Op-ed: Inspiring First Ladies: Jackie Kennedy

Jackie Kennedy is remembered today as the woman who brought life and culture to the white house and the First Lady who witnessed the assassination of her husband, the President. 

At the time of her husband JFK’s inauguration, she was the youngest First Lady in history and became a pop culture icon during the early 1960s. Before becoming First Lady, Jackie Bouvier was born into a wealthy American family. Her father was a Wall Street stockbroker and as such, the family were amongst some of the most influential families in 1920s America. She obtained her degree in literature and after graduation became a photographer and literature reviewer. 

The fact that Jackie, who the summer before college had been introduced to society as the ‘debutante’ of the year, decided to work following graduation shows her independent spirit and provides an early example of the transcendence of social class within American society. 

When her husband was elected as President in 1960, Jackie Kennedy would go on to create a lasting impact on the White House. 

She was the person responsible for restoring the White House during Kennedy’s time in office, bringing a sense of American history and culture to the presidential residence. Despite initial objection from Kennedy’s advisors about spending resources on the restoration, she stood firm and proved to the world that women were just as capable of doing whatever they put their minds too, regardless of whether or not others believed they were capable. 

She was a very intelligent woman, having studied literature and French history in college, she was also fluent in the French language. Her intelligence and charm made her a very popular figure and she played a large role in international relations, even being cited as the main figurehead in smoothing relations between America and the Soviet Union. 

Following John Kennedy’s assasination, Jackie remained aware of the importance of her position and worked to secure her husband’s legacy even when dealing with her own grief and raising two small children as a single mother. On the night before she left the White House, her final act as First Lady was to write to Nikita Khrushchev and implored him to maintain peace with the United States, to honor her late husband and the treaty the two nations had agreed upon. 

Though her time in the White House was short, Jackie Kennedy managed to create a lasting impact on American politics and culture, remaining one of the most revered and celebrated First Ladies, and women, in American history. 

Katie Hayes is Managing Editor for The Hub. She can be contacted at hayesc@emmanuel.edu.