that of Michelle Obama being of both white slaveholder and black slave ancestry.

It’s unclear whether the Bouviers knew that more recent research showed that one of their earlier American ancestors had married into was traced to the DeSales family of New York of racially-mixed Dutch and African origins. According to a PBS website, when this information was sent along to the First Lady in 1961, there was no response. One can only imagine Mrs. Hugh D. Auchincloss III’s reaction.

Forthcoming articles include: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Mysterious Grandfather, Pat Nixon, A First-Generation German & Lincoln Assassination Link

Jackie Kennedy arrives in Ireland, land of her maternal ancestors, with her children in June of 1967.

Jackie Kennedy arrives in Ireland, land of her maternal ancestors, with her children in June of 1967.


Categories: First Families, First Ladies, First Ladies & Ancestral Identity, Franklin D. Roosevelt, History, Politics, Presidents, The Kennedys

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24 replies »

  1. Another great entry, U R really working hard this summer, Carl! I hope U get some nice long week-ends in. That is one thing wonderful re LA; lots of great week-end traveling; no shortage of places to get to, by car, in 4 hrs or less. I loved the story about Mr. Auchincloss & the “Lees of China” comment! Jackie must have had great reverence for her step-Dad. I recall the sad incident at her wedding whereby her Dad was too intoxicated to walk her down the aisle, she was very upset, but was also very OK about him subbing for her Dad. There is also the tale of Jackie, on her 1st night back in DC, from nightmare of Dallas, asking both her mother & stepfather to sleep in same bed w/her, the one belonging to her husband, she was in shock, and very scared. (I had read that they had seperate rooms, at times because of JFK’ss very bad back, he needed a mattress that his wife would not have wanted all night long) I also loved that 1964 picture of Mrs. Auchincloss in her formal attire. What a pretty lady she was! Even the casual picture of her & Rose Kennedy, in 1980, showed a very young looking grandmother.

    I do have a question for you, regarding Lee Radziwill. Not long ago, the tabloids were abuzz w/stories of Lee Radziwill being deep in the throes of Alzheimers. I wrote a note to Enquirer asking how she could have advanced Alzheimers, when she was seen & photographed at FashionWeek in Paris. She was a guest of designer Valie. (I don’t know correct spelling of his name, just that his wealthy loyal customers are called “Valley Girls”.) I rec’d no reply, which does not surprise me. There was also a picture of Lee attending yet another event, this past week. What gives here, Carl? I am not one of those who automatically assume that The Globe, Star & Enquirer are wrong and just passing along rumors. Sometimes, as you know, they are very spot on. I don’t know too much about Alzheimer’s, but I do know a few relatives felled by it, and I can tell U, they were in no shape to be going to Charity Balls, Galas & public Fashion Shows. I wonder, if in early stages, it is possible that many of them can keep participating in life-as-usual for awhile? (We boomers just learned this month that 1950’s/60’s teen idol, Bobby Vee has it. He wrote a letter to his fans about it. He is also doing his summer tours.). I feel badly for anybody w/Alzheimers, especially the “beautiful” ones like Princess Lee & Bobby Vee. I’m wondering if you could pass this info, or (dis-info) along.

    • Too hard, I am afraid. You can see my comment on this in reply to one left today by David under the Betsy Ross story.

