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.
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The forgotten Kennedy is forgotten no longer. Rosemary is a rare thing, a book aboutthe Kennedys that has something new to say. Laurence Leamer, author ofThe Kennedy Women
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 ofMadness: A Bipolar Life
In her engaging and compassionate Rosemary, 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 twentieth-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 ofThe Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm
KATE CLIFFORD LARSON is the author of two critically acclaimed biographies: Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero and The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln. She has been a consultant and interpretive specialist for numerous museum and public history initiatives, focusing on the lives and contributions of women in the making of our national identity.
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