She had opinions and she didn't always keep them to herself
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was generally a beloved figure in American History. That is, until last night, when ABC News aired excerpts of the former first lady's audio interviews with historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., recorded just months after the death of her husband. In the tapes, which daughter Caroline released from the family archives, she's candid, gossipy, even cutting about several major political figures. She's also desperately devoted to her husband, whose romantic legacy isn't synonymous with loyalty. It's a side of Jackie we didn't know and it's polarizing. To some she's not the poised, accepting mother figure she appeared to be, to others she's shows a welcome emotional side. What is clear is that she was far more complicated than just a fashion icon. She was human.
She was concerned with how people saw her
On her public perception during the campaign years: "Your hair, that you spoke French, that you didn’t just adore to campaign, and you didn’t bake bread with flour up to your arms - you know, everybody thought I was a snob and hated politics."
She could be catty, especially about other women
On Indira Gandhi: "prune - bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman." On Pat Nixon's hair: "frizzy" On Eunice Kennedy Shriver: "She wanted to be a cabinet wife"
But also about her husband's male colleagues
She called Charles de Gaulle an "an egomaniac", referred to Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a "poseur" and Martin Luther King Jr. as "tricky" and "terrible". She also wasn't above a little gossip, even if it came from the FBI. "[John F. Kennedy] told me of a tape that the FBI had of Martin Luther King when he was here for the freedom march. And he said this with no bitterness or anything, how he was calling up all these girls and arranging for a party of men and women, I mean, sort of an orgy in the hotel, and everything."
The Kennedys and the Johnsons weren't the best of friends
She intimated that LBJ had a drinking problem, was agenda driven and not very forthcoming with his opinions. As for Lady Bird, she called her a "trained hunting dog." On one occasion she described their marriage this way: "And anytime Lyndon would talk that night, Lady Bird would get out a little notebook ... He'd say something as innocent as - I don't know - 'Does your sister live in London?' - and Lady Bird would write down Lee's name and 'London.'"
She wasn't exactly liberated
"I think women should never be in politics. We're just not suited to it," she said. When she asked her husband about Vietnam on one occasion, she felt remorse for reminding him of something that weighed him down. "Someone said where do you get your opinions and I said I get all my opinions from my husband....it was a really a rather terribly Victorian or Adriatic relationship...which I think is the best."
She was desperately in love
"I was so happy for Jack, especially now that it was only three years together that he could be proud of me then," she said of her public acceptance in the White House. "Because it made him so happy — it made me so happy. So those were our happiest years."
Her greatest fear was losing her husband
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, she was terrified of being separated from JFK, to the point that she worried she couldn't live without him. "I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too — than live without you."