      The truth is – at least I think – is that Mrs. Auchincloss was only trying to make what she believed was the best possible life for her daughters and herself. I think that her marriage and divorce to Jack Bouvier was trying and traumatic. She was very old-school and her daughters were very different. But Jackie and Janet never stopped loving one another in their own way, and when her mother began showing Alzheimer symptoms, Mrs. Onassis really showed her true colors, managing to process through a lot of her own unresolved issues with Janet inside herself and instead just took care of her mother in all ways possible with the best caretakers. I know nothing of Lee Radziwill’s real life. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since she moved to Paris, but I always found her bright, engaging and with a smile. I recall that the tabloids once put out a story that Mrs. Onassis was showing signs of Alzheimer’s, a fallacy based only on the presumption that it because it had afflicted her mother, it would have to affect the children – which was not only untrue about Jackie but also irresponsible of the tabloids by making its readers fear that it was an inherited brain disorder — which it is not. I suspect this current spate of tabloid news about Mrs. Radziwill is the same sort of thing -entirely baseless, a complete fabrication. You know, Jackie once wisely noted that “There’s a little cartoon which runs beneath one’s real life….” an oblique reference to the public perception of her through tabloid stories and who she was and how she was really living. Thanks for the comment – as always. I actually very much always look forward to your forthright and incisive observations and analysis Susanne.

  2. So Janet and Jackie were closet case Irish! I feel sad for the grandmother being kept hidden. I bet her Irish pride was boiling mad about that!

    Wow, this was another fascinating insight to our history behind the history of an ever slowly evolving First Family of America.

    • Thank you. Who knows if the older immigrant Mrs. Merritt felt pride or shame. So many of the elderly immigrants were just homesick and depressed. At least she lived on Park Avenue and in East Hampton, I suppose. Appreciate the comment!

    • The Lees of Maryland and the Bouviers of France left a legacy that neither family quite lived down. I tend to think that Edie and her mother were the most amusing of all since they tended to spill the tee quite often. What I tend to love is that John Vernou Bouvier “en famille” was raised at least in part in Nutley, New Jersey, nothing to sneeze at mind you, since fellow Wall Streeter Martha Kostyra likewise hails from the same place. So the Lees claimed to be less Irish and more English, Virginia plantation English to be exact. While the Bouviers claimed to be French aristocracy, even creating the necessary fiction where it did not exist. After 90 years the fiction really became fact.

      Then we have the modern Auchincloss’ family – Hugh Dudley having been Jackie’s savior and Gore Vidal’s villain. The Auchinclosses who also claim to be “blue bloods” are definitely right up there with the Kennedy’s. What I love about Gore is that he at least admitted that his grandfather, blind, an Oklahoma Cowboy who married a Texas plantation girl, was possibly the poorest United States Senator ever to have emerged from the place. It must be said that Lyndon Johnson learned not from Thomas Gore but instead from Dick Kleberg. And then we have one of Hugh’s sons, poor thing, Jamie Auchincloss, who it turns out was convicted of child pornography. Quite a clan. I guess it just goes to show that even the seemingly rich and famous have their problems.

      Janet Lee Morris died, estranged from her husband, a man who was less colorful and boring but perhaps at first at least, more reliable. The Lees of Maryland of course weren’t really – at least not Confederate Lees. But then who would care?

      Who indeed. Even the Kennedy’s rewrote their history – John F. Kennedy lost an inconvenient marriage by the time he married – for at least the second time to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, both her first and middle name an appeasement to her wealthy grandfather.

      • Thanks for the observations Kevin. I must tell you that Edie Beale had an even more elaborate concept of the Bouviers, stopping off in Guadalupe as royal governors or something or other. (I knew her quite well – we did a series of taped interviews, several hours of these I need to figure out at some point what to do with). I think what all of this tells us is simply that every family has exaggerations, ill-fated members, dark secrets, money from ill means (or poverty from the ill means inflicted by others). Everyone is human, regardless of the behavior they assume is befitting the class they aspire to represent. I think too that there is a sadness about the need of people in the earlier 20th century to feign ancestries – because such things never exist in a vacuum – it was the societal bigotry against the Irish and against the Catholics and against the working-classes which led members of such demographics to strive to define themselves, but it was a mean society which led such people to seek the only solution, which was to lie and craft elaborate tales justifying their claims. Bigotry is as much a sad part of the American story as education, hard work and innovation leading to financial success and public acclaim is a hopeful aspect of it. And yes, your ant0-conspiracy friend here has delved into the legend of a first Mrs. Kennedy and, as you know, there exists not even any reliable secondary documentation on this, only persistent rumors and a mistaken ancestral chart entry. At least, I don’t believe it is true. But I never mind agreeing to disagree on such matters. 🙂

