What does a father do when one of his children does not quite live up to the high standards he insists upon?
Well, if that father is of one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the world, he orders a lobotomy for the pretty 23 year old problem child.
Rosemary (Rose Marie) Kennedy, the first daughter of Joseph P. Kennedy and his wife Rose, was born in 1918 and spent the largest part of her life as the ‘Kennedy family secret.’
She was the third child of nine that would be born to the prestigious Kennedy clan but, as she grew, it became more and more obvious that the pretty little girl was not quite right. She had great difficulty advancing and by the time she reached kindergarten, she was unable to move forward into the first grade due to her inability to learn. She struggled constantly to fit in at school, as well as with her own family. Her intellectual disabilities, a shameful reality in the Kennedy house, were kept secret to any and all outsiders. Even her siblings learned not speak of their sister’s shameful disabilities.
At age 15, Rosemary, with reading, writing and math skills to be that of a fourth grader’s, her mother sent her to the Sacred Heart Convent in Rhode Island to receive personalized education. She studied hard but consistently fell short of the expectations of her parents. She just could not seem to find a place amid the competitive, intelligent and extremely ambitious family that she had been born into.
One thing that did happen with certain normality, was Rosemary’s blossoming into a very beautiful young woman. Her parents worried about this as young men became interested and they feared that her inability to handle a relationship with respectful maturity could cause problems for her politically minded brothers. And any interference with the high ranking political goals of the Kennedy boys would never be tolerated by her father.
As she matured, Rosemary, who was an easy going little girl, became more rebellious and aggressive in her mannerism. She developed sudden violent mood swings and became very assertive. All of these new traits that were developing in Rosemary were a source of worry for her father who expected certain standards from all of his children. He started fretting over any and every behavior that may cause embarrassment for his family and/or the political goals of the rest of the children in his clan.
In order to ‘better’ the unsettling and constantly worrisome situation with his now 23 year old daughter, Joe Kennedy made a doctor’s appointment for Rosemary for a new with a neurosurgical procedure that would calm her mood swings and quiet her sudden outburst of violence. Without telling his wife and children, Joe delivered Rosemary into the hands of the men that would ultimately change her life forever.
Rosemary, who, without doubt, did not understand what was about to happen, lay on an operating table and blindly trusted the one man she loved and believed in, as he stepped aside and allowed two doctors to perform a lobotomy on his daughter.
“We went through the top of the head, I think she was awake. She had a mild tranquilizer. I made a surgical incision in the brain through the skull. It was near the front. It was on both sides. We just made a small incision, no more than an inch. The instrument Dr. Watts used looked like a butter knife. He swung it up and down to cut brain tissue. We put an instrument inside, and as Dr. Watts cut, Dr. Freeman put questions to Rosemary. For example, he asked her to recite the Lord’s Prayer or sing God Bless America or count backwards. We made an estimate on how far to cut based on how she responded. When she began to become incoherent, they stopped.” (Wikipedia)
Unfortunately, the procedure that was supposed to diminish Rosemary’s ‘intellectual disabilities’ back fired and instead she suddenly became a two year old unable to walk, speak more than a few simple words and was now incontinent. She was immediately institutionalized at the Craig House in New York City. In 1949, Rosemary was moved to Wisconsin, where she spent the rest of her life.
Joe had a cabin built for his daughter on the grounds of the institution and, because she could do nothing for herself, employed caregivers to look after her. Neither Joe nor Rose visited their daughter at the institution for over twenty years. They explained her absence by claiming she was reclusive and too busy working as a teacher for disabled children and chose to keep her work private. The reality of her situation was only revealed after JFK became the President in 1961 and even then the truth was not actually presented. It was simply stated that she was mentally retarded and the botched butchery of her brain was still kept secret.
Rosemary Kennedy died in 2005 from natural causes at the age of 86.
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