Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson, Book Review

Rosemary- The Hidden Kennedy Daughter book coverWarning: Spoiler Alert!

Very little is known about the first daughter of the Kennedy royalty. For most of her life, Rose Marie Kennedy was kept hidden from the world. Rose Marie Kennedy, aka Rosemary, was the third child born to Joe Sr. and Rose Kennedy, sixteen-months after her famous brother, John F. Kennedy, in 1918. It was probably due to the antics of the obstetrical nurse as Rosemary was crowning, that caused her physical and mental damage rendering her “slow.”

In the early 1900’s, any form of disability was shaming to the entire family. Once Rosemary’s disability was realized, she was sent to private schools in hopes of being “cured” through an education. Although she learned to read and write, her developmental abilities stunted her at a fourth-grade level which terribly embarrassed the family.

As Rosemary aged, her mental condition worsened, she threw fits and punches and got to the point where her parents couldn’t control her anymore. Worried about the effect his defective child would inadvertently and inevitably do to his sons’ political careers, Joe. Sr. chose to try a new and radical procedure; a lobotomy for Rosemary.

Before the surgery, Rosemary looked entirely “normal.” Considered a beauty, she was even presented to the Royal Court in England and was a favorite among the journalists. After the lobotomy, she could no longer walk on her own, use half of her body, or speak with clarity. She was sent to a Saint Coletta School, in Jefferson, Wisconsin where she received around the clock care by nuns. The Kennedy’s didn’t see or talk about Rosemary very often after that.

However, Karma has a way of balancing injustices, and Joe Sr. had a stroke leaving him paralyzed and unable to communicate for eight years.

It was because of Rosemary that the Kennedy’s started doing something positive with their fortune and notoriety. JFK signed the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation bill in October 1963. Eunice Kennedy, Rosemary’s younger sister, and Maria Shriver’s grandmother, started the Special Olympics.

Rosemary is a sad story about humanity and its struggles, and secrets held. It’s about injustices and forgotten children with disabilities. One of the most poignant aspects of this story is the author’s dedication:

“To those struggling with disabilities and mental illness, and the families who love them.”

Well written and full of in depth history about the Kennedy’s, this book is one that will make you cherish the life and abilities you have.



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