Rosemary Kennedy

Kennedy, sister of JFK and Robert Kennedy, was born in 1918, when the specter of influenza was haunting the world. As a result, doctors were in high demand and overworked. When Rose Kennedy went into labor with Rosemary at her house in Brookline, MA, no doctor was present. The midwife therefore forcefully pushed Rosemary, her third child and first daughter, back into the birth canal in order to delay the process. This most likely caused severe oxygen shortage going to the baby’s brain, causing later mental development issues.

Rosemary Kennedy suffered from violent seizures, severe temper tantrums and learning difficulties. She changed private schools over five times, always placed at too difficult of a level. Born into the Kennedy family, a family driven by ambition and very concerned with their public image, she always stood out as the odd one, lagging behind her eight siblings.

When she started to see and date different men in her early twenties, her father—a prominent diplomat, who was eager to get his sons into politics—wanted to find a way to “calm Rosemary down” and avoid her staining the family’s name with her “strange” behavior or (even worse) a pregnancy out of wedlock.

Finally, in 1941, when Rosemary was 23, her father decided to have her undergo a lobotomy: a supposed “miracle cure” for “difficult cases”. Without her mother’s knowledge (or the consent of Rosemary herself, which was not required at the time) the procedure was performed, leaving her incontinent and unable to walk and talk coherently.

After her Lobotomy, Rosemary never was to live at home ever again, tucked away into a care facility just a few hours from her family. Her father, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., told the family that she had become a school teacher in the Midwest. Family members later reported that she was never mentioned at home again. Three of her siblings ended up pursuing careers in politics, just as their father had envisioned.

Rosemary’s whereabouts were disguised until 1987, when her father, suffering from health issues, finally disclosed the truth. During her time at the care facility Rosemary managed to teach herself how to walk again. 40 years after haven fallen victim to this cruel “medical” procedure, she was able to hug her siblings again.

Rosemary Kennedy died in 2005 at the age of 86.

This image shows a skull which has undergone the so-called “Ice Pick” method, also known as transorbital lobotomy. It was performed by inserting a sharp object into the skull through the eye holes. The damage caused to the brain was somehow believed to relieve the patient from their “tormented state of mind”.

© “Skull with Evidence of Transorbital Lobotomy,” The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library @muttermuseum

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