Ethel Kennedy attends the 22nd annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall on November 12, 2012, in New York City.

Here’s a look at the life of environmental and human rights activist Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy.


Birth date: April 11, 1928

Birth place: Chicago, Illinois

Birth name: Ethel Skakel

Father: George Skakel, businessman

Mother: Ann (Brannack) Skakel

Marriage: Robert F. Kennedy (June 17, 1950-June 6, 1968, his death)

Children: Rory, 1968; Douglas, 1967; Matthew, 1965; Christopher, 1963; Mary, 1959; Michael, February 27, 1958 - December 31, 1997; Courtney, 1956; David, June 15, 1955 - April 25, 1984; Robert Jr., 1954; Joseph II, 1952; Kathleen, 1951

Education: Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart, 1949 (now called Manhattanville College)

Other Facts

Established an organization called Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which supports the causes championed by Robert F. Kennedy.

Met Robert Kennedy though his sister, Jean.

Her nephew, Michael Skakel, was convicted in 2002 of the 1975 murder of his neighbor, Martha Moxley. In 2018, the Connecticut Supreme Court vacated Skakel’s conviction and ordered a new trial. Prosecutors announced they would not retry Skakel in October 2020.


1955 - Ethel’s parents, George and Ann Skakel, are killed in an airplane accident.

1959 - Campaigns for Robert’s brother, John F. Kennedy, during his run for the presidency.

1961-1964 - Robert Kennedy serves as attorney general of the United States.

1964 - Robert Kennedy is elected to the US Senate to represent New York.

March 16, 1968 - Robert Kennedy announces he will run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

June 5, 1968 - Robert Kennedy is shot while campaigning in Los Angeles. He dies on June 6 at the age of 42.

2012 - Daughter Rory Kennedy’s documentary, “Ethel,” premieres.

November 24, 2014 - Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

September 20, 2016 - Ethel attends a ceremony held by the US Navy as they announce the naming of a Navy refueling ship in honor of Robert F. Kennedy.