  3. This wonderful article goes to show that if one goes far back enough we are all related to the “O’Moebas”–both the Irish and and non-Irish branch. We truly are fortunate to live in a more meritocratic time. It’s nice to read about the Cabots, Lodges, and Whomevers, but it would be irritating to live at a time when their superiority by virtue of pedigree and wealth was a given. I guess that’s the human condition–the posh v. the sosh.

    • You perfectly crystallized my personal sentiments. Some of this is interesting as history but striving to exist by dismissing or belittling others by such arbitrary designations and labels (which are never entirely, absolutely accurate to begin with), often means we end up missing so much of the “free stuff” that comes built into the package of living and fail to make use of the new information gained by the wide range of new and unpredictable people whose paths we inevitably cross as we go through life.

  4. Usually I don’t read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, quite great article.

  5. As another granddaughter of James T. Lee, I’d like to correct something in your article, which I read for the first time last night. James T. Lee was not superintendent of the NYC schools; his father was. Mr. Lee, Sr. was also a medical Dr. and kept practicing while being superintendent. It’s a small point, and Jim Lee accomplished many other things besides even those you mentioned.

    And another small point: I’m the youngest daughter of the youngest Lee daughter, Winifred, called Win. Jackie did indeed, with the help of her step-brother Hugh Auchincloss, provide excellent care for her mother, Janet Lee (“of the Shanghai Lees”) Auchincloss at her house in Newport, RI, but those care-givers did not care for any other members of the family. The oldest Lee sister, Marion, died in the late ’40’s, and my mother died in ’91, also with Alzheimer’s, but in suburban Philadelphia.

    Of course, I’m prejudiced in favor of Jackie, but I feel she was a wonderful person. She was smart, funny, extremely family-minded, and heaven knows she was chic.

    • Dear Anne – Can’t tell you how much I appreciate your writing and also very much appreciate the correction, which I will make on the story. I actually also interview a Ryan cousin while I was conducting interviews and research for my 1997 book, As We Remember Her: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the Words of Her Friends and Family. Sorry I didn’t find you! I tried to include one cousin from each side, schoolmates, etc. different representative figures to the various facets of her life. It seems that Jim Lee deserves his own article, entirely apart from any relative – hardly room here for it, but I know that besides banking he is one of the pioneers of real estate who really helped shape the look of New York as it largely remains today, certainly uptown. Your R. cousin even loaned me a photo of the Bouvier sisters with some Lee cousins, though I think they were R. family only. And I will also correct the line about the care-giver – it was, in fact, Yusha who had told me that. Perhaps he meant to say that J.’s caregiver was referred thru or was a colleague of the caregiver for Mrs. D’Olier. And one need not even be related to feel biased in Jackie’s favor – had she never even become First Lady it is clear she would stand out – her wit, subtle use of historical and literary allusion, her never-quenched thirst for knowledge and interest in literally everything by the time she was an editor, made her stand out. I’ve always maintained that her notable “style” was all an outcrop of her substance and her highly acute sensory perceptions of sight, smell, sound, etc. And so many people more than proved during my interviews that the longer she lived the more compassionate and empathetic she became. I still don’t believe any one work (my own included) has ever managed to capture the way in which she ended up living her own life as a form of artistic expression. I’m also not the first to suggest she was “subversive” in the older use of the word, meaning she always was striving to observe what went on beneath the surface, what forces were at work driving someone’s conscious efforts. I won’t go on – except to say thank you greatly for the corrections.

      • Thank you, Mr. Anthony, for your kindness to Jackie and to me.

