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Immaculately dressed and ever mysterious, Jacqueline Kennedy remained largely silent in the wake of husband President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963... or so we thought. Now, with eight-and-a-half hours of previously unheard interviews Jackie did with the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in 1964 being released as an audio book Wednesday, Jackie Kennedy's voice is finally being heard.
In excerpts published by The New York Times, Kennedy talks about topics as wide-ranging as her relationship with her husband, her opinion of other world leaders in the '60s and her views of what a woman's role was supposed to be.
Jacqueline, who was 34 at the time of the interviews, has nothing but kind things to say about JFK. "Once I asked him -- I think this is rather touching -- if he could have one wish, what would it be?" she says. "In other words, you know, looking back on his life, and he said, 'I wish I had more good times.'"
And her true devotion to her husband shines through in the fact that she begged her husband not to send her away during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. "If anything happens, we're all going to stay right here with you," she recalls telling John. "I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too -- than live without you."
Jackie has slightly less adoring things to say about some of the other prominent figures of the time. In the tapes, she refers to French president Charles DeGaulle as an "egomaniac"; calls future India prime minister Indira Gandhi "a real prune -- bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman"; and, most controversially, calls the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a "phony" for being unfaithful to his wife. In fact, she says, "I just can't see a picture of (Martin Luther King, Jr.) without thinking, 'That man's terrible.'"
But it's the views Jacqueline expresses about the role of women that have stirred up the most controversy within her own family. Calling her marriage to JFK "a rather terribly Victorian or Asiatic relationship," she admits that she took his opinions as her own. Perhaps as a result, she also says: "I think women should never be in politics. We're just not suited to it."
Jackie's daughter, Caroline Kennedy, appeared on ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday, saying that her two daughters were "absolutely horrified" when they heard Jackie's outdated notions of women's place in society and politics. They asked Caroline, "Did she really think that?" But Caroline was more forgiving, calling the tapes "just a snapshot of a world we barely recognize."
The tapes, which were kept under wraps in the Kennedy Library until earlier this month, are being released today as an audio and print book titled Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. In a foreword to the book, Caroline says that, despite some of the shocking things revealed, the tapes show that her mother had a great "intellectual curiosity," as well as a "sense of the ridiculous, (a) sense of adventure, (and an) unerring sense of what was right."