Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy’s Daughter
The book “Rosemary:the hidden Kennedy daughter” was written by Kate Clifford Larson, afamous American historian and the author of three of the mostacclaimed biographies in the USA and beyond. She is also a consultantfor the Harriet Tubman Special Resource Study. Besides that, she isregarded as an interpretive specialist for most public and communityinitiatives that are closely related to the Harriet Tubman (Larson2016, 4).
Among her major jobs that have done well around America and globallyare Afro-Americans in New York and history, racing for freedom:Harriet Tubman’s underground railroad network through New York aswell as the Saturday evening girls: A progressive era library cluband the intelligent life of employed class and settler girls inTurn-off-the-century Boston. In 2008, she published a book entitledthe assassin’s accomplice which majored on the role that MarySurrat played in Abraham’s Lincoln assassination. Larson, in herbook Rosemary: the hidden Kennedy daughter addresses the story of thedisabled sister of President John Kennedy.
Rose and Joe Kennedywere regarded as the most powerful and prominent American family inthe twentieth century. They had an outstandingly beautiful daughter,Rosemary, who was not like any of her other eight siblings who werean ambition to their father. While Rosemary was born with anintellectual disability that was kept as a great secret by theglamorous and powerful family, her other siblings followed thefootsteps of his father by becoming prominent around the globe(Koehler-Pentacoff, 6).
For instance, one ofthe sons became a US senator but was later assassinated, another onelater became the US president but was also assassinated and yetanother one died in a war that was greatly despised by his ownfather. Larson based her story against the conditions of the stigmathat was attached closely to Rosemary’s mental illness as well asthe hubris of her conflicted parents who despite caring so much abouttheir daughter feared that her disability if exposed to the publicwould damage the brilliant careers of the other siblings.
According to Larson2015, 7, Rosemary’s problem started at her birth in 1918. Eventhough her mother’s first two siblings had been delivered at homeby the same obstetrician, when Rose went to labor to deliverRosemary, only the nurse was available. However, the nurse opted towait for the arrival of the doctor and thus ordered Rose to keep herlegs closed, consequently forcing the baby’s head to stay in thebirth canal for a long time. The baby suffered a harmful loss ofoxygen and later suffered developmental delays. When she was elevenyears old, Rosemary was sent to a boarding school in Pennsylvania butshe kept changing schools either because her parents thought thechanges would be beneficial or because the teachers could not dealwith her mood swings and her disability.
Rosemary, despiteher condition, was desperate to please her parents. She once wrote aletter to her father that said: "I would do anything to make youso happy”. At her parents’ orders, she underwent a series ofinjections that were meant to correct her hormonal imbalances. Evenwhen she came out as a sociable and poised innocent young lady andexpressed her joy in various ways, her father thought of her assuffering from “backwardness”. Often, the siblings would becharged with the responsibility of keeping an eye on her butsometimes they got impatient with her condition. Her older brother,Joe Jr. seemed to be fond of her but during a trip to Germany in1934 he expressed very little sympathy for other people with similardisabilities. In a letter that he wrote to his father, he praisedHitler’s policy of sterilizing disabled people saying “it is agreat thing that will do away with many of the disgusting specimensof men” (Larson 2016, 13). The Hs phrase appears contradictorygiven that his sister was disabled. It is thus evident that he wasimpatient with her condition.
In 1938, Rosemary’scondition became more disastrous she started experiencing seizures,regressions and she constantly hit and hurt the people around her.Her mother said, "…. she was so strong her blows were quitehard”. Her parents again sent her to a summer camp, a boardingschool and then a convent school but she did not stay in any of theinstitutions for long due to her rebellious nature. For fear that thefrequent scandals would diminish the political prospects of thefamily, her parents, despite being warned of the possible dangers,chose a surgical solution for Rosemary she underwent a prefrontallobotomy in 1941. After the brutal surgery, Rosemary was never ableto resume the full use of one of her arm and walked with a limp. Shewas sent to a series of institutions including a church facility inWisconsin and a psychiatric institution. According to her family,“she would be better off for her own sake and ours if she went to ahome where she would be with people of her own mental capacity”.Later, Eunice Kennedy assumed full responsibility for her damagedsister. She says “…. she was mentally retarded…..keeping aretarded child a home is difficult” (Larson 2015, 78). In 1974,Rose arranged for Rosemary to leave Wisconsin to reunite with theliving members of her family, a reunion that was successful.
