April 11, 1928
|Spouse(s)||Robert F. Kennedy
(m. 1950-1968; his death)
|Children||Kathleen Hartington Kennedy
Joseph Patrick Kennedy III
Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr.
David Anthony Kennedy
Mary Courtney Kennedy
Michael LeMoyne Kennedy
Mary Kerry Kennedy
Christopher George Kennedy
Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy
Douglas Harriman Kennedy
Rory Elizabeth Katherine Kennedy
Early life 
Ethel Skakel was born in Chicago, in 1928, to George Skakel and Ann Brannack. Ethel was raised as a Catholic in Greenwich, Connecticut. George was the founder of Great Lakes Carbon Corporation, now a division of SGLCarbon. She attended the all-girls Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, as well as the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan. In September 1945, Ethel began her college education at Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart (then located in Manhattan), where she became roommates with Jean Ann Kennedy. Skakel later married Jean's brother, Bobby.
Kennedy family and marriage 
Ethel first met Bobby during a ski trip to Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec during the winter of 1945. At the time, he was dating Ethel's sister, Patricia. That relationship ended and Ethel started seeing him. She campaigned for his elder brother in his 1946 campaign for United States Congress, and wrote her college thesis on his book Why England Slept.
Bobby and Ethel became engaged in February 1950, and were married on June 17, 1950, at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenwich. Ethel's wedding dress and bridal party gowns were created by noted New York City fashion designer Mamie Conti. As newlyweds, Ethel and Bobby moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where they lived while Bobby finished his last year at the University of Virginia Law School. Their first child, Kathleen, was born on July 4, 1951. After Bobby graduated with his law degree, the family settled in the Washington, D.C., area and Bobby went to work for the Department of Justice. That path did not last long, as Bobby was asked by his family to manage John F. Kennedy's successful 1952 Senate campaign in Massachusetts.
Throughout the 1950s, Bobby worked for the federal government in investigatory roles for the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Operations with anti-Communist Senator Joe McCarthy, and as chief counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management. In 1956, the Kennedys purchased Hickory Hill from Bobby's brother Jack and his wife, Jackie. They needed a larger house, since Ethel was pregnant with their fifth child, Courtney. This enormous 13-bedroom, 13-bath home was situated on 6 acres (24,000 m2) in McLean, Virginia.
In contrast to Jack and Jackie, Bobby and Ethel held many gatherings at their home. Whether it was a pool party or a formal dinner party, the guest list was impressive and eclectic. Journalist Roger Mudd recalled meeting John Lennon at one such party. Other notable invitees included the Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, entertainer Judy Garland, dancer Rudolf Nureyev and historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who found himself thrown into the pool fully clothed where Ethel was also already swimming fully clothed.
The Kennedy children added to the wild atmosphere at Hickory Hill. Notoriously, Robert Jr. maintained a zoo in the basement which included reptiles, a seal, an anteater, miniature ponies, and even an elephant. Jackie found the children so wild that she did not allow Caroline and John-John to play with Bobby and Ethel's children.
Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy 
Just after midnight on June 5, 1968, Bobby was shot by Sirhan Sirhan; Kennedy died 26 hours later. Ethel and her ten children (an eleventh, Rory, was born the following December) were devastated. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a national day of mourning. In 1969, Sirhan was convicted of Robert F. Kennedy's murder and sentenced to death. In 1972, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after the California Supreme Court invalidated that state's death penalty as it existed at that time.
After RFK's death 
Following her husband's assassination in 1968, Ethel stated publicly she would never marry again. For a time after RFK's death, she was escorted to dinners, parties and the theater by singer and family friend Andy Williams. After Bobby died, she continued to live at the family home, Hickory Hill, in McLean, Virginia, until December 2009, when it was sold for $8.25 million.
Political involvement 
During the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries, Ethel endorsed Barack Obama as did her children Max and Rory. Three of her children, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Kerry Kennedy, initially endorsed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in mid-2007 before supporting Obama. Kennedy has publicly supported and held fundraisers at Hickory Hill for numerous politicians, including Virginia gubernatorial candidate Brian Moran. For Obama, Kennedy hosted a $6-million fundraising dinner at Hickory Hill in June 2008. The $28,500-a-plate dinner was headlined by former Democratic presidential candidate and DNC chairman Howard Dean.
Family involvement 
Ethel was among the chief mourners at the public funeral for her brother-in-law Ted on August 29, 2009. At the funeral Mass, Kennedy placed the pall on her brother-in-law's casket along with sister-in-law Jean.
Media involvement 
Ethel agreed to be in a documentary about her life that her daughter Rory directed. The film, titled Ethel, is a personal portrait of Ethel’s political awakening, the life she shared with Robert F. Kennedy, and the years following his death when she raised their eleven children on her own; it features candid interviews with Ethel and seven of her children intercut with historical footage and personal videos.
Children of Bobby and Ethel 
|Name||Birth||Death||Age||Cause of death||Occupation||Spouse|
|Kathleen Hartington Kennedy||July 4, 1951||Living||61||Lieutenant Governor of Maryland (1995–2003)||David Lee Townsend|
|Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy III||September 24, 1952||Living||60||U.S. Representative (1987–1999)||Sheila Rauch (divorced); Anne Elizabeth "Beth" Kelly|
|Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr.||January 17, 1954||Living||59||Environmental Attorney||Emily Ruth Black (divorced); Mary Nancy Richardson (separated, remained married until her death on May 16, 2012)|
|David Anthony Kennedy||June 15, 1955||April 25, 1984||28||Drug Overdose||Ambition towards journalism|
|Mary Courtney Kennedy||September 9, 1956||Living||56||Former Representative of the United Nations AIDS Foundation||Jeffrey Robert Ruhe (divorced); Paul Michael Hill (legally separated)|
|Michael LeMoyne Kennedy||February 27, 1958||December 31, 1997||39||Skiing accident||Attorney||Victoria Denise Gifford|
|Mary Kerry Kennedy||September 8, 1959||Living||53||Attorney||Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York and former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (divorced)|
|Christopher George Kennedy||July 4, 1963||Living||49||President of Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.||Sheila Sinclair Berner|
|Matthew Maxwell Taylor "Max" Kennedy||January 11, 1965||Living||48||Attorney||Victoria Anne Strauss|
|Douglas Harriman Kennedy||March 24, 1967||Living||46||Journalist||Molly Elizabeth Stark|
|Rory Elizabeth Katherine Kennedy||December 12, 1968||Living||44||Film director and producer||Mark Bailey|
- Schlesinger (2002), p. 87
- Welcome to Greenwich Academy
- "Chapter 18. Records of Senate Select Committees, 1789–1988." In Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789–1989: Bicentennial Edition. (Doct. No. 100-42) Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South, eds. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.
- Leonard, Mary (October 21, 2003). "'Shock' over plan to sell RFK home". The Boston Globe.
- Evan Thomas, Robert Kennedy: A Life
- "Ethel Kennedy Endorses Barack Obama". Barackobama.com. 2008-02-02. Retrieved 2008-02-02.
- "Kennedy Matriarch to Host Moran Event". The Washington Post.
- $6 million dollar fundraising dinner for Barack Obama
- Further reading
- Schlesinger, Arthur Meier, Robert Kennedy and His Times, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002, ISBN 0-618-21928-5
- Taraborrelli, J. Randy. Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot. Warner Books: 2000. ISBN 0-446-52426-3
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ethel Kennedy|
- Ethel Kennedy at the Internet Movie Database
- American Experience: RFK People & Events -- From PBS