She was a fixture in the Kennedy White House, a prim and proper Englishwoman never too far from the rambunctious John Jr and his shy older sister Caroline. Maud Shaw spent more than seven years as the Kennedys’ nanny, enjoying her own private quarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and accompanying the family on personal trips as she charted the children’s development, taught them and became a beloved figure in their young lives.
It was Shaw, in the end, who actually broke the heartbreaking news of their father’s death to Caroline and John Jr.
And now, nearly 55 years after JFK’s assassination, Shaw’s personal diary is being auctioned – offering intimate glimpses into the First Childhoods of her young charges.
The diary, which will be auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction, includes 22 handwritten pages detailing the development of the children as infants and toddlers between 1957 and 1962 – everything from first steps to height and weight to the budding emergence of their little personalities.
Writing about Caroline in the summer of 1959, she notes: ‘Says Da-Da, laughs very loudly, play pat-a-cake,’ while John Jr, in March 1962, was ‘repeating words after me – very well.’
The Malta-born Englishwoman had spent decades caring for other children across the world before she was employed by the Kennedys, joining the family just days before Caroline’s birth.
Maud Shaw, a Malta-born Englishwoman, holds John F. Kenned, Jr in his nursery following a joint birthday party for him and his sister, Caroline
Shaw helps John F. Kennedy, Jr put on a shirt on the beach in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod, Massachusetts during a Labor Day trip; she joined the family as nanny in 1957, just days before the birth of Caroline
President-elect John F. Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline and Shaw travel in the back of a car with newborn John Jr; they are traveling from Washington DC to Palm Beach, Florida
Shaw had spent decades working for other families across the globe before accepting employment with the Kennedys; here she carries John Jr as his father leaves the Palm Beach Airport for a Democratic Dinner in Miami
‘I nursed the children from the cradle and came to love them just as if they had been my own,’ Shaw wrote in her memoir White House Nannie. ‘Happily they repaid me with their own love and affection.’
Her detailed notes about the children’s development in the diary show the close bond she has with them almost from birth; she describes them in terms such as ‘angelic’ and ‘full of fun and mischief’ and includes a 1960 note following a doctor’s check-up for Caroline in which she proudly reports the girl is ‘healthy,’ ‘strong’ and has ‘above average intelligence.’
And the children’s affection for ‘Ms Shaw,’ as they called her, is equally evident. Accompanying the diary are signed letters and postcards addressed to the nanny from Caroline.
In one letter, written on Antigua, West Indies letterhead, the First Daughter writes: ‘Thank you so much for The Finding Out Treasury. It is so good. I read about how Smallpox Vaccination was invented. It was very interesting. I didn’t have time to read anything else as I was busy opening presents. John loves his book too. Thank you again. I MISS YOU!’
Another letter, from March 26, 1967, reads: ‘I miss you. We are in Mexico now. It is beautiful!’
Postmarked January 1, 1966, a third letter reads: ‘Thank you very much for the pink thing (I don’t know what to call it) and the picture frame. I have it here in Switzerland.’
She signs her correspondence ‘Love, Caroline,’ and at times includes an affectionate row of X’s and O’s beneath her name.
Shaw looks after John Jr and the family dogs outside the White House in October 1963
Shaw looks on as President John F. Kennedy greets son John Jr and daughter Caroline outside the White House in March 1963
Shaw fixes Caroline’s hair in Hyannis Port in August 1963; the nanny and her young charges formed a close bond that continued after her retirement
Shaw’s diary, which is being auctioned, documented everything from the children’s baby steps and baby teeth to their meals and early words
Items being auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction include postcards written by Caroline to her beloved nanny, Shaw
Caroline, as she got older, continued to write to Shaw and express affection; the pair were close and it was Shaw who first told the children about their father’s death
Perhaps some of that affection grew out of the bonds that develop from tragedy. Shaw was asked by the children’s maternal grandmother to break the news of the JFK assassination to them, and describes that deeply sad moment in her memoir.
‘I sat on the edge of [Caroline]’s bed [that night] and felt tears well up in my eyes. Caroline looked up at me,’ she wrote.
