Rosemary Kennedy

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Rose Marie "Rosemary" Kennedy
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Roze Marija Rozmarija Kenedija
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Rose Marie "Rosemary" Kennedy (September 13, 1918 – January 7, 2005) was the third child and first daughter of Rose Elizabeth Kennedy née Fitzgerald and Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr., born little more than a year after her brother, future U.S. President John F. Kennedy. She underwent a prefrontal lobotomy at age 23, which left her permanently incapacitated.


She was born into an Irish American family at her parents' home in Brookline, Massachusetts, and named Rose Marie Kennedy after her mother but was commonly called Rosemary. To her family, she was known as Rosie.

Rose sent Rosemary to the Sacred Heart Convent in Elmhurst, Providence, Rhode Island at age 15, where she was educated separately from the other students. Two nuns and a special teacher, Miss Newton, worked with her all day in a separate classroom. The Kennedys gave the school a new tennis court for their efforts. Rosemary "read, wrote, spelled and counted" like a fourth-grader. She studied and studied but felt she disappointed her parents, whom she wanted to please. Her mother arranged for her brother Jack to accompany her to a tea-dance where, thanks to him, she appeared "not different at all".

By Massachusetts state law the Binet intelligence test was given to her before first grade as she twice failed to advance from kindergarten on schedule. At the time, a low IQ was interpreted as a moral deficiency and according to Henry H. Goddard, morons were more dangerous than idiots or imbeciles. Morons "...are the persons who make for us our social problems".[7] Rosemary was labeled a "moron", an individual with IQ between 60 and 70 (or an adult with a mental age between eight and twelve).

Her sister Eunice thought that Rosemary's problems arose because a nurse had delayed her birth while the doctor arrived late, depriving her of oxygen. Her mother's cousin thought the marriage of second cousins Josie and John F. Fitzgerald caused it. A biographer wrote that Rose did not confide in her friends and that she pretended Rosie was normal, as relatives beyond the immediate family knew nothing of Rosemary's condition. Eunice surmised from various doctors' visits to their home that Rosemary was both "retarded" and epileptic.

Diaries written by her in the late 1930s, and published in the 1980s, reveal a young woman whose life was filled with outings to the opera, tea dances, dress fittings, and other social interests:

  • "Went to luncheon in the ballroom in the White House. James Roosevelt took us in to see his father, President Roosevelt. He said, 'It's about time you came. How can I put my arm around all of you? Which is the oldest? You are all so big."
  • "Have a fitting at 10:15 Elizabeth Arden. Appointment dress fitting again. Home for lunch. Royal tournament in the afternoon."
  • "Up too late for breakfast. Had it on deck. Played Ping-Pong with Ralph's sister, also with another man. Had lunch at 1:15. Walked with Peggy. also went to horse races with her, and bet and won a dollar and a half. Went to the English Movie at five. Had dinner at 8:45. Went to the lounge with Miss Cahill and Eunice and retired early."

She read few books but could read Winnie-the-Pooh.


She was presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during her father's service as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Her father presented his daughters instead of, more customarily, choosing about thirty young American débutantes, a decision which earned him favor in the press. Rosemary's "slowness" was also unconventional and daring for a debut (two of the queen's nieces remained in a mental hospital because they were mentally ill).

Young women would practice the rather complicated royal curtsey sometimes learning the performance at the Vacani School of Dancing near Harrods. Rosemary practiced for hours and hours. She wore a gown made of white tulle with a net train and carried a bouquet of lilies of the valley. Her sister Kathleen "was stunning, but she was only a shadow of Rosemary's beauty". Just as Rosemary was about to "glide off" by stepping to the right she tripped and nearly fell. Rose never discussed the incident and treated the debut as a triumph. The crowd made no sign, the king and queen smiled as if nothing had happened, and nobody knows if Rosemary was aware of her stumble.[

Rosemary's biographer called her "absolutely beautiful" with "a gorgeous smile". At twenty, she "was a picturesque young woman, a snow princess with flush cheeks, gleaming smile, plump figure, and a sweetly ingratiating manner to almost everyone she met". She "was attracting the attention of young men who took her cryptic silences and deliberate speech as feminine demureness". She loved to dance, and danced "dance after dance" at Kathleen's coming-out party. She gained weight later on which disturbed her father who said she was "getting altogether too fat"


Her parents told Woman's Day that Rosemary was "studying to be a kindergarten teacher", and Parents was told she had "an interest in social welfare work, she is said to harbor a secret longing to go on the stage". The Boston Globe wrote requesting an interview which was declined, but her father's assistant Eddie Moore prepared a response, which Rosemary copied out laboriously, letter by letter: "I have always had serious tastes and understand life is not given us just for enjoyment. For some time past, I have been studying the well known psychological method of Dr. Maria Montessori and I got my degree in teaching last year."

