Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

by Kate Clifford Larson

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Overview

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

One of People’s Top Ten Books of 2015

"[Larson] succeeds in providing a well-rounded portrait of a woman who, until now, has never been viewed in full."—Boston Globe

“A biography that chronicles her life with fresh details . . . By making Rosemary the central character, [Larson] has produced a valuable account of a mental health tragedy and an influential family’s belated efforts to make amends.” — New York Times Book Review
 

Joe and Rose Kennedy’s strikingly beautiful daughter Rosemary attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the queen of England, and traveled the world with her high-spirited sisters. Yet Rosemary was intellectually disabled, a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family.

In Rosemary, Kate Clifford Larson uses newly uncovered sources to bring Rosemary Kennedy’s story to light. Young Rosemary comes alive as a sweet, lively girl adored by her siblings. But Larson also reveals the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly difficult in her early twenties, culminating in Joe’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age twenty-three and the family’s complicity in keeping the secret. Only years later did the Kennedy siblings begin to understand what had happened to Rosemary, which inspired them to direct government attention and resources to the plight of the developmentally and mentally disabled, transforming the lives of millions.
 
“The forgotten Kennedy is forgotten no longer. Rosemary is a rare thing, a book about the Kennedys that has something new to say.” — Laurence Leamer, author of The Kennedy Women
 
“Heartbreaking.” — Wall Street Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547250250
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/06/2015
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

KATE CLIFFORD LARSON is the author of two critically acclaimed biographies: Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero and The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln. She has been a consultant and interpretive specialist for numerous museum and public history initiatives, focusing on the lives and contributions of women in the making of our national identity.
 

Read an Excerpt

1
A Home Birth

ROSE KENNEDY, PREGNANT with her third child, felt her contractions beginning on Friday, September 13. The nurse hired to attend her during the last days of her pregnancy quickly sent for Dr. Frederick L. Good, Rose’s personal obstetrician, to come to the Kennedy home at 83 Beals Street in the Boston suburb of Brookline. The first two Kennedy children, Joseph Jr., now three years old, and sixteen-month-old “Jack,” had both been born at home, and Rose was electing to do the same with this baby. It had been an uneventful third pregnancy. The deeply devout Rose would have been acutely aware of the gift of such a healthy pregnancy in the midst of great danger.

During the war years of 1917 and 1918, Spanish influenza swept the globe, killing tens of millions worldwide and debilitating millions more. By the fall of 1918, the flu’s deadly march was taking its toll on the citizens of Boston. By mid-September there were more than five thousand diagnosed cases of the Spanish flu in the city alone. Deaths mounted daily as the pandemic made its second of three deadly passes across the nation in less than a year. The closing of theaters, lyceums, halls, and churches became mandatory, and public gatherings were discouraged to avoid the spread of the disease. Local hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices around Boston and its suburbs were overwhelmed. Unlike other flu epidemics, which claimed mostly the lives of the very young and the very old, this viral infection took the lives of healthy young men and women in the prime of their lives as well. Young soldiers who had survived the trenches and battlefields of Europe during World War I and returned home triumphant began dying by the thousands from pneumonia and respiratory failure. According to one nurse who worked day and night during the worst of the epidemic in Boston, “All the city was dying, in the homes serious illness, on the streets funeral processions.” Nearly seven thousand residents died within a six-month period.

But the lethal virus did not infect the home of Joseph and Rose Kennedy and their young family. The nurse had been checking the unborn baby’s and Rose’s health daily, listening to both baby’s and mother’s heart rates, monitoring the baby’s position vis-à-vis the birth canal and its in utero activity, noting the details in a ledger for the doctor to review when he arrived. With Rose’s labor begun and Dr. Good sent for, she transformed Rose’s room into a modified antiseptic hospital labor room, ordered the general maid or hired girl to heat water, and made sure that all instruments and equipment the doctor might need were within reach.

Trained in the latest obstetrical nursing practices, the nurse was responsible for two patients, as her nursing manual would have reminded her: the mother and the unborn child. “If during the absence of the doctor the mother should die,” the Obstetrical Nursing guide warned ominously, “upon the physician’s return the nurse . . . could hardly excuse herself to the physician or to the family.” This directive put the nurse in an untenable position: she had been trained to deliver babies but also to wait for the doctor to arrive to deliver the baby. She could not give Rose an anesthetic as labor became more intense and painful, because only the physician and his anesthetist, in this case probably a Dr. Edward J. O’Brien, could administer anesthesia as a matter of course when they arrived.

But on this day, the doctor had not arrived once the baby began entering the birth canal, and Rose could not resist the need to push the baby with each more forceful contraction. The nurse tried to keep her calm, encouraging her to endure each contraction and to fight back the urge to push. Yet Rose’s baby started crowning, a crucial point in the birthing process. It was well understood that preventing the movement of the baby through the birth canal could cause a lack of oxygen, exposing the baby to possible brain damage and physical disability.

