The Kennedy Women

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Biographies of prominent women in the Kennedy family

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Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

Born: July 22, 1890
Birthplace: Boston, Mass.
Died: 1995

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was the oldest of six children born to Josephine Hannon and John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, a colorful and corrupt Boston politician. She attended the New England Conservatory, where she polished her skills as a pianist, and went on to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Boston, Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., and finally a Catholic finishing school in the Netherlands. Not content with society teas, Rose organized groups to discuss current affairs and taught catechism in Boston's slums. She married young bank president Joseph Kennedy in 1914 and then devoted herself to raising her family of nine children: Joseph, John Fitzgerald, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean, and Edward.

Her husband was appointed ambassador to Great Britain in 1937 and she threw herself wholeheartedly into the life of the Court of St. James until the outbreak of World War II, when Joseph resigned his post. The so-called "Kennedy curse" started when daughter Rosemary was institutionalized following a lobotomy, Joe, Jr., was killed during the war, and Kathleen died in a plane crash in 1948. The triumph of John's election to the presidency would be followed a few short years later by his assassination, and then that of his younger brother, Robert in 1968. Rose's husband suffered a stroke in 1961 and died in 1969. A devout Catholic, she attended daily Mass until her nineties. She gave her time to Catholic causes and mental retardation charities. A stroke in 1984 left her confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She died in 1995, aged 104.

Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver

Born: 1921
Birthplace: Brookline, Mass.
Died: 2009

Shriver, the daughter of Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy and the sister of President John Kennedy, long advocated for the mentally retarded. In 1961 Shriver, whose sister Rosemary was retarded, helped to organize the Presidential Commission on Mental Retardation, and in 1962 she established the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, as well as the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Awards in Mental Retardation. Shriver was perhaps best known for creating the Special Olympics. Set up in 1968, the Special Olympics train and provide competition for nearly one million mentally retarded people worldwide. She also founded Community of Caring, a concept that encourages people to be responsible and caring citizens. In 1984, Shriver was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. She earned a BS in sociology from Stanford University.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

Born: July 28, 1929
Birthplace: Southhampton, New York
Died: 1994

The wife and then widow of U.S. president John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis remains an American icon of high style and grace. She was 24 when she married Kennedy, then a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, in 1953. Kennedy was elected president in 1960 and "Jackie" became a popular First Lady, known for her elegant sophistication and her historical interest in the White House. She was made a widow when Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. Five years later, in 1968, she married wealthy Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Onassis died in 1975; Jacqueline settled in Manhattan and began working as an editor for Doubleday, a job she continued until her death in 1994. She was buried next to Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery.

Jackie Kennedy was only 31 years old when she became First Lady. She attended Vassar and the Sorbonne but received her degree from George Washington University. She and John Kennedy had two children, Caroline (b. 1957) and John Jr. (b. 1960); a third child, Patrick, was born on 7 August 1963, but died two days later. Patrick remains the most recent child to be born to a First Lady while her husband was president. John, Jr. died in a private plane crash in 1999. After her marriage to Onassis she was nicknamed "Jackie O" by the tabloid press.— Source: Who2.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

Born: July 4, 1951
Birthplace: Greenwich, Conn.

The eldest child of Ethel and Robert F. Kennedy, and the eldest grandchild of Rose and Joseph Kennedy, Kathleen at first didn't appear to be destined for political office. She graduated from Harvard University and earned her law degree at the University of New Mexico. After her marriage to David Townsend in 1973, her political involvement consisted of working for her uncle Ted's senatorial campaigns as well as local candidates. After a move to a Republican stronghold in David's home state of Maryland, she decided to run for Congress in 1984, an election she lost. She then worked as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Justice Department. In 1994 gubernatorial candidate Parris Glendening chose her as his running mate. Their team won and Kathleen became Maryland's first female lieutenant governor. During her two terms, she concentrated on education, healthcare, and anti-crime measures. She ran for governor of Maryland in 2002, but lost that election to Republican Robert Ehrlich, Jr.

Kathleen Townsend founded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. She has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland. Before becoming lieutenant governor, she founded the Maryland Student Service Alliance and was instrumental in making Maryland the first state to require high school community service. She was the former chairperson of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation and is on the board of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Since her gubernatorial defeat she has been a consultant for national and international corporations and is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute.