Rosemary, at age 21, had indeed been sent by her parents to a convent school in England that trained Montessori teachers. Her companion Dorothy Gibbs remembers a promise from Rosemary to not be "fierce" with her students because it is "not 'Montessori'"


Placid and easygoing as a child and teenager, the maturing Kennedy became increasingly assertive in her personality. She was reportedly subject to violent mood swings. Some observers have since attributed this behavior to her difficulties in keeping up with siblings who were expected to perform to high standards, as well as the hormonal surges associated with puberty. In any case, the family had difficulty dealing with the often-stormy Rosemary, who had begun to sneak out at night from the convent where she was educated and cared for.

In 1941, when Rosemary was 23, doctors told her father that a new neurosurgical procedure, lobotomy, would help calm her mood swings and sometimes-violent outbursts. At the time, relatively few lobotomies had been performed; James W. Watts, who carried out the procedure with Walter Freeman, described what happened:

"We went through the top of the head, I think she was awake. She had a mild tranquilizer. I made a surgical incision in the brain through the skull. It was near the front. It was on both sides. We just made a small incision, no more than an inch." The instrument Dr. Watts used looked like a butter knife. He swung it up and down to cut brain tissue. "We put an instrument inside," he said. As Dr. Watts cut, Dr. Freeman put questions to Rosemary. For example, he asked her to recite the Lord's Prayer or sing "God Bless America" or count backwards. ... "We made an estimate on how far to cut based on how she responded." ... When she began to become incoherent, they stopped


Rosemary lived for several years at Craig House, a private psychiatric hospital an hour north of New York City. In 1949, she moved to a house in Jefferson, Wisconsin where she lived for the rest of her life on the grounds of the St. Coletta School for Exceptional Children (formerly known as "St. Coletta Institute for Backward Youth").

Archbishop Cushing had told her father about St. Coletta's, an institution for more than three hundred people with disabilities, and her father traveled to and built a private house for her about a mile outside St. Coletta's main campus near Alverno House which was designed for adults who needed lifelong care. The nuns called the house "the Kennedy cottage". Thanks to her trust fund, Rosemary lived better than the other residents. Two Catholic nuns, Sister Margaret Ann and Sister Leona, provided her care along with a student and a woman who worked on ceramics with Rosemary three nights a week. Alan Borsari supervised the team and was able to call in specialists. Rosemary had a dog and a car that could be used to take her for rides.

Joseph was concerned about the public image of his family and wrote in 1958 to the superintendent at St. Coletta's:

"I am still very grateful for your help. After all, the solution of Rosemary's problem has been a major factor in the ability of all the Kennedys to go about their life's work and to try to do it as well as they can."

Because of the severity of her condition, Rosemary became largely detached from her family, but was visited regularly by her mother and by her sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. did not visit Rosemary at the institution. Occasionally, Rosemary was taken to visit relatives in Florida and Washington, D.C., and to her childhood home on Cape Cod. Biographer Laurence Leamer says she was more part of the family after Rose suffered a stroke at age 66, that Rosemary flew "three or four times a year" from Milwaukee to Palm Beach, Hyannis Port, Washington or New York City to visit her relatives, and that Eunice flew to Wisconsin at least once a year.

Publicly, Rosemary was declared to be mentally handicapped. "Only a few doctors who worked for the Kennedys knew the truth about Rosemary's condition, as did the FBI," because of a background check of Joe. Joe's attorney told them she had a "mental illness". Perhaps because of the episode, Eunice later founded the Special Olympics, and Joe founded and endowed philanthropies for people with developmental disabilities. In 1983, the Kennedy family gave $1 million to renovate Alverno House. The gift added a therapeutic pool and enlarged the chapel.

Rosemary's rage disappeared over the years. Borsari thought that she may have mellowed with age or that she found other ways to get people's attention. During Rosemary's seventies, Sister Margaret Ann discovered Rosemary had problems with her knee. She and Borsari flew to Chicago with Rosemary for her operation. The staff spent several days acclimatising her to the hospital and her room, where a staff member slept next to her. She did not become frightened at the strange surroundings and "made a remarkable recovery".

Rosemary died from natural causes on January 7, 2005, at the Fort Atkinson Memorial Hospital in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, at the age of 86, with her sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, and her brother U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy by her side. She was the fifth of the Kennedy children to die, but the first to die from natural causes. A genealogical website indicates that she was buried in Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts. There is no discernible grave marker.


