Jackie Kennedy’s career as a photojournalist brought her to the Irish Embassy to do a St Patrick’s Day feature

An early assignment put the future wife of JFK in touch with ‘sweet’ diplomats

Jackie Kennedy’s brief career as a photojournalist included interviewing and photographing Irish diplomats in Washington for St Patrick’s Day in 1952, according to newly discovered documents.

In a rare departure from diplomatic protocol, the Irish Embassy staff in Washington DC agreed to be photographed and interviewed by a leading American newspaper for the national holiday.

The journalist's name was Jacqueline Bouvier. A year later she quit a promising career in journalism to become a politician's wife by marrying Senator John F Kennedy.

Ms Bouvier had joined the Washington Times-Herald newspaper in 1951 – on a salary of $42.50 a week – after graduating from George Washington University and taking a short course in photography. She was assigned to the job of the "Inquiring Camera Girl" and was dispatched daily to photograph people and ask them a topical question of the day. Their responses and photos were used for a daily feature in the paper.


For March 17th, 1952, she was sent to the Irish Embassy to ask ambassador John Joseph Hearne and his staff the question: "What to you is the significance of St Patrick's Day?"

Mr Hearne described St Patrick’s Day as “first and last a religious feast, the rededication of our people to the religious faith and moral tradition identified with the Irish race for 1,000 years”.

Second secretary Francis A Coffey said St Patrick “brought into Ireland the civilisation that was to mould western Europe”.

As a novice, Jackie's article was not bylined and it was published under the generic title "Inquiring Photografer". She confirmed her authorship, and recalled her visit to the embassy, in a letter to her friend and confidant Dublin priest Fr Joseph Leonard later in 1952.


She sent a clipping of the article to Fr Leonard in Dublin and said of the ambassador and staff: “They were so sweet.” She said she loved hearing their accents – which made her “so homesick” she could “hardly get . . . out of the place” . This confirms what an unexpectedly powerful impression Ireland had made on her during her first visit to Dublin – just two years earlier in 1950.

Jacqueline Bouvier, who would graduate to bylined article status, hoped to become a famous journalist and joked about her future with Fr Leonard. "When I'm really famous and syndicates are fighting for my every word and I feel like hopping over and seeing you – I'll just do it and write about Dublin – or a profile of you for the New Yorker."

But later in 1952, she met her future husband and became a housewife. He proposed over the phone when she was in London in June 1953 to report on the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. They married in September 1953.

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about fine art and antiques