Striking Out on Her Own
The summer after her graduation, Jackie took another trip to Europe, this time with her sister, Lee. They kept a detailed, humorous journal called One Special Summer that also included Jackie's poems and illustrations. Traveling without chaperones, the sisters faithfully recorded every adventure.
Through Hughdie's family connections, they met ambassadors, aristocrats, artists, intellectuals, and a cast of eccentric characters, including their cabin mate on the trip across the Atlantic. The 90-something woman liked sleeping in the nude and kept the girls awake by turning her light on and off all night.
The person who had the greatest impact on Jackie was noted art critic Bernard Berenson, whom they visited at his home in Tuscany. She considered him as wise about life as he was insightful about art.
“It was the difference between living and existing that he had spoken of, and both of us [Jackie and Lee] had simply been existing in our selfish ways far too long. ‘The only way to exist happily is to love your work,’ he said. ‘Anything you want, you must make enemies and suffer for.’”
Jackie took art lessons in Venice and bought a secondhand car in London so she and Lee could drive into the countryside. In Spain they were invited to a party thrown by local aristocrats who lived in a converted monastery. Jackie sat in a chair that once belonged to Christopher Columbus and admired their collection of royal jewels and handwritten notes from King George V. Jackie later wryly noted that their hosts' sons were only interested in getting Jackie and Lee to jitterbug with them.
When the sisters returned from Europe in September, Jackie was overcome with a restless malaise. Even her beloved Merrywood seemed confining. Janet's suggestion was for Jackie to find a wealthy husband who could give her the financial means to continue traveling and furthering her interest in art.
In the 1950s, social conservatives pushed “traditional” families where the men were the sole earners. Those women who did work until marriage usually gravitated toward low-level clerical jobs. Teaching was also an “acceptable” profession. It was less common for women to break into traditionally male-dominated professions such as medicine, law, and engineering, although some women did.
Jackie had other ideas. She wanted to be in the center of things and was more determined than ever to pursue writing as a career. It wasn't simple personal ambition that drove her. She resented the high-society notion that a woman's accomplishments were measured by whom she married. She wanted to feel as if she was accomplishing something useful.
She also needed the extra money. The relatively small allowance from Black Jack barely covered her personal expenses. So Jackie asked Hughdie's friend Arthur Krock to put in a good word for her at the Washington Times-Herald, which was known for employing young women out of college. Krock did, and Jackie was hired as a part-time receptionist. But as usual, she had bigger plans for herself.