Book Review Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter


Title: Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Author: Kate Clifford Larson

Genre: Non Fiction

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release Date: October 6, 2015

Pages: 320

Buy Links: Amazon/Barnes & Noble


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.

My Thoughts: 

The Kennedy family has been a family that has been in the spotlight for a very long time as a political family. The family has also had a lot of tragedy.  I was interested in this book because like so many others I’m the Kennedy’s and their life.

The title of this book however is a bit misleading. Rosemary wasn’t fully hidden. People knew she existed. What they didn’t know was her full life story or where she was for a majority of her adult life. I think a better title would of be “The Secret Life of Rosemary Kennedy”.

Rosemary had intellectual delays stemming from errors in her home birth. When she was a child, they did not have all the laws, and medical intervention they do now for the intellectually delayed. The children were often institutionalized at an early age.

I am willing to give Rose and Joe the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t know any better back then. The way they raised Rosemary and took care of her care is appalling. I feel they did more damage handling things the way they did. Rose and Joe were more interested in how they looked to others than the full care of their daughter.

As her siblings became adults they all in their way helped to create the laws and organizations in place to day to help the intellectually delayed. I am glad that some good came out of the mistreatment Rosemary suffered. I can only imagine the hurt, confusion and anger she felt.
This is the type of book that stays with you and would be a great discussion book. I read this book in one day.

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