There is a group of remarkable and unique women that have always fascinated me: the First Ladies. These women have a role unlike any other, and each one brings her own flair to the White House. American women look to them as examples and as leaders. Out of all these amazing women, the First Lady that has inspired me the most is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
The wife of President John F. Kennedy, Jackie was First Lady from 1961–1963. During her short tenure in the White House, she truly revitalized it. She redecorated the family quarters and restored the public rooms to their former glory. Jackie had a love for the finer things in life and established the White House fine arts committee as well as created the position of White House curator.
Her entertaining style was simple, yet elegant. She designed flower arrangements throughout the White House to have a more casual feel so that they would not look like the work of an expensive florist. For meals, each place was set with a basic, folded white napkin and a simple place card. She requested that the meals only have four courses instead of the traditional five or six. In planning her menus, she considered food prices, what was in season, as well as the preferences and cultures of her guests.
When it comes to her fashion, Jackie’s iconic style was unlike any other leading lady this country has seen. She often sketched designs for her outfits and worked with designers to bring her dreams to life. Her signature hairdo was imitated by many women, and she knew how to flawlessly accessorize any outfit with her stunning pillbox hats, gloves, oversize sunglasses, or headscarves.
The thing that endeared Jackie to me the most was her expression of gratitude. She was always quick to send a handwritten thank you note. In her notes, she would first write several sentences about the gift or event and what made it so special to her. Then she wrapped up the note with her heartfelt thanks. She sent countless notes like these during her time in the White House. When her husband was tragically killed, many people sent her flowers and sympathy letters. In return, many of those people received a small thank you card with Jackie’s signature at the bottom.
Although she passed away in 1994, Jackie Kennedy left a legacy of elegance and sophistication. She is a woman that I truly admire and I hope to follow her example of hospitality, grace, and gratitude.