The manner in whichRosemary’s parents and siblings responded to her intellectualdisabilities led to a creation of a great tension in the family, acondition that worsened as she aged into adulthood. As a result ofher disability and being completely different from other siblings whowere considered happiness in the family, Rosemary was constantly sentto institutions and boarding schools far away from home since the ageof eleven. As a result of this, she suffered terrible trauma, missedher family so much and experienced many struggles trying to meet theinstitutional demands that were way beyond her capabilities(Koehler-Pentacoff, 12). In some cases, the family members would notvisit her at all. As Larson writes “there is no record of Rosevisiting her eldest daughter for more than twenty years”. Thesituation changed when the society changed its views on people withdisabilities including her sister, Eunice. She persuaded her fatherto support programs that help disabled people. Her family alsoarranged for her to visit her family after which they were united.
The Kennedys alsoviewed Rosemary as a disgrace to the family and feared that she wouldinterfere with the family’s political career, “…..Rosemary wasa woman, and there was a dread fear of pregnancy, disease, anddisgrace" (Fuller 2007, 35). They thus chose to keep herdisability a secret from the public. However, horrified by what hersister had gone through, Eunice became very passionate about peoplewith disabilities and pushed for the establishment of the Nationalinstitute of Child Health and Human Development. Through this step,it meant that the people with disabilities, including her sister,were no longer kept as a secret by their families.
In her young age,her siblings got impatient with her condition but later in life, theyactually act to her support and they express love to her. Forinstance, her sister Eunice took full responsibility for her care andher youngest brother, Ted felt the great loss when Rosemary left thefamily. In his position as a senator, he took up Rosemary’s causeand pointed her as his greatest inspiration towards him sponsoringbills such as the groundbreaking Americans with Disabilities Act.Subjecting Rosemary to a lobotomy in an attempt to correct herdisability proved unsuccessful to a point where Rose blamed herhusband and she did not have the courage to face her damageddaughter, something that led her to not visit her for more than30years. However, when the society views concerning people withdisabilities changed and some organizations were established toaddress people with such health conditions, Rose was able to arrangefor her daughter to visit the other family members at home. Hermother, despite feeling bad about the condition of her daughter,could not get herself to forgive Joe. She is recorded to have saidthis to one of the biographers: “It is the only thing I ever feltbitter towards him about” (Larson 2016, 123), referring to thesurgery Rosemary had been made to go through by her father.
In conclusion, the book Rosemary: the hidden Kennedy daughter solelyaddresses the life of one of Roe and Joseph Kennedy’s daughter whowas born with a mental disability thus rendering her different fromthe other siblings. She had difficulties reading and for this reason,she was sent to boarding schools and other institutions hoping thather condition would improve. Both her siblings and parents seemed toget impatient with her condition. She was put through surgery toremove some nerves from her brain but her condition did not improve.According to the book, her brother supported Hitler’s policy toeliminate such people and her father regarded her as being backward.However, when the society views changed, the Kennedys views onRosemary and other people with similar disabilities also changed. Hermother felt at much ease to see her daughter, something she had neverdone in over thirty years, her sister advocated for the establishmentof the National institute of Child Health and Human Development andher youngest brother supported similar initiatives.
Larson, Kate C. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter. S.l.: MarinerBooks, 2016. Print. Page 3-326
Larson, Kate C. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter. HoughtonMifflin Harcourt, 2015. Print. Page 4-279
Fuller, S J. The Kennedy Family: An American Dynasty: Bibliographywith Indexes. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2007. Print. Page35-61
Koehler-Pentacoff, Elizabeth. The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedyand the Secret Bonds of Four Women, 2015. Internet resource. Page3-64
Larson, Kate Clifford. "Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter(vol 120, page 12, 2015)." NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 120.43(2015): 8-8.