Book Review: “Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

Hello!

Since ending my original reading challenge for the year in July, I’ve only finished one book for August and September, but October was a little different. I continue to read multiple books at the same time but I’m not going through them as quickly as I did in the beginning of the year. I find it a little weird but I think if I can finish out the year with 25 books is an awesome accomplishment!

Last month I found a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a very long time, since probably 2015, but I never saw it on the shelves at Wal-Mart after it came out (and trust me, I searched for it!) so it has been a part of my TBR list for much longer than I wanted it to. However, I was going through Prime Reading one day and just scrolling through and there I saw that beautiful cover that has basically been plastered into my depths of my mind for the past six years, and I knew I just had to get it.


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They were the most prominent American family of the twentieth century. The daughter they secreted away made all the difference.

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. And yet, Rosemary was intellectually disabled — a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family. Major new sources — Rose Kennedy’s diaries and correspondence, school and doctors’ letters, 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 intractable 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 nearly twenty 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.

taken from Goodreads.

I may not be interested in politics, but there have been a few Presidents in the past that I have enjoyed learning about over the years–some were forced because of school but my love for the Kennedy’s has always been something I’ve grown to learn about on my own. Since I am a history lover, the story about the Kennedy family has been like my other obsession’s; where I have to watch every documentary and movie about them. Thanks to this though, I did have some knowledge about Rosemary Kennedy but it honestly wasn’t much until I was able to read this book by Kate Clifford Larson that I really got a bitter sense about Rosemary in general but also the ins and outs of the elite American families in the mid-1900’s!

I think there are many things to keep in mind about reading this book, Rosemary was born in early 1918, at a time where disability as a whole was looked down upon by everybody. Despite the fact that Rose and Joe Kennedy chose to keep her at home with their family, it wasn’t the norm back then. Some families were very embarrassed by any kind of imperfection, especially a family that was in the media a lot through aristocratic events and political campaigns. She was taught to be a lady out in public and Kate does make a point to say how much Rosemary loved to dress up and dance with various boys, who wouldn’t know she was disabled at all because she carried herself in such a way that she had to be absolutely perfect.

When I started reading, I began to really feel for both Rose and Joe, because in a way they reminded me of my own parents. They didn’t quite know what to do with this child, who is completely different than other children they have been around. Although Rosemary had two older brothers, I had two older cousins so my folks clearly knew I was going to have more challenges to deal with compared to them. The differences between Rosemary and I, she went to various Catholic owned schools in the Boston area, plus a boarding school in England whereas I stayed in two schools close to home. I was put in a number of special needs classes while in school but I was also taking regular classes as well. My disability was mainly physical, not mentally but I would still occasionally socialize with kids who had one or other and sometimes both too.

There were a lot of stuff that I was happy about, like when Joe Jr. and Jack would take Rosemary to dances and actually dance with their younger sister. They seemed to really care for her, technically all of the Kennedy children absolutely adored her! The two sisters Rosemary was basically paired up with all through her life were Kathleen or Kick as she was called by family and close friends, and Eunice. Rosemary and Kick went to a debutante ball in England when Joe Kennedy was an Ambassador for the United States just before World War II broke out. The author mentions how much Rosemary was like her mother Rose on her love of fashion, but the fact that she made such a positive impact on everyone to the King George VI and Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, to the press and rest of the families invited to the huge event makes you think how much jealous could have been produced among the sisters.

Now there is a chapter that I really grew to hate, and it is titled “November 1941” and this date is significant because this was when Rosemary Kennedy was changed forever after having the a new operation: it is called a “lobotomy” and although this is a known to have happened to her now, but only one person is known to make the decision for her to have it done. Let’s just say that I lost faith in this person afterwards. I was so angered by the result of it and found out how this person died to be a little bit of karma working some magic later on in their life.

Anyways, I did have a favorite chapter and it was the last – which was “Rosemary Made The Difference” and this was such a great section because as much as the Kennedy clan didn’t want to make their work about creating better medical discoveries, school teachings, and other resources for mental challenged people to be defined by Rosemary, but they were clearly inspired by everything she went through all through her life but also what her siblings saw as well. Eunice Kennedy was able to do a lot in the small amount of time while both of her brothers Jack and Robert Kennedy were in office as President and Senator respectively, like creating the Special Olympics! Rosemary’s youngest sibling Ted Kennedy was also responsible for getting the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) into law in 1990.

Rosemary is at the heart of everything, without her, I feel like the Kennedy name would be extremely different. Everybody knows about the ‘curse’ that plaques this family. but more people need to know about Rosemary, the ups and downs on how it was like (and still is) to be disabled in a world where everyone has to fit a certain mold to be accepted into society and that was the main reason why I wanted to talk about of these chapters on here.

I hope you check out this book whether or not you are as obsessed about The Kennedys. If you are taking part in Nonfiction November, or if you are interested in learning about mental disabilities throughout history, maybe you should consider giving this a chance. I hope you enjoy!

Have you read “Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter” by Kate Clifford Larson yet? If you have, what were your thoughts about it?

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