America. 1975. The Watergate trials ended, finding the defendants guilty and creating a generation of cynics. The United States was laboring to recover from a crippling oil crisis but had finally withdrawn from Vietnam. Tammy Wynette had a new hit song called “stand by your Man,” while women still campaigned for the Equal rights Amendment as they entered the workforce in record numbers and divorced in record numbers.
It was a year when Americans were drained by politics, war, and a bad economy. Yet they were hopeful, as if they knew things could not get any worse. Two young men launched a company called Microsoft. From coast to coast, people flocked to discos to do the Hustle. In England, a band named the sex pistols gave birth to punk and the British Conservative Party had chosen its first female leader, Margaret Thatcher, as Parliament passed the sex discrimination and Equal Pay Act.
Jacqueline Onassis was forty-five, living in New York, and going through her own confusing metamorphosis. The health of her much older husband, the millionaire Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, was rapidly declining, as was the diseased state of what was a second marriage for both of them. Her daughter, Caroline, was in her last year of high school. Jackie’s younger child, John Jr., was a high school freshman, busy with his own friends and interests. Much of her day-today work as a parent was done, and aside from dabbling in charities and being the almost-estranged wife of a man who lived abroad, she had few other responsibilities outside of her very regular hair appointments, which happened to be once a week at Kenneth.
Like so many parents of grown children who find themselves suddenly single—or just unhappy at midlife—Jackie had begun to think more about herself and how, despite having such a full closet, she felt empty. She had enough money to continue living a life of leisure, albeit one where she was always trying to escape the haunting assassination of her first husband, President John F. Kennedy. But what ambitions and talents had she tucked away two decades earlier, to become—in succession—a wife, the First lady, an international fashion icon, a grieving widow, a single parent, and later, a stepmother and jet-setter?
The world knew she was beautiful, stoic, and rich, with impeccable taste and a soft, little-girl voice that turned out marvelous French. it did not know, or perhaps did not care, that she was interested in history and architecture, that she was a talented writer, a voracious reader, and a person of ambitions of her own. Now, on the precipice of 1975, when society all around her was changing, Jackie was beginning to wonder how she should spend the rest of her life. What would make her truly happy? These were especially difficult questions for a woman whose pre–World War ii generation and social stratum had bred her for nothing more than marriage and motherhood and the attendant accessory decorating and volunteering opportunities.
From the book JACKIE AFTER O: One Remarkable Year When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Defied Expectations and Rediscovered Her Dreams by Tina Cassidy. Copyright C 2012 by Tina Cassidy. Reprinted by permission of It Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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