Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Questioner

Miss Bouvier, winner of the Prix de Paris. In her submitted profile she described her eyes as so far apart it took three weeks for her to have glasses made with a bridge wide enough to fit.



It is not well remembered the young Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was a writer. In 1951 she bested 1,250 other women across America who submitted to Vogue’s prestigious Prix de Paris writing contest. The prize was the opportunity to spend six months working on assignments in the magazine’s New York office and six months in the Paris office. Unfortunately her mother interfered with her accepting the prize, afraid that if she spent such an amount of time in Europe her daughter might never return. Washington was the place for her - that was where the most eligible bachelors were.

At twenty-three years old she impressed the editor-in-chief of the Washington Times-Herald, Frank Waldrop, who decided to give Jackie charge of the 'Inquiring Photographer' column, which had been a regular feature in the paper for some time. The column posed topical questions to members of the general public and published their responses and photographs.

In the past content had always been provided by a male staff member. The ‘Inquiring Camera Girl’ was a new phenomenon. The first stumbling block was that the 'camera girl' in fact did not know how to take a photograph. Fortunately she was a quick study and was soon roaming around the city with her Graflex approaching all manner of people with questions ranging from the irreverent to the political:

“Would you like to be famous?”

“If you found out your spouse was a former communist, what would you do?”

“When did you discover women were not the weaker sex?”

“Chaucer said that what most women desire is power over men. What do you think women desire most?”

“Do you think a woman should let her husband think he is smarter than she is?”

She asked her questions of more notable personalities in the city as well as the average citizen. Nixon and Massachusetts senator JFK were amongst those who answered the young Jackie’s queries.

As their relationship progressed, Jackie used her column to send secret, often mischievous, messages to Jack (what a thing to do). On one occasion, Jack, proud of his heritage and his ‘Irish mafia’ was to read Jackie’s question: “The Irish author Sean O’Faolain claims that the Irish are deficient in the art of love. Do you agree?”

This coding continued throughout their relationship. Though both were forever in the public eye, they were both intensely private personalities. They often left pointed books for each other to read to communicate thoughts they struggled to say. There were a great many of these thoughts. Jackie once wrote in a letter to her friend, “I would describe Jack as rather like me in that his life is an iceberg. The public life is above the water - & the private life is submerged…”

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