The Jackie Kennedy Tapes

Pearls draped her neck. She was tall, thin, poised, and spoke with a distinct air about her. She was a Republican, and, a Democrat. For this one description captures two very different women — Millicent Fenwick, the pipe-smoking grandmother in Congress, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Both were fiercely private, full of passion, and could captivate any audience with their trance-like voices and perfect diction. Both were also public figures. One was elected to congress, the other by virtue of marriage became the first lady of the nation.

This week, thanks to the JFK Library, the world is getting to hear Jackie Kennedy’s voice again and some of her inner-most thoughts. Millicent Fenwick would have rolled over in her grave if she heard the recently released tapes quoting Jackie as saying that “Women should never be in politics, we’re just not suited to it.”

Tidbits like this shed new light on history, but also have to be viewed within the context of the time, 1964, and examined within the full text of the transcript.  As a biographer, there is nothing more exciting then gathering the pieces of a life and putting them together. Caroline Kennedy clearly understands this. Kudos to her for releasing the unabridged recordings of her mother’s oral history with historian Arthur Schlesinger, conducted months after President Kennedy’s assassination, but sealed until today.

I can’t wait to read, and hear, more.

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