Monday, August 8, 2016

Rosemary, the Hidden Kennedy Daughter; Kate Clifford Larson

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Blackstone Audio - 2015
Bernadette Dunne narrator (excellent)

Growing up in Massachusetts, I've long been fascinated by the Kennedy clan, a family with so much power and wealth but, also a family who has experienced so much misfortune in their lives.  This story is about their third child, one we've heard very little about, daughter Rosemary.

Rosemary Kennedy was born in 1918 to Rose and Joseph Kennedy. Her birth was a quick one before the doctor was able to arrive and, it is believed that she experienced a lack of oxygen when lead to her developmental and intellectual disabilities.

A beautiful and happy child her developmental delays were identified early and she was held back in kindergarten. Her parents were constantly switching her from one school to another and even shipped her off to several different boarding schools, often convent run ones throughout the US.  When one school did not help her to progress, she was moved to another.  Meanwhile, her socially prominent parents went along with their lives and their visits seemed infrequent.  They did remove her for family vacations to Europe and to spend time with family at holidays at the Florida and Hyannisport homes.

Her father Joe, made all the family decisions and when Rosemary turned 23 he decided to try a radical approach to improve his daughter's mood and mental acuity.  He arranged for a lobotomy, a procedure that was only in the experimental stages at that time.  It was a procedure that would go terribly wrong and it left Rosemary with only limited speech and mobility and unable to care for herself.  She was then hidden away from family, some siblings claiming they did not know where she was for over 20 years. They claimed they knew better than to ask about her, because they knew it was critical that the press not find out about their "imperfect family" which was an embarrassment to the parents.  She was sent away to a convent school, St. Coletta's in Wisconsin where she lived until her death in 2005 at the age of 86.

I loved this biography so much, it was a real eye opener. Although the story is Rosemary's the reader is given a good glimpse at the whole family (it really made me dislike the father). It was easy to see how the sons seemed to be the favored ones and how the mother put up with so much bull from her husband and just accepted whatever he did or decided as the way it was.  Although, I felt sorry for Rosemary and the way her life turned out, money was never an issue and she was always provided with the best of everything.

Although it was unfortunate the way things turned out for the Kennedys, so much good came out of it to benefit the greater good ever since.  It was the Kennedys who were instrumental in getting major social and civil rights legislation passed on behalf of handicapped children and adults.  In 1975 the Education for All Handicapped Children's Act was passed, in 1990, The American's with Disabilities Act and also in 1990, the Child Care Act.  If you enjoy a good biography, this one was excellent.

5/5 stars
(library audio)

22 comments:

  1. I'm fascinated by the Kennedys too. They seemed to have it all yet were struck with some much tragedy. I have this in print and need to get to it.

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    1. The audio is excellent in case your library has it.

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  2. I am also fascinated by the Kennedys, and have read several books about them. This is one to add to my list.

    I, too, have some negative feelings about the patriarch and how he seemingly controlled everyone around him. Nevertheless, I can never seem to get enough information about them all.

    I have only been to Massachusetts once, for a business trip to Boston which lasted a weekend. In my time off, I drove along the Cape and imagined running into a Kennedy...LOL.

    I just watched a documentary called I Am JFK, Jr. More fascinating stuff.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Joe Kennedy, the father, made me so mad! It is a fascinating story and I have a feeling you will really enjoy it.

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  3. I've always been interested in the Kennedy's too, and have this book on my audio wish list. Have you listened to The Patriarch, a bio of Joseph P. Kennedy? It is just fascinating, but very, very long. I loved it.

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    1. No, I haven't listened to that one JoAnn. Someone else suggested a new bio about Kick Kennedy which was just released last month so I requested it from the library.

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  4. I don't know if my comment when through the first time. Glad to see you read this book and reviewed, I'm curious. Just read Patrick Kennedy's A Common Struggle, about addiction. He's worked toward addiction having same coverage as other mental health services.

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    1. Patrick Kennedy is another one of Teddys son's who struggled. The other lost his leg to cancer I recall.

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  5. I've always been fascinated by the Kennedy's as well and Rosemary in particular intrigued me since so little is known about her. I had read she received a lobotomy but I don't know know that much about her. This sounds like a fascinating read/listen. I'm looking forward to it.

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    1. Katherine, it's so well done and worth reading for sure.

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  6. I would love to read this book. I've had such a fascination with Rose Kennedy for so many years and love that Special Olympics were started by the Schrivers because of Rose. Best thing ever (in my opinion) was the Education for Students with Disabilities Act.

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    1. Kathy, it is true, the Kennedys have done so much for those with disabilities.

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  7. I will have to look for this one! Such a heartbreaking story. Pretty sure it will be a tearjerker. Glad to hear the audio was good. I will likely pick the audio too.

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  8. This sounds like a terrific biography. I am fascinated by the Kennedy stories too. Enjoyed your review!

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    1. Thanks Pat. I do plan to read a few more Kenndy bios.

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  9. I have been meaning to read this. I read a biography of JFK last year (http://keepthewisdom.blogspot.com/2014/12/an-unfinished-life-john-f-kennedy.html) and even though it was long and detailed, I came away wanting to know more about the whole family.

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    1. That's what happens to me, you read about one and get curious about the others.

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  10. I've read a fair bit on the Kennedys over the years and always felt the s was such a sad part of their story. Different times and her life would have been so different.

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    1. That is so true had she been born at a different time. My aunt had a friend whose daughter was born developmentally disabled in the early 50s and doctors encouraged the mother to lock her away so it would be easier for her other child -- ridiculous. She spent most of her 60 years in an institution - terrible

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  11. Rosemary's story is really heartbreaking. Joseph wasn't just a family patriarch, he was an Old Testament version, and it seems like Rosemary was sacrificed on the altar of image. I think I would like to read this book, but it would most likely make me very angry!

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  12. I'm glad that you liked this one so much. I'm fascinated by the Kennedys and hope to get to this one someday.

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