The doctor was delayed, caught up in attending his many patients stricken by the deadly flu. The nurse demanded that Rose hold her legs together tightly in the hope of delaying the baby’s birth. Despite her training as an obstetrical nurse, she opted not to deliver the baby herself.

“I had such confidence in my obstetrician,” Rose wrote as a much older woman. “I put my faith in God . . . and tried to sublimate my discomfort in expectation of the happiness” she expected to feel once the baby was born. Dr. Good and his colleagues, however, may not have been driven wholly by the desire to provide the best care for their patients. Fees derived from supplying health services to Boston’s social and economic elite provided a steady, and hefty, income in the days before medical insurance. If Dr. Good missed the birth of the baby, he could not charge his extremely high fee of $125 for prenatal care and delivery. When holding Rose’s legs together failed to keep the baby from coming, the nurse resorted to another, more dangerous practice: holding the baby’s head and forcing it back into the birth canal for two excruciating hours.

The doctor did finally appear at the Kennedys’ home, and at seven in the evening he delivered Rose’s seemingly healthy third child. The Boston Globe announced the birth: “A dainty girl was added to the nursery which previously sheltered two sturdy sons.” Flowers and cards of congratulations poured in. The baby would be named for her mother. Little Rose Marie Kennedy—“Rosie” to the family, and later called Rosemary—would be loved and nurtured by both of her parents.

Rosemary was “sweet and peaceable and cried less than the first two,” Rose would recall more than fifty years later. Rose spent several weeks “lying in,” the length of time middle- and upper-class women took to recover from childbirth. New mothers, it was recommended, should rest and remain in bed for at least nine days and slowly begin daily activities, like walking, over a period of many more days, increasing activity gradually over several weeks. Six weeks was considered ideal. Rose enjoyed this time alone, nursing and doting on baby Rosemary. Full-time and part-time nursemaids and other household help took care of the boys, cleaned, and cooked. “The quiet and peace surrounding the mother and child at this period is good for both,” Rose later wrote about this time alone with her newborn baby.

JOSEPH “JOE” P. KENNEDY SR., as the new assistant general manager of the Fore River Shipbuilding Company, a subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel in nearby Quincy, could afford such luxuries for his wife. Most men of his age—Joe was thirty years old when his first daughter was born—were now required to register for the wartime draft. But he was exempt from military service because of his role working for the shipyard and managing its multimillion-dollar government contracts and thousands of workers now building naval vessels destined for the war in Europe. Joe was brilliant at his job, and his business and management acumen spurred the expansion of not only the shipyard and its workforce but also the support systems required to shelter, feed, and transport the thousands of workers at the plant. Joe’s workload increased “exponentially” at this time, keeping him working lengthy days and often not returning home for the night, establishing a work ethic that would persist for the rest of his life. This pace, however, earned Joe an ulcer, and just a month after Rosemary was born he checked himself into a sanitarium to recuperate. Persistent ulcers and other intestinal issues, too, would plague him until his death.

