Ethel Kennedy Was Familiar With Tragedy Even Before The Assassination Of Her Husband

One of the most powerful and prestigious family dynasties in American history are the Kennedys. You would be hard pressed to find a family in the world of U.S. politics that wields as much influence or has as much money as this one does. When the family arrived in America from Ireland in the 1840s, they became heavily involved in politics (per Biography). Over the following decades the Kennedy family produced multiple congressmen, an attorney general, and a United States president.

In addition to having a long line of successful direct descendants, there are also some individuals who married into the Kennedy family who contributed to the political legacy. One woman who did this is Ethel Kennedy (also via Biography). She married Robert "Bobby" Kennedy in 1950 and stood by him as he pursued his political aspirations. Unfortunately, within five years of her marriage, tragedy struck her life in multiple ways.

Her parents died in a plane crash

According to Biography, Ethel Kennedy was born Ethel Skakel in Chicago, Illinois, in 1928. Her father worked his way to the top of the railroad industry, resulting in the family becoming very wealthy. Due to her family's money, Ethel was afforded a life of relative luxury and eventually attended the Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart. While there, she would become friends with Jean Kennedy, who introduced her to Robert, Jean's brother.

The couple got married on June 17, 1950 and moved to Washington D.C. when Robert Kennedy got a job with the Department of Justice after graduating with his law degree. They began having children in 1951, while Robert was working alongside his brother, John F. Kennedy, on his political aspirations . While Ethel navigated motherhood and her wifely duties, calamity befell her family in 1955 when both of her parents perished in a plane crash. Sadly, the untimely deaths of her parents wouldn't be the last loss she would suffer.

Her brother-in-law was assassinated

Despite losing her parents in such a horrible way, Ethel managed to keep whatever pain she felt under wraps and out of the public eye (per Biography). Following the loss of her parents, she and her husband purchased a mansion known as Hickory Hill in Virginia from Robert's brother, John F. Kennedy. Their home soon became the place to be, as the family hosted countless events and parties, with politicians, actors, and other celebrities in attendance.

According to History, in addition to hosting parties, Ethel became increasingly involved in politics beginning in 1957 with her husband's appointment as chief counsel to the Senate Select Committee. She also joined the campaign trail for her brother-in-law John as he made a run for the White House. John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th president of the United States in 1960. His historic tenure as the youngest president to ever be elected was shockingly cut short by an assassin's bullet on November 22, 1963. The death of JFK was not just a personal tragedy for Ethel, but for the nation as a whole.

Her husband was also assassinated

The death of the president was a horribly shocking event that affected the entire country. Despite the awful nature of JFK's assassination, the Kennedy family was determined to press on in the governmental sphere. This was particularly true for Ethel and Robert Kennedy. Following the death of his brother, Robert decided to run for a seat in the United States Senate, and his wife was right by his side (per Biography).

After successfully winning a senate seat, in 1968, Robert decided to run for president, as had his brother John. Ethel accompanied him on the campaign trail, despite being pregnant with the couple's 11th child. When he won the California Democratic primary, Robert should have been well on his way to winning the White House. Unfortunately,in a weird twist of fate, Robert was shot on June 5, 1968, and succumbed to his wounds the following day. Ethel would give birth to their last child, a daughter, months later.

She lost some of her children

It seems unfair and horribly cruel that one person would endure so much loss, but it did not keep Ethel from continuing to push forward with her life. Following the death of her husband, she raised her family and began to make her own contributions to the public, carrying on her husband's legacy (per Sky History). One of her most notable accomplishments is the founding of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, which carries on her husband's work through both journalism and human rights advocacy awards.

Sadly, more misfortune struck Ethel's life when her son David died of a drug overdose in 1984. According to CNN, he had seen his father's assassination on TV and battled addiction afterward. In 1997, she lost another son, Michael, in a random skiing accident. He was reportedly skiing down a mountain while playing with a football when the accident happened.

She has overcome numerous other family tragedies

With all of the hurt and loss in her life, one would assume that there couldn't be much more. Unfortunately for Ethel, marrying into the Kennedy family became rather synonymous with adversity and woe. In addition to the loss of two of her sons, Ethel and the other Kennedys had more pain to endure.

In 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr,. along with his wife and sister-in-law, perished in a plane crash off the coast of Massachusetts (per CNN). Robert's other brother, Ted Kennedy, who also served in the United States government, died in 2009 of a malignant brain tumor. Even more recently the Kennedy family suffered more loss with the death of Ethel's granddaughter, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, in 2019. In 2020, Ethel lost another granddaughter, Maeve McKean, and her great-grandson, Gideon, in a canoeing accident (per People).

In spite of all of the many tragic losses that she suffered, Ethel Kennedy still fought for the causes that her husband championed. She has contributed greatly to the Kennedy family legacy, and continues to serve as an inspiration.