By Steve Brawley
76 Ave. Mozart. Photograph by Patrick Snodgrass for Pinkpillbox.
In 1949-50, Jackie studied at the Sorbonne in Paris.
She described this year as “the high point of my life, my happiest and
most carefree year.” This is quite something, coming from a woman who was once
at the pinnacle of American society. Moreover, the Paris she knew was just
coming out of the war years. Housing was scarce and food was rationed. It was
not the Paris today’s students see.
She and two other American girls lived at 78 Avenue Mozart, in the 16th
Arrondissement, in the home of the widowed Comtesse de Renty and her children.
There was no central heating, and in winter Jackie did her studying in bed,
swathed in quilts and sweaters. The one bathroom, shared by seven people, rarely
had much hot water.
Jackie attended classes at the Sorbonne and at the American students’ center,
Reid Hall (4, rue de Chevreuse), and, like most students in Paris, hung out at
cafés on the left bank. Unlike most students in Paris, however, she had been
queen of the debutantes in New York the year before and had society connections.
Every so often she would dress up, put on what her cousin called her “one fur
coat” and head out for cocktails with visiting friends. She referred to
these evenings as “swanky.” Not a lot of foreign students can pull off this sort
She also broke a promise to her father by going riding in the Bois de
Boulogne. She had once injured her back in a fall from a horse, and he had made
her swear not to ride in Paris. Her father was furious when he found out.
The year in France changed Jackie. She acquired some of the tastes in fashion
and decorating that she later displayed in the White House and during her