        • Of course – it was helpful and thoughtful for you to provide the clarification; and the truth is, despite my ability to remain objective, she is one of those people I find great difficultly in not becoming subjective towards. For entirely rational reasons, I believe she has still not received the full credit and understanding for not only the overt but the many subtle contributions she made to national life and to the global appeal of the American nation in the mid-century. Anyway, thank you again A. Cheers.

      • Happy New Year, Carl. I totally agree with your assessment of Jackie Kennedy. She was such an extraordinary woman of many talents. While I am impressed with her efforts in Publishing; I can’t help but feel she had so much more to offer the world. If I could be a Goddess, & go back in time & change Jackie’s life, I would have loved seeing her serve as an Ambassador. Her gifts seemed to suit the needs of our foreign service, to a perfect T.

        It’s a shame she rejected LBJ’s encouraging offer to serve in France, yet understandable that she was not at the apex of Security at this time in her life. Had she gone on in this direction, I think she would have gained lots of self-confidence combined with a deep love for her work. Her style would have been dis-similar to the role models of an Eleanor Roosevelt or Hillary Clinton, but just as powerful, if not more so. I do miss Jackie. Of any woman in my lifetime, she was simply the one that I, along with billions of others, admired mostl.

        • Thanks and Happy New Year to you as well S. Seven days out and 2013 is perfect so far!

          You are dead-on right about the talents of Jacqueline Kennedy. I think she had a mind and an understanding of the world at large that was not a result of her background, the time in which she lived or anything else that others have sought to define her through. I believe she was the result of her own endless hard work of…..thinking. She didn’t just devour books about the history and also contemporary cultural and political landscapes of many nations, but she also took so much time alone to process it all, to think about what she’d learned – so often she ended up remarking about how similar human nature really is, however shaped, warped or adapted it ended up being expressed, through the lens of the particular cultures.

          One aspect of her post-White House life which I believe is largely overlooked – and it relates directly to the darkest moment of her life. On the surface she of course made sure that she lived in the present and moved on from the experience of Dallas if even because she wanted to lessen the damaging potential affect it might have on her children – but it couldn’t help but permanently change her internally. And I think that in striving to live as emotionally healthy a life as possible, her instincts led her to deeds which had the least chance of returning her thoughts to that day. There is evidence that it wasn’t until she had returned to the everyday workplace experience of a publishing house that she was able to finally move herself into an entirely new understanding of it. It was not just that time had made that trauma more remote but also that she never stopped thinking about it and the new environment and life enabled her to better process it objectively. It is also overlooked that concurrent to her work life as an editor, she finally finally finished the commitment she had made with her unpaid work as “director” so to speak of making JFK’s legacy permanent by the establishment of his presidential library, which was not dedicated until October 1979. So I agree that her talents would have made her a tremendous ambassador – in fact, another aspect of her life which I am currently researching involves the very real impact she had on US foreign relations. But she also knew that no matter how many people cared about and supported her in the post-assassination period that she was, like us all, simply a human and at the end of the day she was responsible for her own emotional health and so she had to very much make her own careful choices about the next stage of her life. I think that one of her greatest problems was having an embarrassment of riches, in terms of her talents. I think it sometimes overwhelmed her and perhaps that sometimes left her uncertain of what to do – because there was so much she could do well. So if you look at her unsalaried work in the years from 1964 to 1975, you can also trace her assiduous efforts to permanently establish JFK’s legacy through so many institutions and her attempts to manage the volumes of books about him (in later life she expressed regret at trying to control or limit personal information she revealed in the Manchester book). I think she did this because it served a dual purpose: one, it used some of her natural talents and two because she still loved him and had to feel she had done all she could to establish her perception of him in public. I would conclude by saying that she was extremely similar to Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton in terms of the way she was able to perceive all of humanity – without borders, recognizing that understanding life through an international lens provided – at least for her – not only the largest possible perspective on life but also endlessly fascinating by the way it so diverted based on the peculiarities of individualized, tactile cultures. And too, for someone rather addicted to information, she would never run out of new things to learn.

