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Joan Bennett Kennedy is a pianist, a former model, and the former wife of Senator Edward Kennedy. She has publically struggled with alcoholism.
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Former wife of Senator Edward Kennedy, pianist. Born Virginia Joan Bennett on September 9, 1936, in New York, New York. Her parents, wealthy Irish professionals, struggled with alcoholism during Joan's early life. Bennett escaped to Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, to be out of her family's reach, but also close enough to check in.
Jean Kennedy, an alumnus of the Catholic women's school school, befriended Bennett while they were students. When the Kennedy family came to Manhattanville in order to dedicate a sports complex they built in memory of Kathleen, Jean introduced Bennett to the family. Joan maintains she had never heard much about the Kennedys, and the Manhattanville senior remained unintimidated by her first meeting with the Kennedy clan. She was, however, immediately taken with Ted: "He was tall and he was gorgeous," she later said. Joan was a stunning beauty as well; a leggy blonde, she was a part-time model and even appeared in a few television commercials. Her looks earned her the nickname "the Dish" by Ted's brother, John.
Joan and Ted began a whirlwind, long-distance courtship immediately after their first introduction. Ted, who was in his second year at Virginia law school, phoned Joan every night and often flew in to visit her at school. They also went on frequent—although heavily chaperoned—dates, including time at Ted's Hyannis Port home, ski trips, holidays with their families, and weekends at each other's schools. Joan, an accomplished pianist, also entertained the Kennedy family with her musical performances. Ted proposed in 1957, at his family's Hyannis Port home. Joan eagerly accepted.
Bennett married Ted Kennedy on November 29, 1958. By this time, his older brother John F. Kennedy was already a popular U.S. senator and the Kennedys were emerging as strong political force. When Ted graduated from law school in 1959, the newlyweds took a belated honeymoon to South America before returning to Boston, where Kennedy studied for the bar exam. After he passed, his father soon put him to work campaigning for his older brother John's presidency.
During this time, Joan became pregnant with the couple's first child. Daughter Kara was born in 1960. A few weeks later, she joined her husband on the campaign trail. The next year, her son Edward, Jr. arrived. Along with her role as a mother, Joan tried hard to settle into life as a politician's wife when her husband ran for his brother John's empty senate seat. Ted won the election, and entered the U.S. Senate in 1962. With his election, there were three Kennedys in Washington, D.C.—John had won the presidency in 1960 and brother Robert then became the U.S. attorney general.
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There's no such thing as royalty in the United States, but if anyone has ever come close to that level, it's the Kennedy family. For 64 years, Washington had at least one Kennedy in public office. Descended from Irish Catholics who fled the potato famine, the family has a strong tradition in the Democratic party, the most prominent member being President John F. Kennedy. In addition to fame and political power, the Kennedy clan has had more than its fair share of tragedy—several members of the family have died in accidents and assassinations, in what's been called the "Kennedy curse."
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