Here’s the Secret Job Jackie Kennedy Had for Years
She had a successful career before and after her stint in the White House.
Though she was in the limelight for most of her life, a crucial part of Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s life remains largely unknown. Beyond her chic sartorial senses and maternal instincts was a true wit (and love) for literature and rhetoric, one she turned into a career in journalism and publishing, both before and after her time in the White House.
As a graduate of George Washington University with a degree in French literature, Onassis’s first job fresh out of college was for the Washington Times Herald, where she worked as the “inquiring camera girl” (the actual official job title). She was tasked with wandering the streets of Washington, D.C., and asking passersby—many of whom were politicians—pointed questions about politics, current events, and miscellaneous other topics. With their answers and accompanying photographs in hand, she would incorporate their responses into her very own column, which was published in the newspaper almost daily.
“What is your candid opinion of marriage?” “Are beauty operators and barbers entitled to tips?” These are just a few of the questions Onassis asked for her column, according to the Library of Congress. At one point, the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum notes, she even interviewed Richard M. Nixon and covered the first inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Though she only worked as a reporter at the Washington Times Herald for two years, her love for the written word never faltered. She even reportedly assisted with editing her husband’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage—a precursor to the eventual career she remained committed to for the final decades of her life: book editing.
After the death of her second husband, Aristotle Onassis, in 1975, she went back to work for the first time since her days as the “inquiring camera girl,” taking an editor position at the New York City-based Viking Press. After editing for Viking Press, Onassis moved to another publisher, DoubleDay, where she diligently worked as a senior editor up until her death in 1994.
And the books she edited were nothing to shake a stick at. According to The History Channel, as an editor, Onassis helped fine tune Michael Jackson’s autobiography, Moonwalk, as well as translating Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy.
Though she could have easily gotten a job anywhere based on her name alone, those who worked with the former first lady would tell you that she was very skilled at what she did.
“There was an unwritten law among all of us at Doubleday—that we would never publicly discuss Jackie,” former DoubleDay executive Steve Rubin wrote in a book for company employees, according to William Kuhn’s Reading Jackie. “The genesis of this posture was nothing more than a desire to shield her, but the flip side of this protective gesture was the fact that few people understood how committed and talented she was at the work she chose to do.”
Though she never wrote a book of her own, according to Greg Lawrence’s Jackie as Editor (Lawrence had three of his books edited by Onassis), she had a hand in bringing more than 100 books to press during her time as an editor—and that in itself is a pretty extraordinary feat. And for more salacious stories about the Kennedys, check out the 25 Craziest Rumors about the Kennedys.
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