Jackie Kennedy Onassis spent her final days continuing her role as a book editor, despite going through chemotherapy to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Jackie Kennedy Onassis spent her final days as a book editor, despite going through chemotherapy to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The former first lady and widow of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis remarkably returned to her first passion – books – in her late 40s, helping to bring more than 100 to publication, despite her vast inherited wealth.
A new book inspired by her life, titled The Editor by Steven Rowley, chronicles the latter years of one of America’s most iconic 20th century figures.
Jackie died in 1994, aged just 64, but continued marking up manuscripts in her Fifth Avenue apartment up to her death.
When her son John Jr. revealed her death, he said that in Jackie’s final moments she was surrounded by friends and family ‘and her books, the people and the things that she loved.’
In 1975, following the death of the wealthy Aristotle Onassis, she joined Viking publishers as a consulting editor, where she, according to the book, was adamant that she would receive no special treatment. This was despite her inheriting $26 million from her husband.
As the fictionalized Jackie in ‘The Editor’ states, her office was ‘a regular size and stacked high with manuscripts. I get my own coffee and wait in line to use the copier, same as anyone else.’
‘She was bored,’ said historian William Kuhn, author of ‘Reading Jackie: Her autobiography in books.’
The former first lady and widow of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis remarkably returned to her first passion, books, in her late 40s, helping to bring more than 100 to publication, despite her vast inherited wealth
Rowley got it exactly right in his novel, Kuhn told The New York Post. ‘She tried hard to blend in. Her office was small, with just one window. She answered her own phone. She didn’t want to be seen as a grande dame.’
She told Newsweek in 1975 she wasn’t sure why the public was so fascinated with her career.
She said: ‘It’s not as if I’ve never done anything interesting. I’ve been a reporter myself, and I’ve lived through important parts of American history. I’m not the worst choice for this position.’
Indeed, she had been a columnist for the Washington Times-Herald, and in 1962, she wrote and edited her first book.
After two years at Viking, she left the company after learning they were publishing a novel about the assassination of her brother-in-law Robert Kennedy – and moved to Doubleday as an associate editor, where her salary rose from $200-a-week to $100,000-a-year.
There she was able to indulge her eclectic taste in reading and secured publications ranging from Egyptian author and Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz to ‘Cartoon History of the Universe’ illustrator Larry Gonick.
One of her most notable successes was landing the Michael Jackson autobiography Moonwalk. although she did miss out on Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross and Oliver Stone.
Jackie died in 1994, aged just 64, but continued marking up manuscripts in her Fifth Avenue apartment up to her death. When her son John Jr. revealed her death, he said that in Jackie’s final moments she was surrounded by friends and family ‘and her books, the people and the things that she loved’
Jackie Kennedy Onassis is seen here with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1971
Remarkably, her latter career lasted longer than her two famous marriages, and the book sheds light on Jackie the person, as opposed to Jackie the wife.
‘It’s not only counter to how we remember her, but it’s also counter-intuitive to our own instincts,’ says Rowley.
‘We all stare out the office window, daydreaming about floating away on a yacht. But Jackie was on the yacht, daydreaming about the office.
‘The very things that we find so oppressive about working in an office, those were the experiences that finally set her free.’
Jackie is pictured with Maurice Tempelsman in 1994, the same year she died