The Sad Truth About JFK's Sister, Rosemary Kennedy

There are dozens of viable points from which to start telling the story of Rosemary Kennedy. She was the third child of wealthy parents, Joseph Kennedy, Sr and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, movers and shakers defined in large part by their cartoonishly high ambitions for their family and the lengths to which they would go to achieve them. While her two older brothers, Joe and John, were delivered at home by the family physician, Rosemary's birth on September 13, 1918, was overseen by a nurse who apparently felt uncomfortable taking the reins on the procedure. According to The New York Times, she instructed Rosemary's mother to keep her legs closed for roughly two hours while they waited for a doctor to arrive.

Unsurprisingly, the young lady developed some medical complications as she grew older. Seizures weren't uncommon, but what really seemed to upset her parents were the developmental delays. When she reached puberty, there was the issue of keeping up appearances — a flirtatious, outgoing young woman, Rosemary became harder to keep under the family thumb. It probably didn't help that she was subjected to experimental hormone injections and other shady therapies, or that her parents seemed at least as intent on hiding her problems as they were on solving them.

And then it gets worse

In her early 20s, Rosemary was sent to a convent school, but it wasn't a rug she seemed inclined to be swept under. The Independent reports that she would sneak out of the school at night, leading to concerns that she might come back pregnant. The potential scandal was, it seems, too much for the family patriarch to comprehend, and he took decisive action.

In November of 1941, without informing anyone else in the family, Joseph arranged for Rosemary to undergo a lobotomy. Doctors made incisions in the front of her skull, then swiped at her brain tissue with metal implements, asking her to recite prayers and poetry during the procedure and stopping when she fell silent, displaying the medical precision normally reserved for horseshoes and hand grenades.

After the surgery, Rosemary was left with the estimated functioning mental capacity of a two year old. Her speech was garbled, she needed assistance in order to walk, and basic bodily functions like bladder control were beyond her. She was placed in a private house at a care facility, and her fate was apparently not disclosed to the rest of her family until Joseph suffered a stroke twenty years later. She lived to be 86, passing away in 2005 from natural causes, and was buried next to her parents, which her father would have probably just loved.