One of history’s most fashionable First Ladies would turn 88 today! Appreciated for her impeccable taste and personal style, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis is one of the world’s most admired women. Born as the eldest daughter of Wall Street broker John Vernon Bouvier III and socialite Janet Bouvier, she graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in French literature from George Washington University, and went to work as a photographer for the Washington Times – Herald before meeting senator John F. Kennedy…and the rest is history.
One of her first major projects as First Lady was the restoration of the White House to its former historical glory. Her friendship and collaboration with another great lady of style, Bunny Mellon, has led to the redesign of the White House’ gardens. Here’s an excerpt from Wiki that describes in more detail her White House restoration project.
“Jacqueline had visited the White House twice prior to becoming First Lady, once as a tourist in 1941 and again as the guest of Mamie Eisenhower shortly before her husband’s inauguration. She was dismayed to find that the mansion’s rooms were furnished with undistinguished pieces that displayed little historical significance and made it her first major project as First Lady to restore its historical character. On her first day in residence, she began her efforts with the help of interior decorator Sister Parish. She decided to make the family quarters attractive and suitable for family life by adding a kitchen on the family floor and new rooms for her children. The $50,000 that had been appropriated for this effort was almost immediately exhausted. Continuing the project, she established a fine arts committee to oversee and fund the restoration process and solicited the advice of early American furniture expert Henry du Pont. To solve the funding problem, a White House guidebook was published, sales of which were used for the restoration. Working with Rachel Lambert Mellon, Kennedy also oversaw the redesign and replanting of the White House Rose Garden and the East Garden, which was renamed the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden after her husband’s assassination. In addition, Kennedy helped to stop the destruction of historic homes in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., because she felt these buildings were an important part of the nation’s capital and played an essential role in its history.
Prior to Kennedy’s years as First Lady, furnishings and other items had been taken from the White House by presidents and their families when they departed; this led to the lack of original historical pieces in the mansion. To track down these missing furnishings and other historical pieces of interest, she personally wrote to possible donors. She also initiated a Congressional bill establishing that White House furnishings would be the property of the Smithsonian Institution, rather than available to departing ex-presidents to claim as their own, and founded the White House Historical Association, the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, the position of a permanent Curator of the White House, the White House Endowment Trust, and the White House Acquisition Trust. She was the first presidential spouse to hire a White House curator.
On February 14, 1962, Jacqueline took American television viewers on a tour of the White House with Charles Collingwood of CBS News. In the tour she stated that “I feel so strongly that the White House should have as fine a collection of American pictures as possible. It’s so important… the setting in which the presidency is presented to the world, to foreign visitors. The American people should be proud of it. We have such a great civilization. So many foreigners don’t realize it. I think this house should be the place we see them best.” The film was watched by 56 million television viewers in the United States, and was later distributed to 106 countries. Kennedy won a special Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Trustees Award for it at the Emmy Awards in 1962, which was accepted on her behalf by Lady Bird Johnson. Kennedy was the only First Lady to win an Emmy.” (Wikipedia)