Jean Ann Smith

Is your surname Smith?

Research the Smith family

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Jean Ann Smith (Kennedy)

Current Location:: New York, NY, United States
Birthplace: Brookline, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald
Widow of Stephen Edward Smith, Sr.
Mother of Stephen Edward Smith, Jr.; William Kennedy Smith; Amanda Mary Hood and Kym Maria Smith
Sister of Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.; John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the USA; Rosemary Kennedy; Kathleen, Marchioness of Hartington; Eunice Mary Shriver and 3 others

Occupation: Ambassador, Philantropist
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Jean Ann Smith

Chose "a small wedding and a big present" from her Dad (a splendid diamond pin). Married in the Lady Chapel behind the main altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral, by Francis Cardinal spellman. Weddidng breakfast at the Plaza Hotel. She was closest to Bobby and Ted who were clest to her own age. Reception at the Plaza Hotel, and honeymooned in Europe.


Jean Ann Kennedy Smith (born February 20, 1928) is an American diplomat and a former United States Ambassador to Ireland. She is the eighth of nine children born to Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald and is their last surviving child. She is the sister of the 35th U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy and Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Smith is the founder of Very Special Arts (VSA), an internationally recognized non-profit dedicated to creating a society where those with disabilities can engage with the arts. In 2011, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama for her work with VSA and the disabled.

Early life and family life

Born Jean Ann Kennedy in Boston, Massachusetts, on her elder sister Kathleen's eighth birthday, she has been described as the shyest and most guarded of the Kennedy children. Her mother said of her youngest daughter, "She was born so late, that she only was able to enjoy the tragedies, and not the triumphs." She attended Manhattanville College (at the time a Sacred Heart school, and still located in Manhattanville), where she met and befriended her two future sisters-in-law: Ethel Skakel (who married Robert F. Kennedy in 1950) and Joan Bennett (who married Edward M. Kennedy in 1958).

On May 19, 1956, she married Stephen Edward Smith in a small chapel of the Roman Catholic Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. The Smiths maintained a lower profile than some other members of the extended Kennedy family. During the early 1960s, they settled in New York City. Smith gave birth to two sons, Stephen Edward Smith, Jr. (born 1957) and William Kennedy Smith (born 1960), and adopted two daughters, Amanda Mary Smith (born 1967) and Kym Maria Smith (born 1972 in Vietnam).

Smith and her husband were present at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, when Sirhan Sirhan shot and fatally wounded her brother U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy after he had won the Democratic 1968 California U.S. presidential primary.



Smith was intricately involved with the political career of her older brother John F. Kennedy, working on his 1946 Congressional campaign, his 1952 Senate campaign, and ultimately his presidential campaign in 1960. She, along with her siblings, helped Kennedy knock on doors in primary states like Texas and Wisconsin and on the campaign trail played the role of sister more than volunteer, citing her parents’ family lesson of “working together for something.”

Very Special Arts

In 1974, Smith founded Very Special Arts, now known as VSA, the international organization on art and disabilities affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the non-profit has affiliates in 60 countries and across the United States dedicated to creating a society where people with disabilities learn through, participate in and enjoy the arts. Annually, VSA reaches over 5 million people. Her book, Chronicles of Courage: Very Special Artists, written with George Plimpton, was published by Random House in April 1993.

U.S. Ambassador to Ireland

In 1993, Smith was appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton as the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, continuing a legacy of diplomacy begun by her father, who was the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James's (United Kingdom) during the administration of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As ambassador, she played a pivotal role in the peace process in that region for almost five years before resigning the post. As a demonstration of her ecumenical views, on at least one occasion she received communion in a cathedral of the Church of Ireland, an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion.

Sinn Féin controversy

In 1994, Smith came to the forefront of American foreign policy when she championed the granting of a U.S. visa to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Smith has been lauded for her work in the region, specifically for the courage she showed in supporting the visa for Adams which is widely regarded as a key step in the success of the peace process in the years that followed. In her brother Senator Edward Kennedy’s memoir, he described that “Jean was convinced that Adams no longer believed that continuing the armed struggle was the way to achieve the IRA’s objective of a united Ireland,” and that “It took only a couple of hours’ conversation with Jean after we landed to discover what was the most important thing on her mind – the opportunity for a breakthrough in the Northern Ireland stalemate.”

She was reprimanded by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher for retaliating against two foreign-service officers at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, Ireland, who had objected to her recommendation to the U.S. government to grant a U.S. visa to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and had sent in a "Dissent Channel" message. The Foreign Service Journal called the U.S. State Department's report on the matter "scathingly critical". Her management of the embassy came under criticism by the Boston Herald in December 1996, which obtained internal U.S. State Department memoranda and e-mail, for putting pressure on embassy staff to spend taxpayer money to refurbish her residence in Dublin. Smith was also the subject of an allegation of violations of U.S. conflict-of-interest laws. The U.S. Department of Justice issued a press release on September 22, 2000, announcing that she had paid US$5,000 in a civil settlement to resolve the allegations.

She ended her term as ambassador on September 17, 1998.

Philanthropy, awards and later life

Smith has won a number of awards for her work in Ireland and in the disability community. In 1995, she was honored as Irish American of the Year by Irish America magazine and a year later had an uncredited role in the film Michael Collins (1996). She was awarded honorary citizenship by the Government of Ireland in 1998 and in 2007, Smith received the Gold Medal Award from the Éire Society of Boston, for her peace efforts in Northern Ireland and for her humanitarian work with disabled children. She has also received the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service, the Margaret Mead Humanitarian Award, and the 1997 Terence Cardinal Cooke Humanitarian Award.

In 2009, Smith was honored with the Tipperary Peace Prize along with her brother, the late Senator Edward Kennedy. In February 2011, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for her work with people with disabilities.

On March 15, 2011, Smith was inducted into Irish America magazine's Irish America Hall of Fame.

Smith, who holds a number of honorary degrees, serves on the board of directors of both the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the International Rescue Committee, and has also served on the Board of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Her husband, Stephen Smith, died of cancer on August 19, 1990. In 1991 their son William, then a student at Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, D.C., was accused of rape in Florida, but was acquitted after a highly-publicized trial. Her elder sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver died on August 11, 2009. Smith did not attend Eunice's funeral on August 14, 2009, choosing to stay with their brother Ted who was ill; he died on August 25, 2009, leaving her as the last surviving child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. She attended his funeral on August 29, 2009.

view all 11

Jean Ann Smith's Timeline

February 20, 1928
Brookline, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Age 1
Bronxville, Westchester, New York
Age 28
September 4, 1960
Age 32
Boston, Suffolk, MA, United States
Age 38
Age 43
- 1998
Age 64
Christopher Movement