Eunice Shriver (Eunice Kennedy Shriver)

Eunice Shriver

Born Eunice Mary Kennedy in Brookline, Massachusetts, she was the fifth of nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and Rose Fitzgerald. She was educated at the Convent of The Sacred Heart, Roehampton, London and at Manhattanville College in Upper Manhattan (the school later moved further North to Purchase, New York). After graduating from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology in 1943, she worked for the Special War Problems Division of the U.S. State Department. She eventually moved to the U.S. Justice Department as executive secretary for a project dealing with juvenile delinquency. She served as a social worker at the Federal Industrial Institution for Women for one year before moving to Chicago in 1951 to work with the House of the Good Shepherd women’s shelter and the Chicago Juvenile Court. In 1969, Eunice Shriver moved to France and pursued her interest in intellectual disability there. She started organizing small activities with Paris organizations, mostly reaching out to families of kids who had special needs to provide activities for them, laying the foundation for a robust international expansion of the Special Olympics in the late ’70s and ’80s. Eunice Shriver actively campaigned for her elder brother, John, during his successful 1960 U.S. presidential election. In 1968, she helped Anne McGlone Burke nationalize the Special Olympics movement and is the only woman to have her portrait appear, during her lifetime, on a U.S. coin – the 1995 commemorative Special Olympics silver dollar.

Although Eunice Shriver was a Democrat, she was a vocal supporter of the pro-life movement. In 1990, Shriver wrote a letter to The New York Times denouncing the misuse of a quotation by President Kennedy used out of context by a pro-choice group. During Bill Clinton’s 1992 Democratic U.S. presidential campaign, she was one of several prominent Democrats – including Governor Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania, and Bishop Austin Vaughan of New York – who signed a letter to The New York Times protesting the Democratic Party’s pro-choice plank in its platform. Shriver was a supporter of several pro-life organizations: Feminists for Life of America, the Susan B. Anthony List, and Democrats for Life of America. A lifelong Democrat, she supported her Republican son-in-law Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful 2003 Governor of California election. On January 28, 2008, Shriver was present at American University in Washington, D.C., when her brother, U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, announced his endorsement of Barack Obama’s 2008 Democratic U.S. presidential campaign.

On May 23, 1953, she married Sargent Shriver in a Roman Catholic ceremony at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Her husband served as the U.S. Ambassador to France from 1968 to 1970 and was the 1972 Democratic U.S. Vice Presidential candidate (with George McGovern as the candidate for U.S. President). With her husband, Eunice Shriver had nineteen grandchildren, the second-most of any of her siblings (her brother Robert had eleven children who have produced thirty-four grandchildren). Her daughter Maria Shriver is separated from actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. As executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation in the 1950s, she shifted the organization’s focus from Catholic charities to research on the causes of intellectual disabilities and humane ways to treat them. This interest eventually culminated in, among other things, the Special Olympics movement. Upon the death of her sister Rosemary Kennedy on January 7, 2005, Shriver became the eldest of the four then-surviving children of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. Her sister Patricia Kennedy died on September 17, 2006, and her brother Edward M. Kennedy died on August 25, 2009, leaving former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith as the only surviving sibling. Eunice Shriver, who was believed to have suffered from Addison’s disease, suffered a stroke and a broken hip in 2005, and on November 18, 2007, she was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where she spent several weeks. On August 9, 2009, she was admitted to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, with an undisclosed ailment. On August 10, her relatives were called to the hospital. Early the following morning, Shriver died at the hospital; she was 88 years old.

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  • July, 10, 1921
  • USA
  • Brookline, Massachusetts


  • August, 11, 2009
  • USA
  • Hyannis, Massachusetts

Cause of Death

  • stroke


  • Saint Francis Xavier Cemetery
  • Centerville, Massachusetts
  • USA

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