Rosemary, The Hidden Kennedy Daughter


An extremely moving talk about Rosemary Kennedy.  Please see the entire video at the bottom of this post. For whatever we think of the Kennedy’s especially Joe Kennedy I found myself listening to this talk from the perspective of parents with an intellectually/developmentally disabled child. Despite all their resources and riches the techniques, programs, services and medical care that is available today was not there in the 1920s/1930s.

In some parts of the film relate to the mother Rose Kennedy via my mother Mable Palmer. I can clearly imagine the frustration of placing your child in school after school waiting for the miracle result that never manifests even with all your wealth, power and influence.  Like the Kennedy’s our parents always impressed upon me that we must stick together. “Blood is thicker than water.”  As you know from previous posts I am very protective of my brother Stephen.   I also know and remember the stigma, shame and guilt my mother Mable Palmer went through in the 1960s/70s so it must have been even worse in the 1920s/30s.

Initially Stephen screamed. All. The. Time.  I don’t know how my mother managed. Dad went to work every day so he got a break.  After a time Stephen stopped screaming and eventually did speak but to this day he cannot carry on a conversation though he will listen to the other people around him and respond if questioned.

However my parents drew the line at any type of medical experimentation. Plus being working class obviously our parents especially our Mom were much more hands on. Daddy did take us out on the weekends so Mommy could get a break. They refused to institutionalize Stephen.

However having said that I cannot pass judgments on Joe and Rose Kennedy having Rosemary lobotomized. At that time a lobotomy was considered a cure for various types of mental illness.  I would guess they were at their wits end given Rosemary’s behavior. Sadly Rosemary Kennedy came out of the surgery totally disabled. She was the sacrificial lamb. Not a Happy Ending.  At that point in the documentary I wanted to cry.

I’m very glad that my parents did not put Stephen away into an institution. I’m grateful that Stephen and I grew up together. I remember back in 1989 when Stephen was placed into his current Group Home. Even though I was the one who worked to get him placed into a facility because my parents were becoming ill and could no longer care for Stephen, I cried the first night I came home from work and Stephen was not there running down the stairs to greet me.

Thanks to Eunice Kennedy Stephen did participate for many years in the local Special Olympics held at St. John’s University in Queens, New York.

Thank you to all the Kennedys’ who after witnessing this horrible event happen to their beloved sister worked to make things better for intellectually/developmentally disabled people today. No matter what side of the political fence you’re on without the hard work and tenacity of the Kennedy siblings we would still be in the Dark Ages of institutionalized warehousing.

See Willowbrook State School:

Thank you Rosemary Kennedy for being a transformation for good! God Bless you for now you reside in your Heavenly home well, happy, healthy and free!!

Thank you Lord God Jehovah for my brother Stephen Vincent Palmer. For all the progress he made in spite of the negative reports from those doctors back in 1963 when he was two years old.  God knew better because Stephen is one of His special children. Thanks to our parents who believed that Stephen could learn, who treated him just like any other child, gave him chores to do up to and including his abilities and disciplined him teaching him right from wrong so that today Stephen is a contributing member of society.  He is more than my sibling. He is my companion. My friend. My life long partner and I would never trade or ask the Heavens for a so-called “normal” sibling when I have the most perfect brother in the world!!

I Love You Stephen Vincent Palmer!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Rosemary, The Hidden Kennedy Daughter