Researchers disagree over Rosemary's preoperative condition. According to biographer Laurence Leamer, Rosemary was "probably the first person with mental retardation in America to receive a prefrontal lobotomy"; but biographer Ronald Kessler, author of The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded, quotes Dr. Bertram S. Brown, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, who said, "Even in [Dr. Watts'] day, performing a lobotomy on someone who was mentally retarded would have been medical malpractice."

Kessler conducted the only interview with Watts before he died, who "told the author that, in his opinion, Kennedy had suffered not from mental retardation, but from a form of depression. ... 'It may have been agitated depression, you're agitated, you're shaky. You talk in an agitated way.'" Kessler writes, "A review of all records by the two doctors confirmed Dr. Watt's [sic] declaration. ... None of the papers listed any of the patients as being mentally retarded. ... According to a review in the American Journal of Psychiatry, of all reports of lobotomies ever done, the procedure was only used for psychiatric illness."

Her father's aide, Edward Moore, with whom Rosemary lived for years before her family moved to London for her father's ambassadorship, told her father's mistress Gloria Swanson, "She's not quite right", tapping his head. Returning from London at the age of 22, Rosemary apparently regressed in mental skills, became "tense and irritable, upset easily and unpredictably ... tantrums ... rages ... convulsive episodes".

Kathleen Kennedy's former boyfriend, John White, claimed that Kathleen admitted to him the secret that Rosemary had learning problems, but what really concerned her father were "mood changes" and a "new neurological disturbance." She added that "the family considered Rosemary a disgrace and failure". At age 16 she wrote to her father, "I would do anything to make you so happy. I hate to disapoint [sic] you in anyway [sic]." Her diary reveals an ability to write about and understand various situations around her.

"One of the doctors who knew the truth was [Dr. Brown], ... executive director of the President's Panel on Mental Retardation," Kessler writes. "According to Dr. Brown, the fact that Rosemary could do arithmetic meant that her IQ was well above 75, the cutoff used by most states for purposes of classification in schools to define mental retardation." At the age of nine, she did problems like 428 × 32 = 13696, 3924 / 6 = 654. Kessler quotes Dr. Brown, "If she did division and multiplication, she was over an IQ of 75. She was not mentally retarded. ... It could be she had an IQ of 90 in a family where everyone was 130, so it looked like retardation, but she did not fall into IQ 75 and below, which is the definition of mental retardation. ... There is no way I can picture her at less than a 90 IQ, but in that family, 90 would be considered retarded."

Kessler adds that in Dr. Brown's opinion, the family's treatment of Rosemary led to her mental illness. "I think it's likely she was somewhat slower than the others. Then she was treated as if she was retarded. Then it becomes reactive depression, including rages and loss of control. That is mental illness. ... The reason she got depressed was that she reacted to being treated as a lesser member of the family." While the children tried to include her in their activities, "given the highly competitive environment of the Kennedy family, they could not help but to communicate to her that she was not up to their standards." The fact that Joe banished Rosemary to live with his aide demonstrated his rejection of her. "The stigma of mental illness in those days was like tuberculosis or cancer or worse. Mental retardation is more benignly not your fault...."






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        Saistītās personas vārdsSaitesDzimšanas datumsMiršanas datumsApraksts
        1Džozefs Patriks Kenedijs vecākaisDžozefs Patriks Kenedijs vecākaisTēvs06.09.188818.11.1969
        2Rose KennedyRose KennedyMāte22.07.189022.01.1995
        3Džons Ficdžeralds KenedijsDžons Ficdžeralds KenedijsBrālis29.05.191722.11.1963
        4Joe Kennedy Jr.Joe Kennedy Jr.Brālis25.07.191512.08.1944
        5Edvards  KenedijsEdvards KenedijsBrālis22.02.193225.08.2009
        6Roberts KenedijsRoberts KenedijsBrālis20.11.192506.06.1968
        7Patricia  KennedyPatricia KennedyMāsa06.05.192417.09.2006
        8Ketlina KenedijaKetlina KenedijaMāsa20.02.192013.05.1948
        9Eunice ShriverEunice ShriverMāsa10.07.192111.08.2009
        10John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr.John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr.Brāļa/māsas dēls25.11.196016.07.1999
        11Ethel KennedyEthel KennedySvaine11.04.1928
        12Žaklīna  OnasisŽaklīna OnasisSvaine28.07.192919.05.1994
        13Питер ЛоуфордПитер ЛоуфордSvainis07.09.192324.12.1984
        14Sargent  ShriverSargent ShriverSvainis09.11.191518.01.2011

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