Ethel Kennedy

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Ethel Skakel
EthelKennedySmile1968.jpg
Born(1928-04-11) April 11, 1928 (age 85)
Chicago, Illinois
EducationGreenwich Academy
Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart
Political partyDemocratic
ReligionRoman Catholic
Spouse(s)Robert Francis Kennedy
(m. 1950—1968; his death)
ChildrenKathleen Hartington Kennedy
Joseph Patrick Kennedy III
Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr.
David Anthony Kennedy
Mary Courtney Kennedy
Michael LeMoyne Kennedy
Mary Kerry Kennedy
Christopher George Kennedy
Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy
Douglas Harriman Kennedy
Rory Elizabeth Katherine Kennedy
ParentsGeorge Skakel
Ann Brannack
 
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Ethel Skakel
EthelKennedySmile1968.jpg
Born(1928-04-11) April 11, 1928 (age 85)
Chicago, Illinois
EducationGreenwich Academy
Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart
Political partyDemocratic
ReligionRoman Catholic
Spouse(s)Robert Francis Kennedy
(m. 1950—1968; his death)
ChildrenKathleen Hartington Kennedy
Joseph Patrick Kennedy III
Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr.
David Anthony Kennedy
Mary Courtney Kennedy
Michael LeMoyne Kennedy
Mary Kerry Kennedy
Christopher George Kennedy
Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy
Douglas Harriman Kennedy
Rory Elizabeth Katherine Kennedy
ParentsGeorge Skakel
Ann Brannack

Ethel Kennedy (born Ethel Skakel; April 11, 1928) is an American socialite. She is the widow of Robert Francis Kennedy, who served as Attorney General of the United States and a United States Senator for the state of New York.

Early life[edit]

Ethel Skakel was born in Chicago, in 1928, to George Skakel (1892—1955) and Ann Brannack (1892—1955).[1] Ethel was raised as a Catholic in Greenwich, Connecticut. George was the founder of Great Lakes Carbon Corporation, now a division of SGLCarbon.[2] She attended the all-girls Greenwich Academy[3][4] in Greenwich, as well as the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan. In September 1945, Ethel began her college education at Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart (then located in Manhattan), where she was classmates with Jean Ann Kennedy. Ethel later married Jean's brother, Bobby. She first met Bobby during a ski trip to Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec during the winter of 1945. At the time, he was dating Ethel's elder sister, Patricia. That relationship ended and Ethel started seeing him. She campaigned for his elder brother John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (1917—1963) in his 1946 campaign for United States Congress, and wrote her college thesis on his book Why England Slept.

Kennedy family and marriage[edit]

Bobby and Ethel became engaged in February 1950, and were married on June 17, 1950, at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenwich. Ethel's wedding dress and bridal party gowns were created by noted New York City fashion designer Mamie Conti. As newlyweds, the couple moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where they lived while Bobby finished his last year at the University of Virginia Law School. They had eleven children.


NameBirthDeathAgeCause of deathOccupationSpouse
Kathleen Hartington KennedyJuly 4, 1951Living62Lieutenant Governor of Maryland (1995–2003)David Lee Townsend
Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy IIISeptember 24, 1952Living61U.S. Representative (1987–1999)Sheila Brewster Rauch (divorced); Anne Elizabeth "Beth" Kelly
Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr.January 17, 1954Living59Environmental AttorneyEmily Ruth Black (divorced); Mary Kathleen Richardson (separated, remained married until her death on May 16, 2012)
David Anthony KennedyJune 15, 1955April 25, 198428Drug OverdoseAmbition towards journalism
Mary Courtney KennedySeptember 9, 1956Living57Former Representative of the United Nations AIDS FoundationJeffrey Robert Ruhe (divorced); Paul Michael Hill (legally separated)
Michael LeMoyne KennedyFebruary 27, 1958December 31, 199739Skiing accidentAttorneyVictoria Denise Gifford
Mary Kerry KennedySeptember 8, 1959Living54AttorneyAndrew Cuomo, Governor of New York and former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (divorced)
Christopher George KennedyJuly 4, 1963Living50President of Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.Sheila Sinclair Berner
Matthew Maxwell Taylor "Max" KennedyJanuary 11, 1965Living48AttorneyVictoria Anne Strauss
Douglas Harriman KennedyMarch 24, 1967Living46JournalistMolly Elizabeth Stark
Rory Elizabeth Katherine KennedyDecember 12, 1968Living44Film director and producerMark Bailey


After Bobby graduated with his law degree, the family settled in the Washington, D.C., area and Bobby went to work for the Department of Justice. That path did not last long, as Bobby was asked by his family to manage Jack's successful 1952 Senate campaign in Massachusetts.

Throughout the 1950s, he worked for the federal government in investigatory roles for the United States Senate.[5] In 1956, the Kennedys purchased Hickory Hill from Robert's brother John and his wife, Jackie. They needed a larger house, since Ethel was pregnant with their fifth child, Courtney. This enormous 13-bedroom, 13-bath home was situated on 6 acres (24,000 m2) in McLean, Virginia.

Robert and Ethel held many gatherings at their home. Whether it was a pool party or a formal dinner party, the guest list was impressive and eclectic. Journalist Roger Mudd recalled meeting John Lennon at one such party. Other notable invitees included the Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, entertainer Judy Garland, dancer Rudolf Nureyev and historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who found himself thrown into the pool fully clothed where Ethel was also already swimming fully clothed.[6]

The Kennedy children added to the wild atmosphere at Hickory Hill. Notoriously, Robert Jr. maintained a zoo in the basement which included reptiles, a seal, an anteater, miniature ponies, and even an elephant.[7] Jacqueline found the children so wild that she did not allow Caroline and John to play with Robert and Ethel's children.[6]

Assassination of Bobby[edit]

Just after midnight on June 5, 1968, Bobby was shot by Sirhan Sirhan; Kennedy died 26 hours later. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a national day of mourning. In 1969, Sirhan was convicted of Robert F. Kennedy's murder and sentenced to death. In 1972, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after the California Supreme Court invalidated that state's death penalty as it existed at that time.

After RFK's death[edit]

Following her husband's assassination in 1968, Ethel stated publicly she would never marry again. For a time, she was escorted to dinners, parties and the theater by singer and family friend Andy Williams. She continued to live at the family home, Hickory Hill, in McLean, Virginia, until December 2009, when it was sold for $8.25 million.

Political involvement[edit]

During the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries, Ethel endorsed Barack Obama[8] as did her children Max and Rory. Three of her children, Kathleen, Robert Jr, and Kerry, initially endorsed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in mid-2007 before supporting Obama. Kennedy has publicly supported and held fundraisers at Hickory Hill for numerous politicians, including Virginia gubernatorial candidate Brian Moran.[9] For Obama, Kennedy hosted a $6-million fundraising dinner at Hickory Hill in June 2008. The $28,500-a-plate dinner was headlined by former Democratic presidential candidate and DNC chairman Howard Dean.[10]

Family involvement[edit]

Ethel was among the chief mourners at the public funeral for her brother-in-law Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy on August 29, 2009. At the funeral Mass, Kennedy placed the pall on her brother-in-law's casket along with sister-in-law Jean.

Media involvement[edit]

Ethel agreed to be in a documentary about her life that her daughter Rory directed. The film, titled Ethel, is a personal portrait of Ethel’s political awakening, the life she shared with Robert F. Kennedy, and the years following his death when she raised their eleven children on her own; it features candid interviews with Ethel and seven of her children intercut with historical footage and personal videos.

References[edit]

Notes
Further reading

External links[edit]