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What Happened to Rosemary Kennedy After Her Lobotomy?

The Kennedys are known for the glitz and glamor during their height in fame. With many of them in politics during that time, the Kenedy family devoted their time and resources to civil service for over a century. But did you know that they had a few secrets here and there?

Rosemary Kennedy, the sister of John F Kennedy, was forced to get a lobotomy. The procedure was arranged by her father, Joseph P. Kennedy, when she was just 23. After the procedure, she was left incapacitated for the rest of her life.

Who is Rosemary Kennedy?

Rose Marie Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on September 13, 1918. She was the first daughter of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Fritzgerald. She was fondly named after her mother but was commonly referred to as Rosemary or Rosie at home.

When she was born, the doctor could not get to her mother immediately as there was an outbreak of Spanish Influenza at the time. The nurse attending to Rose told her to keep her legs closed until the doctor came. This forced the baby’s head to stay inside the birth canal for hours, which resulted in the lack of oxygen.

Growing up, it was evident that Rosemary was experiencing some delay in basic development. She didn’t reach her milestones in a timely manner as most infants or toddlers would. As time passed, accounts indicated that Rosemary was intellectually disabled. Although, there have been some questions about the true nature of her disability.

A biographer who wrote about the Kennedys said that Rose Kennedy did not even confide in her closest friends. She pretended that Rosemary was developing well like any other child. Close relatives did not even know about Rosemary’s supposed low IQ.

By the age of 11, Rosemary was sent to a boarding school for the intellectually disabled. Despite the help of many tutors, she was genuinely struggling to catch up with academics. This led to her transfer to the Sacred Heart Convent in Providence, Rhode Island, at 15. There she was educated separately from the other students with three different teachers. For their efforts, the Kennedys gifted the school with a new tennis court. (Source: JFK Library)

The Diaries of Rosemary Kennedy

By the time she could catch up on reading and writing skills, Rosemary kept a diary. As a teenager, she described the people she met, the dances, and the concerts she attended in her journal. She even wrote about her visit to the White House when Roosevelt was in office.

When her father was appointed US Ambassador to the United Kingdom, she went to live in London. She was presented in court with her sister Kathleen and mother. They returned to the United States by 1940. Her sister, Eunice, noticed a slight change in Rosemary upon their return.

Rosemary was not making progress but seemed instead to be going backward. At 22, she was becoming increasingly irritable and difficult.

Eunice Kennedy

(Source: JFK Library)

Why Did They Decide to Do A Lobotomy?

In 1941, Joseph Kennedy arranged for a procedure to be done. He was told that the lobotomy would help calm Rosemary as she developed highly violent mood swings. Back then, the operation was relatively new, and people truly believed that the treatment would work.

Unfortunately, Rosemary was left permanently incapacitated and unable to care for herself after the procedure was done. Archbishop Cushing recommended that Rosemary be sent to the St. Coletta’s School for Exceptional Children in Jefferson, Wisconsin, where she would spend the rest of her life in. Rosemary passed away on January 7, 2005, at the age of 86. (Source: JFK Library)

1 thought on “What Happened to Rosemary Kennedy After Her Lobotomy?”

  1. Linda Roberts

    That was the worst decision he could of made.Ignorance!Everyone has problems.They were just ashamed because she had issues and they didn’t want to have to deal with the public with Rosemary’s disability.They didn’t know much about seizures back then.Damn!I feel sorry for her being born into that family.

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