Why Jackie Kennedy Had Strict Rules For Photographers

John F. Kennedy’s ascension to the White House was in part due to his charisma and image as a young family man with morals and values. He didn’t achieve it alone, and during his time as president, Kennedy had his equally popular wife, Jackie, by his side.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis won over America and is often considered one the country’s favorite first ladies because of her fashion sense, intelligence, and grace. She married Kennedy—who was 12 years her senior—when she was only 24, but she learned to adapt to political life quickly.

With that came the pressure of maintaining some semblance of propriety, privacy, and balance with her duties as a mother, first lady, and wife. In the ‘60s, that was no easy feat for a woman or a president’s wife, and she counted on cooperation from a number of people, including official photographers.

During her time in the White House, Jackie Kennedy had some rules in place for photogs for a few reasons, and they had to do with boundaries and persona.

Jackie Kennedy
Jackie Kennedy at White House | Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

The first lady didn’t want to be seen smoking

Movements of first ladies are often scrutinized by members of the public, and like every other human being, they have their own vices and habits. One of Kennedy’s was smoking cigarettes—particularly Newports—and that’s not something she wanted the public to know.

According to FirstLadies.org, members of the White House photography staff were prohibited from taking any pictures of her smoking. Should they capture an image accidentally, they were not allowed to publish them for public access.

Photogs outside of the White House had an unwritten code that they would not take pictures of her taking a puff either. It was also noted that there was a timed when Kennedy’s health privacy was invaded but following her husband’s assassination, the press eased up.  

She was protective of her children

In addition to being guarded about her smoking habit, the then-first lady was extremely protective about her children. She was a young mother during their tenure in the White House and was incredibly determined to keep facets of her children’s lives private.

While she understood it was inevitable that photos would be taken as they were public figures, she was still picky about which moments could be caught on camera. At times, she’d have her aides put a stop to any photos.

Following her husband’s death, Kennedy became even more fierce about keeping them out of the spotlight. According to History.com, there was a particular paparazzi who’d been following her and her family for years.

Even after she married Onassis, he continued to pursue her. In the ’70s, she finally won an order for a restraining order to keep him away from her and her children.

She was a photographer herself

Some forget that before becoming first lady, Jackie Bouvier was a photojournalist. She knew her way around a camera and a newsroom, making her quite adept at knowing how to stage photos properly in order to convey a certain message, story, or image.

But she also knew the benefits of setting limits when it comes to photographing public figures and private moments. Her experience in the journalism world influenced her ability to create certain safeguards when it came to media exposure.