Coming on the heels of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Friday, the world will soon have access to a small but essential part of the life of his widow, born Jacqueline Bouvier—her birth records.
The first lady was born at Southampton Hospital, which is donating the documents to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum next week.
Thanks to a timely discovery by Southampton Hospital Vice President of Community and Government Relations Robert Ross, the public now can see that Ms. Bouvier was born at a weight of 8 pounds at 5 p.m. on the night of July 28, 1929.
Although the information had not previously been available to the public, this wasn’t the first time a staff member happened upon the documents, because Mr. Ross found the birth records in a folder labeled “Now Mrs. Jack Kennedy, Mrs. President Kennedy.”
Mr. Ross found the documents in a safe in 2009, the hospital’s 100th anniversary, while looking for other historic documents, and a few weeks later started inquiring about donating them to a Kennedy museum.
“This is really history—it belongs in a presidential museum,” he said about the birth records. “I knew that’s where it belonged. They have a great section on the first lady, like all presidential libraries do.”
Later, though, he was informed by hospital counsel that the next of kin, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, had to sign off on any release of the medical records—a request that took a while, according to Mr. Ross.
After many months of not knowing whether he could share his discovery, he received a consent form, dated September 20, from Ms. Kennedy’s office. It authorized releasing the information from its safe at the hospital, to be displayed in perpetuity at the First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Exhibit as of December 5.
When examining them, he speculated that Janet Lee Bouvier, Jacqueline’s mother, didn’t have a name chosen at the time of her birth, as initial documents list the baby as “Baby Girl Bouvier.” Thus, their significance might not have been readily apparent until they were found later by a hospital employee and tucked away for safe keeping.
The documents also note that the child, who spent time practicing her horseback-riding technique while in East Hampton later on in life, was born healthy, slept well and nursed well throughout her two-week stay at the hospital.
“With this anniversary and all—I mean, Kennedy got me into politics as a kid,” Mr. Ross, a former deputy Southampton Town supervisor, recalled. “I remember his inauguration, during that blizzard, like it was yesterday. The day he was shot, I went outside my school and lowered the flag to half staff.”