Rosemary Kennedy is the immediate younger sister of President John F. Kennedy and the oldest daughter of their parents. Not much was known about her by the public as compared to other members of the famous family because of her incapacitation from a prefrontal lobotomy; a neurosurgical treatment for mental disorders.
Kennedy suffered from mental illness from birth although this was at that time not known as her family made sure to keep it a secret due to the stigma against mental diseases. At the age of 23, she was one of the first people to undergo the treatment which did not go as planned and left her institutionalized until her death.
Rosemary Kennedy was born Rose Marie Kennedy, the third of nine children to Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., on the 13th of September, 1918, in Brookline, Massachusetts. She suffered a lack of oxygen to her brain during her birth because a nurse held her back in the birth canal due to the lateness of the obstetrician that was supposed to deliver her. That action had lasting consequences and resulted in a mental deficiency.
As an infant, Kennedy failed to meet the basic development steps. This carried on into her toddler years as she found it hard to learn how to sit up, crawl, walk, and feed herself. As a child, she was unable to keep up with her peers and siblings in sporting and educational activities. She later developed seizures, which was discovered to be related to mental illness, and due to the stigma against the disease at the time, the family decided to pull her out of school and hired a private tutor.
Rosemary or Rosie, as she was now fondly called, was later sent to a boarding school; the Sacred Heart Convent in Rhode Island where she was tutored separately from other students and given special attention, a deal which the Kennedys sweetened with a new school tennis court. The young girl went on to have a normal childhood which her mother made sure of by putting in extra effort.
In 1938, Kennedy’s father was appointed United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His whole family, including Rosemary, moved across the Atlantic where she, in particular, found peace and a sense of normalcy at a Catholic school that she was enrolled in. The family, however, had to move back Stateside just two years later following the invasion of Paris by Germany and some other political faux pas committed by her father in his position.
Back in the US, Rosemary Kennedy was enrolled into another convent school, this time in Washington, D.C. The now stunning looking girl began attracting admirers but also grew rebellious, which led her to have violent outbursts and also sneak out of school at night and go to bars, meeting strange men and sleeping with them.
What Happened To Rosemary Kennedy – Her Ordeal With Lobotomy Treatment
Rosemary Kennedy’s erratic actions caused heartbreak for her father who was now desperate to find a solution to his daughter’s problems. As soon as he got wind of a neurosurgical procedure that could cure physically and mentally disabled people, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. signed his daughter up for the procedure without even informing his wife.
After the procedure was done, it was apparent to be an obvious failure as Kennedy’s mental capacity diminished to that of a two-year-old who could not walk, speak coherently, or control urination. She was immediately moved out of the limelight and institutionalized at Craig House, a private psychiatric hospital outside New York City.
After a few years, she was relocated to St. Coletta School for Exceptional Children in Jefferson, Wisconsin. She was subsequently separated and kept away from the family, with her mother not setting eyes on her for up to twenty years. The Kennedys’ simply explained that Rosemary was reclusive, only revealing in 1961 after John was elected President that she was mentally retarded without providing more information in regard to the lobotomy.
Following their father’s death, the Kennedy siblings began again associating with their sister, bringing her on visits to their childhood home as well as to other family events. President John Kennedy went on to sign into law the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Amendment to the Social Security Act while Eunice Kennedy founded the Special Olympics in 1962 as a way to honor their sister.
Rosemary Kennedy eventually died from natural causes at the age of 86 on January 7, 2005, in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. She is buried in Holyhood Cemetery beside her parents in Brookline, Massachusetts.