The Kennedy’s are one of the most famous families in American history, with one of the most tragedies, as well. One of those tragedies was hidden for years, however, and only in more recent times, has the truth about JFK’s sister – Rosemary – been revealed.
When Rose Kennedy went into labor, the nurse attending didn’t want to deliver the baby without a doctor. However, there was no doctor available, so when the child began emerging, the nurse shoved the head back up into the birth canal, and held her there for two hours. The child survived and was named Rose Marie, but because she had been deprived of oxygen for so long, she was developmentally-disabled. Nicknamed Rosemary, she had an IQ between 60 and 70.
The Kennedy’s didn’t know what to do about Rosemary, except try to “cure” her. Rose never confided in friends and always acted as if Rosemary was like her other children when asked. Rosemary’s older brother, Joe Jr., would take her to parties, where no one could ever tell Rosemary was different. When Joe went to Germany in 1934, he developed disturbing views, and wrote that Hitler’s sterilization law – which applied to disabled and mentally-challenged people like Rosemary – was a “great thing.” His father agreed with him.
When the family went to England, Rosemary and the younger Kathleen were presented at court. Rosemary had to learn all kinds of protocols and rituals, and did so well that the press had no idea she was any different than other girls, and focused on her beautiful smile. Rosemary began attending a Montessori school in England, where she thrived. However, once war became imminent, she had to come home, and the real trouble began.
Rosemary rebelled, and would sneak out of the convent where she lived. She would even become violent at times, and lash out at those around her. The nuns at the convent were also concerned she was sexually-active. The idea of a lobotomy came up, with Kathleen investigating. When she talked to a reporter about it, he described the negative after-effects people had experienced, and Kathleen told her mother that it was “nothing we want done for Rosie.” However, in 1941, the 23-year old Rosemary was taken by her father to the clinic and given a lobotomy. Rose would claim that she had no idea about anything of it, but many historians are doubtful.
The lobotomy was botched, and Rosemary’s mental capabilities were degraded to those of a 2-year old. The procedure had transformed her from a joyful young woman to a shell of her former self, who could barely speak. She was whisked away to an institution. Her siblings didn’t even know where she was, and Joe Sr. told one of the sisters that Rosemary had gone away to teach in the Midwest.
In 1958, two years before he was elected President, John finally got to see his sister and was horrified. In 1963, he signed the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Amendment to the Social Security Act, which was the first major legislation of its kind.
Joe Sr. never visited his daughter after her lobotomy. Rose went two decades without seeing her. When she finally did, Rosemary ran down the hall, but instead of embracing her mother, she beat her mother’s chest with her fists, screaming. The nuns had to wrench her away. Rose became more active in her daughter’s care after her husband’s death, but Rosemary never forgave her mother for abandoning her.
The remaining years were kinder to Rosemary, as her siblings reconnected with her. She died in 2005 at 86. Her legacy endures, and inspired the Kennedy’s to form several charities, including the Special Olympics.
More secrets about the Kennedy’s – specifically JFK – are going to be released soon.