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Jackie's Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family

Review

Jackie's Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family

Just one month after Kathy McKeon turned 19, she and her sister, Briege, arrived in New York City seeking employment as domestic servants. They were from a poor Irish family of 10 who lived on a small farm in the little village of Inniskeen. A three-room cottage with neither running water nor electricity was their home. All 10 shared a single toothbrush.  Both parents shared a pair of eyeglasses.

An aunt and uncle living in America offered the girls the opportunity to relocate there, and they arrived in New York City in early 1964. Both quickly found employment, and several months later, through an Irish connection, Kathy arrived at 1040 Fifth Avenue, a famous Central Park address, to be interviewed for a position with the Kennedy household. When Jackie observed Kathy's easy interaction with young John and his dog, she hired her on the spot.

"...a fascinating account of a young, uneducated woman who came of age and matured in a most extraordinary environment."

For the next 13 years, Kathy lived with Madam (as Jackie was called by staff), Caroline, John, other household staff, and pets. As personal assistant to Madam, Kathy was responsible for keeping her extensive and expensive wardrobe in perfect order. She ran errands and often filled in for the nanny. Wherever the family traveled, Kathy went along. Rose, the indomitable matriarch of the Kennedy clan, affectionately referred to Kathy as "Jackie's Girl."

Madam was gracious and kind, but Kathy's workday often extended beyond the agreed-upon schedule since Madam regularly found last-minute tasks for Kathy such as rehanging art. She gave Kathy good advice about weight control, and Kathy absorbed fashion sense by virtue of being around it.

Kathy easily became a friend and confidant to Caroline and John. After the news of their uncle Bobby's death had been broken to the children, it was up to Kathy to console them. And Jackie was distraught that there had been another assassination in the family. When Madam broke the news to Caroline that she was marrying Aristotle Onassis and the family would live part of the time in Greece, Kathy was once again the unofficial comforting presence.

JACKIE’S GIRL is interesting on several fronts. First, it is another peek behind the scenes of contemporary America's most famous family. Many never-before-seen photos illustrate the story. Next, it is a firsthand look at American history as seen through the eyes of an outsider. And it is a fascinating account of a young, uneducated woman who came of age and matured in a most extraordinary environment. Though there are few new juicy bits to be mined from the book, it does serve as a reminder that behind the fame and the trappings of money and privilege, we are all more alike in our humanity than we think.

Reviewed by Carole Turner on May 9, 2017

Jackie's Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family
by Kathy McKeon

  • Publication Date: May 9, 2017
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501158945
  • ISBN-13: 9781501158940