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Ethel Kennedy is best known as the widow of Robert F. Kennedy, the former U.S. Attorney General and New York Senator who was assassinated in 1968.
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Ethel Kennedy was born Ethel Skakel in Chicago, Illinois, on April 11, 1928. She met Robert F. Kennedy, known as Bobby, in 1946 and the two married in 1950. The Kennedys ultimately had eleven children. John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960, appointing his brother Bobby Attorney General. Bobby was assassinated eight years later, leaving Ethel to raise their many children alone.
Known as a political matriarch and the wife of U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy, Ethel Skakel was born in 1928, in Chicago, Illinois, to parents George and Ann Skakel. Ethel's mother was devoutly Catholic. Her father started work as an railroad clerk, making only $8 a week. He, along with some co-workers, built a small coal and coke business into a diversified privately owned enterprise called The Great Lakes Coal & Coke Co. The business eventually became Great Lakes Carbon Corporation. As a result, the Skakels became extremely wealthy. In 1934, when Ethel was five years old, the family moved east, settling in Greenwich, Connecticut. There, her father purchased a three-story, 31-room English country manor house on Lake Avenue. Raised with her six siblings, Ethel had the best of everything and was a competitive athlete. She went on to attend the elite Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart, where she befriended fellow classmate Jean Kennedy of Massachusetts.
Skakel and Jean Kennedy became fast friends, and eventually roommates at Manhattanville. In 1945, 17-year-old Ethel went on a ski trip with Jean, where she was introduced to Jean's brother, Robert. Although he was dating Ethel's sister at the time, their relationship soon ended. Ethel picked up with Robert soon after. Ethel helped Robert with his brother John F. Kennedy's congressional campaign in 1946. As an English major with a minor in history, Ethel based her college thesis on his John's college-thesis-turned-book, Why England Slept.
After she graduated in June of 1949, Robert and Ethel's relationship grew serious. The couple became engaged in February 1950, and were married on June 17, 1950. As newlyweds they moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where they lived until Bobby finished his last year at the University of Virginia Law School. After her husband passed the bar, the family settled in Washington D.C., where Robert began work for the Department of Justice. Their first child, Kathleen, arrived shortly thereafter on July 4, 1951. Joseph II would come the next year, followed by their third child, Robert, in 1954.
While Ethel was busy with new motherhood, her husband was managing his brother John's successful 1952 senatorial campaign. In 1953, he was appointed by Senator Joe McCarthy to be the assistant counsel of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He resigned the post in July of that year, and in August he joined his father's staff, working as an assistant to the Hoover commission. Discontented by McCarthy, the squabbling of older politicians, and what seemed a pointless job, Kennedy returned to the Senate Committee Staff as chief counsel for the Democratic minority.
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