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Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very readable biography. The author neither judges or praises. Lots of facts written in a smooth style. She writes of people who cared and others who abused. It also shares how the family had the resources to hide a chlld who did not meet their standards. One cold and sick family. The book deserves an A+++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't get out of it what I expected. The book doesn't center on Rosemary as it implies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having read only the sample, it has me hooked on being my next read. Knowledge opens the locked doors of understanding and sets it's captives free.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rosemary Kennedy's tragic life with a family that cared more about appearances than human beings is an excellent example of why some people should never have or adopr children. If you cannot love AND accept your children for who AND what they are then you have no business having children. I knoe things were diferent back then, but her life was just tragic. With all the money, power, and influence the Kennedy's had, they could have made a good life for Rosemary and maybe had a poditive effect on others like Rosemary. Instead, they bulied her into trying to be somene she could never be and then threw her away when she could no longer keep up. Why? Because they were afraid she would embarass them. Sickening.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would highly recommend to anyone who wants to know more about Rosemary or has an interest in issues concerning disability.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Check out the professional and unbiased reviews above. The one-star review here is confusing - the whole book is about Rosemary Kennedy, so not sure what the person means. Perhaps the reviewer really meant to comment on the other Rosemary Kennedy book that was published at the same time, but that is mostly about that author's family and not Rosemary Kennedy's life story. The Hidden Kennedy Daughter is a fantastic read! The author brings to light many unknown pieces of Rosemary's story, and the powerful legacy she left for her family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good look into life 100 years ago.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is written like a midterm paper. If you're looking for facts and figured of various schools and convents that Rosemary Kennedy attended and very little in the way of a compelling story, you'll like this. However for me, it was an exercise of skipping page after page to find any story "meat."
drjerryJS More than 1 year ago
A must-read for special needs parents and people who know them. As a special needs dad myself, I became haunted by the depiction of Joseph Kennedy, Sr., to the point that I asked my wife if I was an ogre like he was. I was also stunned by callousness of Rose Kennedy, who did not see her daughter for 20 years following the "surgery" and appears to have preferred taking trips to Europe over visiting Rosemary. Joe and Rose appear as if they couldn't be bothered with a child who was "different," especially when prominence in politics took precedence over parenting. It wasn't just Rosemary, though, as they (especially Rose) practically disowned another daughter, Kathleen, right up until her death in an airplane crash. Rosemary was a beautiful young woman who craved the affection of her parents. They systematically denied it to her, along with most of her brothers and sisters as she got older. If there is a hero in this book, it is Eunice, inspired by Rosemary's plight to advocate for legislation, Special Olympics, and other initiatives that have enriched the lives of special needs people worldwide.
skybluepink More than 1 year ago
The Kennedy family has been a family that has been in the spotlight for a very long time as a political family. The family has also had a lot of tragedy. I was interested in this book because like so many others I’m the Kennedy’s and their life. The title of this book however is a bit misleading. Rosemary wasn’t fully hidden. People knew she existed. What they didn’t know was her full life story or where she was for a majority of her adult life. I think a better title would of be “The Secret Life of Rosemary Kennedy”. Rosemary had intellectual delays stemming from errors in her home birth. When she was a child, they did not have all the laws, and medical intervention they do now for the intellectually delayed. The children were often institutionalized at an early age. I am willing to give Rose and Joe the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t know any better back then. The way they raised Rosemary and took care of her care is appalling. I feel they did more damage handling things the way they did. Rose and Joe were more interested in how they looked to others than the full care of their daughter. As her siblings became adults they all in their way helped to create the laws and organizations in place to day to help the intellectually delayed. I am glad that some good came out of the mistreatment Rosemary suffered. I can only imagine the hurt, confusion and anger she felt. This is the type of book that stays with you and would be a great discussion book. I read this book in one day.
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PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
Rosemary the Hidden Kennedy Sister would have been better without the distracting modern political wording like tolerance, diversity and white privilege, which concepts were unknown during the time period of Rosemary's birth. There was excessive attention to women's rights, and I say that as a women very grateful for our rights; however, a page or two would have sufficed to give context to Rosemary's mother's background, so that the author could provide more attention to the actual title subect, Rosemary. Having said that, this book is the moving biography of the sister of the late President John F. Kennedy. The term "hidden" in the title refers not only to the fact that she was literally hidden in institutions because of her mental challenges, but also the facts of her medical history, including her lobotomy, were hidden from the public because at the time of her life, there was a great stigma to mental retardation - not only for the patient but the family, as well. Rosemary the Hidden Kennedy Sister is also historically informative about the varying historical theories and treatments related to special needs patients.
PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
Rosemary the Hidden Kennedy Sister would have been better without the distracting modern political wording like tolerance, diversity and white privilege, which concepts were unknown during the time period of Rosemary's birth. There was excessive attention to women's rights, and I say that as a women very grateful for our rights; however, a page or two would have sufficed to give context to Rosemary's mother's background, so that the author could provide more attention to the actual title subect, Rosemary. Having said that, this book is the moving biography of the sister of the late President John F. Kennedy. The term "hidden" in the title refers not only to the fact that she was literally hidden in institutions because of her mental challenges, but also the facts of her medical history, including her lobotomy, were hidden from the public because at the time of her life, there was a great stigma to mental retardation - not only for the patient but the family, as well. Rosemary the Hidden Kennedy Sister is also historically informative about the varying historical theories and treatments related to special needs patients.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Kennedys leave a long trail of the dead and maimed behind them. Tragic that one of their own is a victim too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well researched and captivating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book to read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author finally uncovers the truth about what happened to Rosemary and how many injustices were done to her by her father's decision. But thanks to Eunice and her family for all they have done to increase awareness of the disabled and after all, how much Rosemary taught the whole family. Thankfully the Kennedy family carried the power and influence to enact tremendous legislation that has been such a longterm benefit to the disabled and a great education for us all. .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At last Rosemary Kennedy's life is understood and given meaning.
Reading_Teacher More than 1 year ago
This was a good read. The author did present a compelling narrative of the daughter that was mostly hidden from public view, but informed and set a purpose for a driven family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cris_James More than 1 year ago
I am currently reading this book. My opinion so far is that this book centers on Rose and not Rosemary. The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff has some fantastic pictures and I felt was a much better read than this was.