Maria Shriver

Born: Nov. 6, 1955
Birthplace: Chicago, Ill.

As the daughter of Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver, niece to John F., Robert, and Edward Kennedy, Maria grew up in the midst of politics. Tagging along on her father's unsuccessful 1972 vice presidential campaign, she gravitated more toward the press corps than the smoke-filled rooms. After graduating in 1977 from Georgetown with a degree in American Studies, she pursued a career as a television journalist. She began as a writer/producer, first at KYW-TV in Philadelphia, then at WJZ-TV in Baltimore. After a stint as a correspondent for PM Magazine, Shriver reported for CBS News in Los Angeles and became co-anchor for the CBS Morning News.

She joined NBC as a correspondent in 1986, on the newsmagazine 1986. She went on to host a news show for young people, Main Street, co-anchored the 1988 Summer Olympics, and did interviews for NBC News. First Person with Maria Shriver debuted in 1990. She joined then joined Dateline, where her hour-long documentary on welfare, "Checks and Balances," earned a 1998 Peabody Award. Besides being a contributing anchor on Dateline, Shriver worked as a contributing correspondent on MSNBC, and an NBC news correspondent. Shriver has also penned several books and the latest, And One More Thing Before You Go, was published in April 2005.

Young Maria first met bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger at a Kennedy-hosted charity event in 1977. The couple married in Hyannis in 1986 amid extensive press coverage. Shriver has managed to support both her Republican husband and has herself remained true to her Democratic roots. She left her job at NBC during her husband's 2003 campaign for California governor. She defended her husband when he was accused of sexual misconduct during the campaign. Schwarzenegger acknowledged his wife's important contributions to his election, and her role as unofficial adviser to the governor seems assured. She and Schwarzenegger have four children. They separated in 2011.

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg

Born: Nov. 27, 1957
Birthplace: New York, N.Y.

Caroline, the daughter of John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, was born in New York while her father was serving as a senator from Massachusetts. Just three years old when her father became president, she was famous for riding a pony on the White House lawn. After President Kennedy's assassination, the family moved to New York City where Caroline attended a private school. While at the Concord Academy in Massachusetts, she developed an interest in film and photography and worked on a documentary about coal miners in Tennessee. At Harvard she majored in fine arts, and during the summers her uncle Ted insisted she work in his senate office. She interned at the New York Daily News and in 1977, she attended and wrote an article about Elvis Presley's funeral for Rolling Stone. After Harvard, she worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she met her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, an avant-garde artist and designer. In 1988, the same year she graduated from Columbia Law School, she gave birth to the first of three children, Rose, Tatiana, and John.

Kennedy has written a number of books. She and her law school friend, Ellen Alderman, wrote a book about the Bill of Rights, In Our Defense, in 1990. In 1995, they collaborated on The Right to Privacy. In 2001, she selected The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy and in 2002, she was inspired by her father's book and wrote Profiles in Courage for Our Time. A Patriot's Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love was published in the spring of 2003.

She helped found the Profile in Courage Awards in 1989, designed to honor politically brave public officials. After her mother's death in 1994, Caroline, who had shied away from public life, became more visible in the cultural and charitable arenas. As well as becoming honorable chairwoman of the New York City Ballet, she joined the Board of the Citizens Committee for New York City, an organization supporting volunteer service, and took over the presidency of the Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston. She addressed the 2000 Democratic Convention, but public service rather than political office seems to be her goal. In 2002 she accepted a post with the New York City Department of Education, in charge of garnering private-sector aid for public schools. She became U.S. ambassador to Japan in 2013.

Carolyn Bessette Kennedy

Born: Jan. 1, 1966
Birthplace: White Plains, N.Y.
Died: 1999

Bessette Kennedy attended Boston University and occasionally worked as a modeal after college. She went to work as a fashion publicist, and was thrown into the media spotlight when she married John F. Kennedy, Jr., in 1996. Press-shy, she managed to maintain a certain degree of privacy in spite of her husband's fame, but their tragic death in a plane crash attracted enormous worldwide attention.
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