          • Thank you Carl, for validating my thoughts on Jackie Kennedy.* I am, as usual, very impressed with the additional info you passed on, and will have to mull it over. Several months ago, I mentioned to you that I was eagerly awaiting the publication of one of these “underground”/Kennedy Assasination Books, “Mary’s Mosaic” by Peter Janney. You warned that I might not find her the most likable character to read about, and you were, as the English would say, “SPOT ON!” The 1st 200 p.p. of bk., were hard to get through. It has picked up somewhat. The book is about the Murder of Mary Pincshot Meier, a Georgetown socialite who was married/divoriced to a CIA agent & alleged to have had a heavy-duty affair with JFK. While it seems that the author thinks highly of Mary, portraying her as a stunning beauty, uber talented artist and brilliant woman-of-the-world, I just did not like her. I am finding the book depressing, but I will finish it. I think the reason it depresses me is because lately there have been lots of candid books/articles coming out about Jackie Kennedy, her son JFK, Jr., etc and other family members. These new accounts seem to affirm that Jackie was very, very much in love with her husband, and vice-versa. They were sophisticated people, Jackie did not expect her man to be 100% faithful. In her tapes, she speaks about how much closer they became when they lived in the WH, where they saw each other, and their children more frequently. He certainly becomes more aware of her gifts/contributions, “blown away” might be a better term. She seems to have really “rocked his world”, even more than she did ours, and that is saying lots!! It is said that he never had need for a translator with her at his side, she spoke more languages than French & English. That in itself is quite a gift to give a husband/POTUS. There have been lots of very positive accounts of Jack & Jackie that give their followers assurance they were in love. Mary’s Mosaic seems to detract from the powerful marriage Jack/Jackie had, and I guess I do not like that. I don’t think Mary Meyer was of Jackie’s caliber, and if she did “cat around” with Pres. Kennedy, I don’t think she would have had as much effect on him as the author would like us to feel.

          • What’s interesting of course is that one can never entirely know the extent of truth in episodes from the past when there are only one or two accounts of principals there to experience it, such as the Meyer situation. But even more to this issue: so often the public yearns for a person to fulfill their ideal of them when in fact they are humans with flaws sometimes great. Yet the most important factor of all this is that one can speculate endlessly on what President Kennedy (or any person, alive or dead, famous or unknown) was truly “feeling” – as opposed to what they might say or write that they were feeling. And too, as Jacqueline Onassis was always wary of, the more time passes on beyond an incident the more we all tend to romanticize the incident without our own personal mythologies. I guess I come around again, back to my original point that while nobody is perfect, there are those who strive to make the extra effort to understand their own deeds and those of others and to learn from studying it and make a conscious effort not to repeat it, if the deed was damaging to them or impeded their larger goals in life.

  6. Love this blog….just like siting with fiends over a coffee….and only accurate facts get tossed about. I’m 59 years old and as I get older I find Jackie and her life more interesting. Thank you


    • Thank you very much Diane, its a really kind characterization of the website I appreciate. And I find that more and more people of all ages, including people born long, long after Kennedy’s death who are beginning to recognize the depth of Jackie Kennedy and what the many layers of her intelligence reveal. Cheers.

  7. To me, its clearly obvious that ancestries of the bouviers. All the boots about Jackie’s life talk about it regarding mostly of her daddy , nicknamed as “Black Jack Bouvier” , caused as mentioned in the book, becouse of his everlasting tanned skin, it is written on several biographies of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis
    That’s not new as a notice, I’ve heart of it already since very long ago, as a fun reader of these books

  8. It is fairly obvious…..that JKO…had african ancestry….she straightened her hair…..regularly and her father definitely had a lot of black features the skin and his bone structure dead give away.
    Jackie looks like a mulungeon….

    • To my knowledge, no definitive ancestral chart tracing her paternal line has ever been done. Similar claims were made about Presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Abraham Lincoln and others based on a small number of still photographs of them.


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