joseph p. kennedy sr

Rosemary Kennedy

Rose Marie “Rosemary” Kennedy (September 13, 1918 – January 7, 2005) was the first daughter born to Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. She was born with intellectual disabilities, though this remained a family secret for decades due to stigma. She was the first sister of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Senator Ted Kennedy. She underwent a prefrontal lobotomy at age 23, which left her permanently incapacitated. Read more

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. was notorious for having sky-high ambitions for his children, but Rosemary proved a problem for him due to her relatively low IQ scores and rebellious attitude during puberty. These symptoms are generally known in medical circles as “being a goddamn teenager,” but Joseph saw them as potential for failure, especially as his daughter continued to suffer from mood swings and assertive behavior in her 20s. So Joseph decided to repair the immediate problem rather than repair himself as a freaking father.

What we’re saying is that he straight-up lobotomized a daughter, without even bothering to mention it to his wife until afterward.

To put that sentence in its deserved context, let’s do a little play-by-play: In the autumn of 1941, the 23-year-old Rosemary Kennedy was taken away from her comfortable, rich life. She was thrown into a hospital, where doctors drilled a hole in her head and cut into her brain with a tool “like a butter knife.”Imagine yourself just going about your day when suddenly burly men take you away and strap you to an operating table for modern-day mad scientists to stab you in the brain until you can’t recite the Lord’s Prayer anymore (that’s what Rosemary actually had to do during the operation). Then, imagine that just before you pass out, you find out that this was the order of your own father and no one else will know until it’s too late.

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Historian and biographer David Nasaw dispels historical myths about Joseph P. Kennedy, including his perceived ties to bootlegging and the Mafia.