This is a comparison of the stories of two very different women, both born in the late 1920s, who came to prominence in American life. One, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, was white and born to wealth and ease. She became First Lady of the Camelot administration, setting trends with the style and taste that she learned as a child of privilege. The other, Maya Angelou, was black and born into the prejudice of the racist South. She grew up to be a world-renowned poet, author, and civil rights activist. Both fought the challenges of being raised in a sexist society, both benefitted from and also were challenged by their childhoods, and both were strongly influenced by their individual cultural backgrounds.
Jacqueline Bouvier was born in Southampton, NY, on July 28, 1929, three months before the stock market crash that wiped out many personal fortunes among the families of her peers. Although the crash affected her father=s investments, the Bouvier family as a whole took the financial downturn in stride, and Jacqueline enjoyed a life of ease growing up on the family estate, Lasta.
The Bouviers were officially members of Society and had been since publication of the first edition of the Social Register in 1887. Jacqueline=s biographer, her first cousin, John H. Davis, defines the four essential requirements: membership in a gentile family of European origins, which had possessed wealth for at least three or four generations, had sent sons to Ivy League colleges, and had at least one ancestor who fought in the American Revolution (23).
Her mother=s family, the Lees, had begun life in America as poor Irish immigrants, but Jacqueline=s maternal grandfather had made his mark as a real estate developer. His personal fortune was Aestimated by some to be in the neighborhood of $35 million@ (24).
Jacqueline began riding horses at the age of 3, quickly becoming an accomplished equestrienne. She grew up surrounded by incredi...