America's Couple - JFK and Jackie O

Intro

John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier were two ordinary people who went on to become one of America’s most beloved and widely recognized couples. Despite their brief engagement, their marriage was a strong one and together they embodied the image of the perfect family. Kennedy and his wife exuded such charisma and style that they were all but idolized by the nation. Even today, several decades after their deaths, they remain esteemed figures in American history.

Dating & Courtship

John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier (nicknamed Jackie) both came from wealthy families and eventually started mixing in the same social groups. In 1952, a year after graduating from college, Jackie was already engaged to John Husted, a local stockbroker. Their engagement lasted a mere three months. Jackie met John Kennedy, a congressman, at a dinner party where they were officially introduced. The two hit it off so well that after the dinner, Kennedy asked Jackie out for a drink. Upon realizing that she was with Husted, he respectfully bowed out. Nevertheless, Jackie’s engagement to Husted was soon broken off. Later Husted claimed that Jackie’s mother played a role in this, suggesting that he was not wealthy enough for her daughter. By June 25, 1953, Kennedy confirmed his engagement to Jackie Bouvier.

Marriage

The Kennedys were married on September 12, 1953 in Rhode Island. Their wedding was a lavish affair with over a thousand guests at the wedding reception. The reception took place at Hammersmith Farm, which is the large Victorian manor house where Jackie grew up. Several articles, such as Jackie’s wedding dress are currently on display in the Kennedy Library, situated in Boston. Although the dress was a traditional design that became famous, Jackie declared privately that she did not actually like it since it was mainly designed following the orders of other members of the Kennedy family. After the wedding, the Kennedys traveled to Acapulco in Mexico for their honeymoon and later headed to Virginia to make their family home.

Children

John and Jackie Kennedy suffered several personal tragedies within their new family within the first few years of marriage. In 1955, Jackie was thrilled to find that she was pregnant, but her joy was quashed following a miscarriage. The next year, on August 23, 1956, a second pregnancy also failed when the baby, Arabella Kennedy, was delivered stillborn. Finally a third pregnancy in 1957 was successful when a healthy Caroline Bouvier Kennedy was delivered on November 27, 1957. This success was followed up a few years later with the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. on November 25, 1960. Jackie Kennedy’s final pregnancy was in 1963. She gave birth prematurely to a boy named Patrick Bouvier Kennedy on August 7, 1963, but sadly he passed away just two days later from infant respiratory distress syndrome.

The bodies of Arabella Kennedy and Patrick Kennedy were originally buried in Holywood Cemetery in Massachusetts and they were later moved to Arlington National Cemetery. John Kennedy, Jr. went on to become a lawyer and the publisher of George magazine. In another instance of untimely tragedy, he was killed in a plane crash in 1999. His sister, Caroline Kennedy, became active in politics, married and had a family, and remains the sole existing Kennedy child to date.

President and First Lady

In 1960, John F. Kennedy won his campaign for presidency. Incidentally, this was during Jackie’s pregnancy with John F. Kennedy Jr. As the President and First Lady of the United States, John was relatively young for a U.S. president at forty-three years of age, while Jackie was just thirty-one. The Kennedys scored much popularity not only nationally but also among visiting foreign ambassadors and world leaders. While the media was fixated on the Kennedys, Jackie always requested privacy for the children. Her success in restoring the White House and gaining worldwide recognition for it, as well as her flawless ability to endear herself on official trips abroad helped enormously to boost public regard of the President. John Kennedy himself made marked strides on the political front with his policies and handling of various issues, from the Cuban Missile Crisis to his dealings with the American space program. Together, John and Jackie helped each other through a number of hardships. Media coverage cast them in a pop culture light as opposed to the traditional images of politicians. Perhaps it was their youthful energy and closeness that brought such a wave of vigor to the American nation at the time.

Tragic Ending

The Kennedys were enjoying success, both professionally as well as in their personal lives. Tragically, this was all to end on November 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was shot in the head during a procession in an open-top limousine in Dallas, Texas. By the time he was transported to the nearest hospital, he was soon declared dead. Shocked and grief-stricken, Jackie insisted on staying by his side during those last few minutes. That same day, when Lyndon B. Johnson was to be sworn in as President, Jackie refused to change her blood-smeared suit. She was famously photographed bearing the stains of her husband’s blood during the swearing-in ceremony aboard Air Force One.

Jackie Kennedy is remembered well for the stoic way in which she led the nation to grieve for their lost President. Much of the following year was spent in solitude and mourning for her. Jackie married again five years later, in 1968, to Aristotle Onassis and settled down in Greece as a way to escape other Kennedy assassination attempts in the U.S. Her name was legally changed to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and she was nicknamed “Jackie O.” by the media who still persisted in following her. After her death in 1994, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery next to John Kennedy and their infants, Arabella and Patrick.

Additional Resources

1.    Kennedy Family Tree

2.    The Early Years of Jack and Jackie

3.    Jacqueline Bouvier and John F. Kennedy Engagement Announcement

4.    Archival Letter and Magazine Reports About the Kennedy Engagement

5.    Kennedy Wedding Photo Gallery

6.    Kennedy Wedding Invitation, Reception and Honeymoon Images

7.    JFK and Jackie O. Visit a Children’s Hospital at Christmas (video)

8.    Time Magazine Cover Featuring John, Jackie and Caroline Kennedy

9.    Jacqueline Kennedy Timeline

10. Kennedy Family Photo Album

11. Image of John and Jackie Kennedy in Presidential Motorcade in Texas

12. Article and Archival Images on the Kennedy Family, Including Post-Assassination Images

13. The American Public Mourns With Jacqueline Kennedy

14. Press Coverage and Images of Jacqueline Kenney’s Life, Death and Funeral at Arlington National Cemetery

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