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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter Kindle Edition
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|Length: 333 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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From the Publisher
An inside look at Rosemary from Kate Clifford Larson
My research for Rosemary makes clear that Rosemary, the eldest Kennedy daughter, read at a third- to fourth-grade level. Her letters—some disclosed for the first time—reveal her struggles and joys with school work, friends, and family. But her lack of advancement as she grew older, and her preference for social activities, frustrated her parents. I could see from their correspondence that they pushed her too hard, and their constant demands for improvement from a child with intellectual disabilities felt insensitive and sometimes even cruel to me. Rosemary’s letters are heartbreaking testimony to her intense loneliness at boarding school—starting when she was only eleven years old—and her rising anxiety over standards she could never meet. Here she is reading a Hollywood gossip magazine during happier times on the beach at Hyannis Port.
Photo: John F. Kennedy Library Foundation
Rosemary attracted the attention of many young men. She loved dances and parties, but complained that her brothers were too often her dance partners. She did not know that when they weren’t partnering her, they purposely kept her dance card filled with specially chosen friends—a responsibility they had been charged with by their father, Joe Kennedy. Rosemary was constantly monitored by her parents and family friend Eddie Moore, shown in this photograph, who restricted her interactions with men to keep her limitations a secret and avert potential embarrassment. Other photos in Rosemary show Joe exerting a noticeable physical grip on his daughter when she was in public situations. My research discloses that when Rosemary rebelled against this tight control, her mother, Rose, tried to have her committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Photo: Peter Hunter/Nederlands Fotomuseum
Rosemary’s spunk and charm were captured by photographers at the American embassy in London on the evening of her official presentation to the king and queen of England in 1938. With only two weeks from her arrival in England to prepare for the social event of the year, Rosemary successfully learned the special curtsy, dances, and other formal etiquette demanded at Buckingham Palace. Rosemary’s stunning beauty, set off at this event by her exquisite designer gown, helped hide her disabilities. I discovered that Rosemary’s time in England would be the happiest of her life, but World War II would abruptly force her return to America and set in motion the end of a promising future.
Photo courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
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After hearing about the book I'm glad I didn't jump the gun and read up on Rosemary. Seeing her life story unfold in the pages of this beautiful biography was my patience rewarded. The first few chapters are as much history as biography. Larson delves into the lives of Rose (Rosemary's mother) and Joe (her father) beginning with their childhoods with particular emphasis on family politics and connections. She then lets the story of Rosemary's, and her siblings, early life unfold before getting into the many schools, teachers, and therapies utilized in an effort to cure Rosemary. Interspersed with the difficulties faced by Rosemary and those who cared for her are her public appearances and social outings. While these were carefully planned to hide her limitations they are a delight to read and often brought a smile to my face thinking of the joy Rosemary took in her inclusion with her family at both minor as well as important functions.
While the book is about Rosemary the woman it's equally about her impact on the Kennedy family, the ways it brought them together and how the difficulties faced altered their dynamic. Much of the facts and detailed were extrapolated from personal letters, particularly during the middle chapters of the book where Rosemary herself was able to write to her parents and siblings. The letters to and from her caregivers and teachers as well as between other members of the family complete the record with few gaps. Conjecture is utilized when the evidence doesn't quite spell out what happened but plausible scenarios are obvious.
There is a photo insert that includes the Kennedy family but focuses on Rosemary herself. I took these pages one at a time so as to not spoil what I had not yet read for myself. I liked this. I looked at the pictures at the conclusion of each chapter and stopped when I came to one of an event or time in her life that I had not yet read about. These photographs add so much.
Much is included on the state of mental healthcare from the 1920's to 1990's and beyond. From the start the Kennedys were essentially on their own to orchestrate her care. This brought about many changes in the care and treatment of persons with intellectual disabilities, which were championed by the Kennedy family and legislated into action during the short years of the Kennedy administration. The book details the ongoing awareness and philanthropic efforts of the Kennedy family and the impact they have had and continue to have on the lives of hundreds of thousands of special needs Americans and their families. This is Rosemary's legacy, began and developed by those who loved her.
I'm deeply saddened over what happened to Rosemary. Her story will stay with me forever. I'm even more saddened for the disabled without families who have the means to cover the cost of personalized round the clock care, a situation that greatly benefited Rosemary and helped her live a life with more kindness and experiences than most others with difficulties. With grief for Rosemary's ordeal and the difficult lives of countless others like her I also have hope for the ever evolving medical research and programs to help special needs children and adults as well as gratitude for my own family, our struggles small in comparison.
Rosemary is a beautiful account of a life that impacted so many others. Well written and through while maintaining a concise writing style this biography is a new benchmark for writing on the Kennedy family and on the history of the education, treatment, and medical care available for those with serious disabilities. It further brings to light the struggles faced by the families of children. This is a biography with wide appeal. Those who enjoy 20th century history, political history of the United States, those who have family members with special needs, those who work with or are interested in past treatment of those with special needs, and anyone who would like to learn more about the Kennedy family would like this book. It's a book which is personal and emotional yet full of factual detail on the lives of Rosemary, the Kennedy family, and the efforts of the family to create a legacy of an ever improving standard of living for people like Rosemary.