Few first ladies past and present have resonated with the American public across different backgrounds. A poster for strength in the wake of her husband’s assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (Jackie O) transformed American history in remarkable ways.
We rounded up just a few of the ways that she changed the world forever.
Jackie O’s iconic looks remain a pivotal inspiration for fashion trends to this day.
When it came to fashion, Jackie O was in a league of her own. Newsweek reports that, in her first year as First Lady, she reportedly spent $US45,466 more on her wardrobe than the $US100,000 her husband John F. Kennedy earned as commander-in-chief.
Robust budget aside, Jackie O popularised many statement pieces unique to women in the 1960s and 1970s. Her Halston-designed pillbox hats, which she owned in several different colours, became a signature look throughout her tenure as First Lady. She famously wore a watermelon tinted suit and matching pillbox hat on the day her husband was assassinated.
Few could rock a cape with such sophistication and humility quite like Mrs. Kennedy. In recent years, the garment has slowly made a return to the runway and seen on the racks at your favourite stores. The dramatic accessory was a huge part of her signature style, and naturally remains synonymous with her time as First Lady.
Jacqueline Kennedy’s personal responsibility as White House interior decorator is still followed by First Ladies of the 21st century.
Most expect the inside of the White House to be expertly dressed with the finest pieces unique to the President and First Lady’s lifestyle. However, when President and Jackie Kennedy became its newest resident in 1961, it was boring and ridden with dated furniture most wouldn’t adorn their own homes with.
Jackie O believed that the White House should tell an artistic history of the United States, and she set out to restore its walls with warm tones of strong colours. The dismal walls were beautifully painted in blue and yellow hues, and the accompanying furniture was a gentle mix of antique pieces and trendy accessories.
You can thank Jackie O for the beautifully manicured Rose Garden.
Credited as being an area where her husband spent his “happiest hours in the White House,” the Rose Garden has become an integral part of the charm and esteem of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Bunny Mellon, gardening enthusiast and Kennedy family friend was the trusted individual in charge of turning their vision into reality. The garden was completed in 1962.
Even though Mrs. Kennedy was only able to enjoy the allure of the garden for a year, the memories stemming from her experience creating the architectural terrace would last a lifetime.
Years after her husband’s assassination, Jackie O gifted Mellon with a scrapbook highlighting the Rose Garden’s progress from inception to conclusion.
She helped usher in conversations about over-analysing women’s looks.
Though she was far from the first woman to question why women are judged so harshly on their appearances, she was one of the first women in public office to do so.
“All the talk over what I wear and how I fix my hair has amused and puzzled me. What does my hair have to do with my husband’s ability to be president?” she said, according to The Telegraph.
This conversation is one that people have more and more in 2018, and Jackie was arguably an important part.
She redefined what it was to be a first lady.
Jackie O took the title of first lady and spun it on its head.
Though, as mentioned, she had a big hand in making the White House beautiful, she also was indispensable to the President on the campaign trail and on foreign visits. She was fluent in several languages and in fact, was such a big hit in France, her husband had to remark “I do not think it altogether inappropriate for me to introduce myself. I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.”
Jackie took her title seriously and became one of the most iconic first ladies of all time simply for how much she changed what it meant to be a first lady.
She helped usher in an era of political celebrity.
Though people have always looked up to politicians and their families, when it came to Jackie, the hype was like nothing people had ever seen before. She welcomed video tours into the White House and people waited with bated breath for what she’d wear or do next.
She was painted by Andy Warhol and for years her every move has been written about.
The Kennedys were so popular that The New York Times noted “the palpable love affair between the White House and a jade called Culture shows signs of reaching an impassioned peak this year,” according to The BBC.
This all may not sound that odd, but that’s because of the Kennedys. Although we live in an era of political celebrity now, where politicians’ every move have been made public, that wasn’t always the case. And a lot of it is because of the intense infatuation with Jackie O.
Mrs. Kennedy unknowingly normalized cesarean section births
There was a time where cesarean section births were considered a dangerous operation, and doctors hesitated to perform the life-threatening operation.
These days, however, they are one of the most popular surgeries in America.
Mere weeks following her husband won the 1960 presidential election, Jackie O underwent an emergency C-section. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. was born on November 25, 1960, a month early and the American public demanded answers.
John Walsh, the Kennedy’s obstetrician ultimately revealed that the First Lady had underwent the operation, and furthermore shared that three years earlier her daughter Caroline was also born via cesarean section.
Two years later, Mrs. Kennedy became pregnant again and this time, newspapers were flooded with stories detailing the procedure and the recovery proceedings. Even the feared scar left from the surgery became an inconsequential factor.
Jacqueline Kennedy had unknowingly brought positive exposure to a taboo operation that many feared to discuss.
She valued her career and showed that a career change later in life was absolutely possible.
Prior to meeting her husband, Jackie was a journalist and writer, but not everyone knows that later in her life, she was a successful book editor for nearly two decades.
Many people even today fear a late in life career change. The fact that Jackie did so with such success is remarkable now and was even more so when she did it.
Though she’s certainly not the first woman to make this step, she certainly is one of the most public, making her move a remarkable one.
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