Rosemary Kennedy (1918-2005) eldest daughter of Joseph P. & Rose, spent her life paying for the mistakes of others, starting with a birth botched by an attendant that resulted in intellectual disability, and later a fateful decision by her father to use experimental surgery to “correct” his eldest daughter’s unpredictable mood swings and behavior. The Kennedy family was an inhospitable place for an “underachiever,” despite that she had grown into a lovely and loving young woman (illustrated by never-before-published photographs), and a disastrous lobotomy at age 23 resulted in her being hidden away for years. Only after the patriarch’s death did other family members begin finding their way back to her.
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter details that, despite the faulty decisions made on Rosemary’s behalf, her parents did explore many avenues of possible educational help for her. Unfortunately, there was no “cure” for the damage done, and the attempt to mitigate it caused far more grave disability. Yet Rosemary remained loved by her family and was of particular inspiration to younger sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who worked tirelessly on behalf of the mentally disabled until her own death.
The author brings the book to an effective conclusion by stressing the likelihood that it was the family’s love of Rosemary combined with knowledge of the misunderstandings, treatment and trials she suffered, that contributed to their efforts toward improved perceptions, conditions and treatment for the mentally ill and intellectually disabled in our country and in the world. Despite Rosemary Kennedy’s tragedy, her suffering served as inspiration for such institutions as the Special Olympics, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the many other strides in treatment and attitudes toward the mentally challenged.