6 Things You Didn’t Know About the Kennedys

  • JFK with his family
JFK with his family
Hulton Archive/ Archive Photos via Getty Images

In American politics, there are few families who have had as big an impact on the nation’s history as the Kennedys. The family’s roots can be traced back to two Irish Catholic immigrant families, the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, who came to the U.S. beginning in the 1840s to escape the potato famine in Ireland. In 1914, Joseph P. Kennedy, the son of a wealthy Boston businessman, married Rose Fitzgerald, the daughter of an equally prominent Boston family. The couple went on to have nine children: Joseph Jr., John (“Jack”), Rose Marie, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert (“Bobby”), Jean, and Edward (“Ted”), many of whom served the country in a variety of elected and appointed roles, helping steer the course of the nation.

The most famous of Joseph and Rose’s children was their second-oldest child, John F. Kennedy. Before he became the 35th and youngest elected President of the United States in 1961, he served in the Navy and represented Massachusetts in both houses of Congress. The 1963 assassination of the young and charismatic President triggered a wave of profound shock and grief across the nation, marking the end of an era as postwar idealism gave way to a period of political and social turbulence.

Despite a number of other tragedies over the years, the Kennedy family’s legacy endures in their commitment to public service and social causes. Here are six little-known facts about this famous political family.

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John F. Kennedy Donated His Congressional and Presidential Salaries to Charity

The Kennedys may have started out as a middle-class family in Boston, but Joseph Kennedy’s success in banking, stock trading, movie production, and liquor sales made them very wealthy. So wealthy, in fact, that Joseph established a trust fund for each of his children. From the time John F. Kennedy was 21, he lived on the interest of his own $10 million trust, making it possible for him to donate his congressional and presidential salaries to charity. Over the course of his political career, JFK donated more than $500,000 to dozens of charitable organizations, including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, the United Negro College Fund, and the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.

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Jackie Kennedy Started a School in the White House

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was known to be a private person who was very protective of her children. Concerned about potential security risks and the omnipresent press, Jackie decided to turn the third-floor solarium in the White House into a nursery school for her young daughter, Caroline, in 1961. The school grew to around 20 students that included Caroline’s playmates and children of White House staff, and the salaries of two New York State-certified teachers were paid by the Kennedys and other parents. Though school segregation was outlawed in 1954, the process to integrate schools was ongoing at the time, and President Kennedy was criticized for not sending his own daughter to an integrated public school. In September 1962, The New York Timesreported that Caroline’s school was being desegregated that fall with the addition of a Black student, the son of associate White House press secretary Andrew Hatcher.

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