‘”What’s the matter, Miss Shaw? Why are you crying?” I took her in my arms. “I can’t help crying, Caroline, because I have some very sad news.”
‘Then I told her. It was a dreadful time for us both. Eventually she fell asleep while I sat on the bed, still patting her. At last I tiptoed from the room, leaving the door open just a crack, as always.’
Michael Powell, writing for The Washington Post in 1999, said that Shaw hadn’t wanted to break such terrible news to Caroline, nearly 6, and John Jr, 3.
He wrote: ‘”Your father has gone to look after Patrick,” Shaw said, referring to the baby who had died just two days after birth that previous summer. “Patrick was so lonely in heaven. He didn’t know anybody there. Now he has the best friend anybody could have.”
Shaw looks after John Jr in the President’s secretary’s office prior to Memorial Day ceremonies in May 1963
Shaw, left, follows the First Family as they prepare to board Air Force One for a trip to Florida; Shaw wrote her own book about her service to the family titled White House Nannie
‘John squinted at Shaw and asked: “Did Daddy take his big plane with him?”
‘Yes, Shaw said.
‘The little boy considered that.
‘”I wonder when he’s coming back,” he said.’
Shaw cared for the children until her retirement in 1965, when she returned to England. She died in 1988 at the age of 85
‘Victory map’ used during Cuban Missile Crisis up for auction – featuring stickers of jets, boats, bombers, missiles and nuclear storage sites
In addition the intimate portrait of the First Children and their nanny, also being auctioned is JFK’s ‘victory map’ used during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The map consists of two sheets that feature eight types of sticker symbols applied to the surface, representing Soviet MiG fighter jets, Komar class missile boats, IL-28 bombers, SS-4 missiles, SSM-Cruise missiles and nuclear storage sites.
According to the auctioneer: ‘The intelligence represented by this map was supplied by U-2 spy planes, confirming President Kennedy’s worst fears of an increasing Soviet military presence just one hundred miles away from the American coast.
‘The map is marked “Secret” in the lower left and upper right corners. A two-page key paperclipped to the upper right corner, headed “MRBM-IRBM Status of Cuban Missiles,” dated October 27, 1962, summarizes the Soviet military buildup, listing sites, enumerating number of launchers and missiles, and completion status.’
President John F. Kennedy in a National Security Council Executive Committee meeting in October 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis raged
President Kennedy used a ‘victory map’ consisting of two sheets featuring eight types of sticker symbols representing Soviet MiG fighter jets, Komar-class missile boats, IL-28 bombers, SS-4 missiles, SSM-Cruise missiles and nuclear storage sites
The ‘victory map’ is being auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction; it ends April 11
The map is accompanied by a letter of provenance, which states: ‘The map shows the position of every Soviet missile, bomber and fighter jet and nuclear storage facility in Cuba as of noon on Saturday, October 27, 1962. This was the most dangerous moment of the Cuban Missile Crisis. October 27 was the day the crisis came within hours, even minutes, of triggering a war between the United States and Soviet Union.
‘That morning, a Soviet anti-air missile shot down a U-2 spy plane on a photo reconnaissance mission over Cuba … Later that afternoon, two US destroyers dropped depth charges on a Soviet submarine. At last minute, the Soviet captain surfaced his submarine, his other option being to launch his missiles against the US mainland … The Joint Chiefs of Staff pushed for an air strike against the Soviet missile sites and other targets. Had Kennedy given the order, this map shows the nine Soviet targets U.S. warplanes would have bombed. But overnight, everything changed.
‘Relying on a letter from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to President Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin hammered out a deal. The Soviets agreed to withdraw their missiles and other offensive weapons in return for the US pledging not to invade Cuba.
‘The US secretly promised to remove obsolete missiles from Turkey. The nine targets on the map became the weapons the U.S. forced out of Cuba. When Kennedy presented the map to McNamara, he called it the “victory map”.’
The Fine Autographs and Artifacts from RR Auction is currently underway and concludes on April 11. The ‘victory map’ is expected to sell for more than $20,000 and bids have already surpassed $10,000.