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The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women Hardcover – October 7, 2015
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The Missing Kennedy is a truly inspiring story. It captures my Aunt Rosie's spirit so well. I especially love how it intertwines the stories about Rosie and the author's Aunt Stella. And it provides some great glimpses into the author's experiences with both of them. --Anthony Shriver
Reveals an untold chapter in the Kennedy saga . . . Also shows how knowledge of Rosie's disability led to the founding of the Special Olympics by Eunice Kennedy . . . Provides a few interesting glimpses into one member of the Kennedy clan who was almost lost to her family. --Kirkus Reviews
Poignantly discloses our nation's shortcomings, both historically and contemporarily, when it comes to understanding the mentally ill and intellectually challenged. Also reveals the dearth of research concerning the women of the Kennedy family, which pales in comparison to the body of work focused on its men . . . This is especially true of Rosemary Kennedy, the eldest Kennedy sister, who was lobotomized and kept from her family and the public eye for over 20 years . . . It was the author's aunt, Sister Paulus, who was Rosemary Kennedy's caretaker at Saint Coletta, where Rosemary was kept for many years after her lobotomy only exacerbated her intellectual and emotional challenges . . . Koehler-Pentacoff's book offers an intimate glance at the sheltered life that Rosemary lived while her glamorous family grew in prestige and power . . . Heads in the welcome direction of telling the largely untold story of Rosemary Kennedy, and the story of the intellectually challenged and their allies in the fight to place them as equal members of society. --Irish America
About the Author
The author of nine books, including a Writer’s Digest Selection for The ABCs of Writing for Children, Liz has now written an adult memoir, The Missing Kennedy (Bancroft Press), which will be out in 2015.
A former Byline Magazine "Writing for Children" columnist, Liz wrote frequent humor pieces for the San Francisco Examiner as well as hundreds of articles and essays in newspapers and magazines such as Parents Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and Parenting.
With degrees in Liberal Studies and Theater Arts/Children’s Theater and two teaching credentials, she’s directed plays and taught elementary, middle school students, and teachers. A speaker for international and state conferences, she presents assemblies and workshops for schools and libraries.
Born in rural Wisconsin, Liz moved to California for all her college and post-graduate education, and has lived most of her adult life in the San Francisco area. She’s married, and has one grown child.
Visit her blog for writing advice, ideas, and anecdotes http://lizbooks.com/blog/, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her at her website, www.lizbooks.com.
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But only someone with close personal knowledge of Rosemary could have written this book—The Missing Kennedy. And Author Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff is that person. Ms. Koehler-Pentacoff’s beloved aunt, Sister Paulus Koehler, cared for Rosemary Kennedy for thirty-five years. And during that time, the author visited Sister Paulus and Rosemary many times at the Catholic home for the mentally ill in Wisconsin where Rosemary was incarcerated. No writer can achieve this level of detail and insight through research alone.
Rosemary suffered oxygen deprivation during a badly managed birth, leaving her—in words of the era—mentally retarded. She did poorly in school and sports, setting her apart from her smart and athletic siblings. The family kept Rosemary at home until she was sixteen, providing her with tutors and specialists in the hope of making her life as normal as possible. After spending the next two years in a convent, Rosemary returned home once more, unable to progress past the fourth grade.
Even so, Rosemary, diagnosed with mental illness because of her disruptive behavior, could perhaps have had a constrained, but nearly normal life surrounded by loving family members willing to watch out for her. But not long after Joseph Kennedy became the United States Ambassador to England, Rosemary’s frequent anger and out-of-control behavior, coupled with her growing beauty began to put her at risk of trouble.
Sent to a convent at twenty-two years old, the nuns discovered Rosemary sneaked out at night to meet with men in taverns, men only too happy to take advantage of her beauty, lack of sophistication, and disability. Sent back home, Rosemary demanded the same freedom to come and go as her siblings enjoyed. Her behavior sometimes turned violent; she had seizures; she was uncontrollable.
Rosemary’s father, Joseph Kennedy, searched desperately for help. He turned to a doctor (who today would be labeled a quack) in 1941 for a new procedure that promised to help people with agitation, depression, and behavior problems: a lobotomy. The operation as performed on Rosemary essentially destroyed part of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in abstract thinking and regulating behavior.
Rosemary had to learn to walk again, how to talk, how to use the toilet. Locked away for two decades by her father, she had no visitors, no stimulation. The once vibrant beautiful young woman with behavioral problems was gone.
So much of what I’d believed about Rosemary Kennedy is wrong, and the truth is a horrendous cautionary tale about just how badly things can go, even with good intentions. The parallel life stories of two families which intersect with Rosemary Kennedy and Sister Paulus Koehler, is fascinating. Told with compassion and intimate details, The Missing Kennedy is a book that cannot be overlooked.
Connie Goldsmith, book reviewer for The New York Journal of Books, and California Kids, a Sacramento regional parenting publication.
Joe Kennedy and his wife Rose had 9 children, each of whom were the light of their lives. One child in particular caused them more trouble, heartache, and worry than any of the others. Rosemary Kennedy, The Missing Kennedy, was their third child, and their oldest daughter. Her two older brothers were smart, ambitious, and one would become a president. She had four younger sisters, with whom she was incredibly close. Despite her siblings’ success and accomplishments, something seemed wrong with her. At least that’s what her paretns thought. She struggled in school, and didn’t seem to measure up to any of them. Although, in growing up in this household there must have been high expectations.
Rosemary was slower than her siblings, and slower than friends and classmates. She was once diagnosed as mentally retarded. This was in the 1940s. There weren’t many options available for treatment or care for her. During her father’s rising career (he once served as an ambassador to the UK), she was maturing, she was beautiful, and she was believed to be a risk to her brothers’ ambitions. Her behavior was unlike her siblings, and though not out of the ordinary for her age, she was expected to be a proper young lady, especially while living abroad. As her behavior grew more erratic, as she was prone to extreme mood swings, her father began considering his options.
He resorted to a lobotomy. At the time, the surgery was revolutionary. It promised to balance her moods and behavior, and basically keep her in line. After the surgery, she was sent to live in a group home in Wisconsin. This is where the story really begins. The author, Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff’s, aunt was a nun who worked at this group home. Her Aunt Stella became Sister Paulus. Both women came from large, strong, Catholic families. That’s where the similarities ended. Yet, Rosie’s family included Sister Paulus in theirs, the two women took several trips together, and no one cared better for Rosemary than Sister Paulus. The Kennedy family continually expressed their thanks to both her, and the home.
The book was really interesting, and included many personal details that had been shared with Koehler-Pentacoff, who was really close to her aunt. She had exclusive access to this information, as well as a ton of pictures that are shared throughout the book, of her aunt, Rosemary, and the rest of the Kennedy clan who frequently visited her. Part of the story was heartbreaking, knowing that Rosemary went through a procedure that would essentially end her life as she knew it.
The book could’ve been better, but I still enjoyed reading it. Included in this brief history of the Kennedy family, and of the details of Rosemary’s life, is the background of the author’s family – with a focus on the aunt who got to know Rosemary so closely. It takes a special person to care for the disabled – and that’s exactly who Sister Paulus was. She cared for Rosemary better than anyone in the Kennedy family.
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