Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter-Kate Clifford Larson
When we think of the Kennedys, we recall images of Jack, Bobby and Teddy as they stood giving speeches and leading campaigns. Next to them were their sisters who have also made their mark. The union between Joseph Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald, resulted in nine children, some of whom never lived past 50 years of age, resulting in talk of the Kennedy “curse”. Joe and Rose would lose three sons and a daughter to violent deaths. Joe Jr., would be the first to perish in World War II, followed by Kathleen, Jack and finally Bobby. But there was one sister that often gets neglected and is very rarely spoken of. She is said to have been the most beautiful of all of the sisters and have the most vibrant personality. This is the story of Rosemary, the oldest daughter of Joseph, Sr. and Rose Kennedy. Diagnosed as being mentally disabled at a young age, she spent the early part of her life moving from school to school as her parents desperately searched for a place to provide proper care. And following a botched lobotomy in the 1940s, she remained institutionalized for the rest of her life until the age of 86, when she died on January 7, 2005.
Kate Clifford Larson’s biography of the hidden daughter is nothing short of outstanding. Thoroughly researched and written in an engaging style, the books starts off strong and keeps up the pace all the way through. In a time where mental health was still not completely understood and shunned, we see the family struggle to deal with Rosemary who struggles herself to keep up with her siblings. The author painstakingly recreates the family atmosphere at the time and through her we can see the effects of Rosemary’s condition on her family and the shame and guilt that plagued both parents permanently. Rosemary’s story shows a different side to the family history and the dark history of the treatment of mental illness in the United States. And although she most likely was unaware, Rosemary’s condition would be the catalyst for Jack and Eunice to step up the effort to help those afflicted by mental illness. The Kennedy Foundation, in partnership with other organizations, created the Special Olympics, which continues to this day. For a good read about a hidden daughter, family success, tragedy and their mark on America, this is a good read.