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Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter Hardcover – October 6, 2015
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—Laurence Leamer, author of The Kennedy Women
In her engaging and compassionate ROSEMARY: THE HIDDEN KENNEDY DAUGHTER, Kate Larson illuminates the poignant story of a resolute girl falling behind in a glamorous and competitive family. Rosemary's own story comes alive against the broader and often shocking background of 20th-century attitudes toward the intellectually disabled, and sheds fascinating light on how the characters of Rose Kennedy, Joe Kennedy, and Rosemary's famous siblings were indelibly shaped by her determined yet tragic life.
—Will Swift, author of The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm
Kate Clifford Larson delivers an engrossing portrait of Rose and Joe Kennedy’s tragic misunderstanding of their oldest daughter’s capabilities, and of how her fate changed the Kennedy family forever. And yet it is Rosemary herself who shines from the pages of this profoundly revealing family story.
—Marya Hornbacher, author of Madness: A Bipolar Life
"A biography that chronicles her life with fresh details . . . What makes this story especially haunting are the might-have-beens . . . The first biographer to have access to all of Rosemary’s known letters, replete with typos and lopsided sentence structure, Larson deploys excerpts in heart-rending fashion . . . By making Rosemary the central character, [Larson] has produced a valuable account of a mental health tragedy, and an influential family’s belated efforts to make amends."
-- The New York Times Book Review
-- Wall Street Journal
"Riveting . . . fascinating . . . compelling."
-- Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Compelling psychological, social and political insight."
-- More magazine
"A heartbreaking book that makes clear the pain and passion behind the Kennedy family’s efforts on behalf of the disabled.”
"Fascinating but heartbreaking reading . . . [with] questions that will haunt the reader long after the last page is turned."
"Well-researched and fascinating . . . Heartbreaking and illuminating, this will serve not only Kennedy fans but also those curious about the history of disabilities in the U.S.”
"Well-researched, entertaining, and illuminating."
-- Kirkus Reviews
From the Inside Flap
Joe and Rose Kennedy’s strikingly beautiful daughter Rosemary attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the queen of England, and traveled the world with her high-spirited sisters. Yet Rosemary was intellectually disabled, a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family.
Major new sources—Rose Kennedy’s diaries and correspondence, letters from Rosemary’s teachers and doctors, and exclusive family interviews—bring Rosemary alive as a girl adored but left far behind by her competitive siblings. Kate Larson reveals both the sensitive care Rose and Joe gave to Rosemary and then—as the family’s standing reached an apex—the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly difficult in her early twenties. Finally, Larson illuminates Joe’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age twenty-three and the family’s complicity in keeping the secret.
Rosemary delivers a profoundly moving coda: JFK visited Rosemary for the first time while campaigning in the Midwest; she had been living isolated in a Wisconsin institution for ten years. Only then did the siblings understand what had happened to Rosemary and bring her home for loving family visits. It was a reckoning that inspired them to direct attention to the plight of the disabled, transforming the lives of millions.
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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Starting with a horrific birth practice, Rosemary's life was never easy. Especially in a family that honors competition and winning above all else.
This is also a story of a girl, and then a woman, whose life should never have been as it was. Even after her traumatic birth, it could have been so much better for her. But we certainly don't want to be embarrassed by a child who is "dull" when her eight siblings shine. My gosh, it was hard to live up to the Kennedy name.
The story is straightforward in its telling. Rosemary's story is anything but straightforward. The poor child was bounced around so often that even a normal child without mental disabilities would have trouble coping. And then there was the traumatic and ill-advised surgery, barbaric.
Some of the children were very good with Rosemary, especially Eunice. It seems Joe, Sr. threw money instead of love at the problem. Rosemary adored her father, and would do anything to please him. And Rose, Rosemary's mother, was not very honest about her daughter when she sent her to different schools, and was not honest in her memoirs. When things got tough, it seems her first action of choice was to take a vacation.
Some of the people who took care of Rosemary sound wonderful, and I'm glad Rosemary had those people in her life.
This book caused me some anger, and much sadness. I lost some respect for some people. Fortunately, things have become better when working with people with mental disabilities, but we're far from winning a gold star.
I was given an advance reader's copy of this book for review. Even the advance copy contained some lovely photographs, which I am sure will be even better in the finished, published edition.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An excellent perscpective on how the "hidden" Kennedy made such a difference on paving the way for the handicapped.Published 3 days ago by Annette V. Murdaca
Fascinated by this family, I knew a little about Rosemary, but had never heard her story. This author seems to bring to light an accurate history of the family's experiences and... Read morePublished 5 days ago by Lori_R
Tragic on so many levels but heartwarming and factual about all of the Kennedy family. A very interesting read.Published 5 days ago by Patricia Snow
I did not know that they had a retarded child. The Kennedy's have always been interesting to me. So this book was very good. I think I put it down twice. Read morePublished 6 days ago by LeMay Amaya
I'm sure most of us have heard snippets through the years about Rosemary and her story, this explains it in more detail. Read morePublished 10 days ago by Faye Nordquist