"'I don't know what it is that makes eight children shine like a
dollar and another dull. I guess it's the hand of God. But we just
do the best we can and try to help wherever we can.'" (Joe Kennedy as
quoted in Rosemary)
When I was growing up America elected its first Catholic
president: John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I think his family's charisma
was aided by the ascendancy of television. But in short order they
were shaping not only protocol and policy, but areas as far afield as
fashion. (My college professor mother, who was required to wear a hat
when going between buildings, loved her little First Lady popularized
pill box hats.) When JFK was assassinated much too soon his presidency
became referred to as a latter day Camelot. Today we still have
Kennedys serving in government. While I was reading this book I
received an email about a new Kennedy born to a legislator.
When we think of clan Kennedy words like power, achievement, and
charisma tend to come to mind. Can you imagine what it would be to be
born developmentally delayed into such a high achieving and ambitious
family? To struggle and still see younger siblings achieve more and
attain greater privileges? That was the plight of Rosemary, Joe
Kennedy's third child and first daughter.
Kate Clifford Larsen's Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter
tells her story. She was born in a time when far less was known about
about mental and psychological challenges. When younger sisters
bypassed her in achievements her parents realized something was
wrong. They were faced with a double dilemma. The family's political
ambitions kept all members of the family in public view with high
expectations. That was when prejudices regarding developmental delay
included belief in "bad seed" that was to lead to the eugenics
movement. Even as they struggled to find the school that would have
the right program to effect a cure, they were confronted with having
to carefully control what the public saw of her.
I would highly recommend Rosemary, particularly to the legions
who are enamoured of all things Kennedy. It is a well written book,
rich in background material that offers insight into topics such as
treatment of people with mental challenges and the role of women
across the majority of the twentieth century.
On a personal note, my birth family owes a debt of gratitude to
Rosemary. It is widely believed that intimate familiarity with her
plight inspired her sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, to work on their
behalf, not only through special olympics, but through committing a
significant amount of family philanthropy toward research and programs
to help people with developmental delays. My only sibling suffered
significant brain damage from spinal meningitis as a child.
A great big shout out to all who continue this very crucial work.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod