The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Book - 2015
Average Rating:
Rate this:
One of People’s Top Ten Books of 2015

"[Larson] succeeds in providing a well-rounded portrait of a woman who, until now, has never been viewed in full."—Boston Globe

?“A biography that chronicles her life with fresh details . . . By making Rosemary the central character, [Larson] has produced a valuable account of a mental health tragedy and an influential family’s belated efforts to make amends.” — New York Times Book Review

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. Yet Rosemary was intellectually disabled, a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family.

In Rosemary, Kate Clifford Larson uses newly uncovered sources to bring Rosemary Kennedy’s story to light. Young Rosemary comes alive as a sweet, lively girl adored by her siblings. But Larson also reveals the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly difficult in her early twenties, culminating in Joe’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age twenty-three and the family’s complicity in keeping the secret. Only years later did the Kennedy siblings begin to understand what had happened to Rosemary, which inspired them to direct government attention and resources to the plight of the developmentally and mentally disabled, transforming the lives of millions.
“The forgotten Kennedy is forgotten no longer. Rosemary is a rare thing, a book about the Kennedys that has something new to say.” — Laurence Leamer, author of The Kennedy Women
“Heartbreaking.” — Wall Street Journal

The revelatory, poignant story of Rosemary Kennedy, the eldest and eventually secreted-away Kennedy daughter, and how her life transformed her family, its women especially, and an entire nation

Baker & Taylor
Based on correspondence, entries in Rose Kennedy's diaries, and family interviews, describes the plight of a woman who was intellectually disabled and kept hidden by her family after she received a lobotomy at age twenty-three.

& Taylor

Based on information contained in Rose Kennedy's diaries and correspondence, as well as exclusive family interviews, the author describes the plight of a woman forgotten to history, who was intellectually disabled and kept hidden by the family after she received a lobotomy at the age of 23. 75,000 first printing. Illustrations.

Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
ISBN: 9780547617954
Branch Call Number: Biography K3863L
Characteristics: 302 pages,16 unnumbered pages of plates; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Mar 30, 2018

Well researched and well written. It is heart-wrenchingly hard to separate our attitudes now from those held about disabled citizens of just a few generations ago. I appreciate this book as a tribute to Rosemary Kennedy who was the inspiration for legislation, the Special Olympics, and programs for people with disabilities.

Jul 25, 2017

I didn't know the TRUE story of Rosemary Kennedy until I read this book. It's too bad more of her family weren't still alive to hear about how her mental condition could have been PREVENTED. Instead she was deprived of oxygen in the birth canal and her condition was the result. Made me MAD.

May 05, 2017

This book is exactly what I expected about the Kennedy "royalty' and how they treated Rosemary. I was impressed with the fact the book was honestly written. The best part of the book for me was when Rosemary slapped her mother.

Apr 24, 2017

Fantastic book for book group discussions. Rosemary details the young life of Rosemary Kennedy along with life after her operation. This book provides more insight into the workings of the Kennedy family.

Oct 16, 2016

After reading Koehler's book on Rosemary, I found this biography much more complete and comprehensive. It delves into a time when mental health issues were seriously frowned upon and explains, while not condoning, Joseph Kennedy's ultimate decision to have his eldest daughter lobotomized to control her behavior. There follows a sad story of a young woman kept from her family for over 20 years, not to mention the severe damage to her brain. So much has been written about the Kennedys and this story needed to be told.

This is the sad story of the true life of Rosemary Kennedy, third child of Joe and Rose Kennedy. She was born during the 1918 flu epidemic, the doctor was delayed and the nurse made the decision to force the baby to stay in the birth canal for two hours until his arrival (nurses were discourage from delivering a baby because then the doctor didn't get his fee). This loss of oxygen caused developmental disabilities that her family hid from the public until she was an adult and worsened. Afraid of a scandal that would ruin the family's political ambitions, Joe decided she should have a prefrontal lobotomy, a risky experimental procedure that left her permanently disabled and unable to care for herself. She spent the remainder of her life hidden away in a facility. Her parents never tried to see her again. Her sister Eunice later took up her cause and got involved with the disabled. Recommended by Linda

Jun 18, 2016

I thought the author did a great job of telling Rosemary's story. I knew the family had a daughter with developmental difficulties, but was horrified to learn so many details. I would highly recommend this book.

Mar 31, 2016

This book was good in that there was societal background included but there seemed to be more about the other children than about her. I was a little disappointed.

Feb 29, 2016

I found this a very interesting read. A peak into the ever-private world of the Kennedys in regard to their oldest daughter/sibling.
Well written, fascinating study of how disability (and especially intellectual disabilities) are addressed, beginning back starting in the early 1930s. A sad and frustrating existence for most of her earlier life, Rosemary was definitely a survivor. I recommend.

athompson10 Feb 16, 2016

The author does her best to make a whole book out of what is, at best, a life that was documented for well less than half of its years. Rosemary's tragedy is both sad and entirely preventable. Her life up until the lobotomy is fascinating and horrifying at the same time, from her forced delayed birth, constant moves from school to school at the whims of her parents when social climbing and political aspirations control their lives, and their fears of her sexual maturation. After the disabling lobotomy Rosemary virtually disappears from Kennedy family letters, and the author struggles to continue the story when the main actor has left the stage. The author decides to focus on Eunice and the long list of of charities and projects she created or worked with to bring awareness and funding to mental retardation. While an admirable undertaking, Eunice's work makes for a stunted and feeble ending to what had been a very interesting and personal story about her sister.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Northern Indiana Database Cluster

To Top