Early life (1929–1951)
Family and childhood
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was born on July 28, 1929, at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital in Southampton, New York, to Wall Street stockbroker John Vernou "Black Jack" Bouvier III and socialite Janet Norton Lee. Bouvier's mother was of Irish descent, and her father had French, Scottish, and English ancestry.[a]
Named after her father, Bouvier was baptized at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan; she was raised in the Catholic faith. Her sister Lee was born in 1933.
Bouvier spent her early childhood years in Manhattan and at Lasata, the Bouviers' country estate in East Hampton on Long Island. She idolized her father, who likewise favored her over her sister, calling his elder child "the most beautiful daughter a man ever had". Biographer Tina Flaherty pointed out Jackie's early confidence in herself, seeing a link to her father's praise and positive attitude to her, and her sister Lee has stated that she would not have gained her "independence and individuality" had it not been for the relationship she had with their father and paternal grandfather. From an early age, Bouvier was an enthusiastic equestrienne and successfully competed in the sport; horse-riding would remain a lifelong passion. She also took ballet lessons, was an avid reader, and excelled at learning languages, with French being particularly emphasized in her upbringing.
Six-year-old Bouvier in 1935
In 1935, Bouvier was enrolled in Manhattan's Chapin School, which she attended for grades 1–6. She was a bright student but often misbehaved; one of her teachers described her as "a darling child, the prettiest little girl, very clever, very artistic, and full of the devil". Bouvier's mother attributed her daughter's behavior to the way that she finished her assignments ahead of classmates and then acted out in boredom. Her behavior improved after the headmistress warned her that none of her positive qualities would matter if she did not behave.
The marriage of Bouvier's parents was strained by her father's alcoholism and extramarital affairs; the family had also struggled with financial difficulties following the Wall Street Crash of 1929. They separated in 1936 and divorced four years later, with the press publishing intimate details of the split. According to her cousin John H. Davis, Bouvier was deeply affected by the divorce and subsequently had a "tendency to withdraw frequently into a private world of her own". When her mother married Standard Oil heir Hugh Dudley Auchincloss, Jr., Bouvier and her sister did not attend the ceremony, because it was arranged quickly and travel was restricted due to World War II. Bouvier gained three step-siblings from Auchincloss' two previous marriages, Hugh "Yusha" Auchincloss III, Thomas Gore Auchincloss, and Nina Gore Auchincloss; she formed the closest bond with Yusha, who became one of her most trusted confidants. The marriage later produced two more children, Janet Jennings Auchincloss in 1945 and James Lee Auchincloss in 1947.
After the remarriage, Auchincloss' Merrywood estate in McLean, Virginia, became the Bouvier sisters' primary residence, although they also spent time at his other estate, Hammersmith Farm in Newport, Rhode Island, and in their father's homes in New York City and Long Island. Although she retained a relationship with her father, Bouvier also regarded her stepfather as a close paternal figure. He gave her a stable environment and the pampered childhood she never would have experienced otherwise. While Bouvier adjusted to her mother's remarriage, she sometimes felt like an outsider in the WASP social circle of the Auchinclosses, attributing the feeling to her being Catholic as well as being a child of divorce, which was not common in that social group at that time.
After six years at Chapin, Bouvier attended the Holton-Arms School in Northwest Washington, D.C. from 1942 to 1944, and Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut, from 1944 to 1947. She chose Miss Porter's because it was a boarding school that allowed her to distance herself from the Auchinclosses, and because the school placed an emphasis on college preparatory classes. In her senior class yearbook, Bouvier was acknowledged for "her wit, her accomplishment as a horsewoman, and her unwillingness to become a housewife". Jacqueline later hired her childhood friend Nancy Tuckerman to be her Social Secretary at the White House. She graduated among the top students of her class and received the Maria McKinney Memorial Award for Excellence in Literature.
College and early career
In the fall of 1947, Bouvier entered Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She had wanted to attend Sarah Lawrence College, closer to New York City, but her parents insisted that she choose the more geographically isolated Vassar. Bouvier was an accomplished student who participated in the school's art and drama clubs and wrote for its newspaper. Due to her dislike for the college, she did not take an active part in its social life and instead traveled back to Manhattan on the weekends. She had made her society debut in the summer before entering college and became a frequent presence in New York social functions. Hearst columnist Igor Cassini dubbed her the "debutante of the year". Bouvier spent her junior year (1949–1950) in France—at the University of Grenoble in Grenoble, and at the Sorbonne in Paris—in a study-abroad program through Smith College. Upon returning home, she transferred to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French literature in 1951. During the early years of her marriage to John F. Kennedy, she took continuing education classes in American history at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
While attending George Washington, Bouvier won a twelve-month junior editorship at Vogue magazine; she had been selected over several hundred other women nationwide. The position entailed working for six months in the magazine's New York City office and spending the remaining six months in Paris. Before beginning the job, Bouvier celebrated her college graduation and her sister Lee's high school graduation by traveling with her to Europe for the summer. The trip was the subject of her only autobiography, One Special Summer, co-authored with Lee; it is also the only one of her published works to feature Jacqueline's drawings. On her first day at Vogue, the managing editor advised her to quit and go back to Washington. According to biographer Barbara Leaming, the editor was concerned about Bouvier's marriage prospects; she was 22 years of age and was considered too old to be single in her social circles. Bouvier followed the advice, left the job and returned to Washington after only one day of work.
Bouvier moved back to Merrywood and was hired as a part-time receptionist at the Washington Times-Herald. A week later, she approached editor Frank Waldrop and requested more challenging work; she was given the position of "Inquiring Camera Girl", despite Waldrop's initial concerns about her competence. The position required her to pose witty questions to individuals chosen at random on the street and take their pictures for publication in the newspaper alongside selected quotations from their responses. In addition to the random "man on the street" vignettes, she sometimes sought interviews with people of interest, such as six-year-old Tricia Nixon. Bouvier interviewed Tricia a few days after her father Richard Nixon was elected to the vice presidency in the 1952 election. During this time, Bouvier was also briefly engaged to a young stockbroker, John G. W. Husted, Jr. After only a month of dating, the couple published the announcement in The New York Times in January 1952. She called off the engagement after three months, because she had found him "immature and boring" once she got to know him better.