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The Hidden Kennedy
By all appearances, the Kennedy family was brilliant, successful, and powerful, yet the intellectually challenged daughter they secreted away was ultimately the catalyst for their attention to the disabled, transforming the lives of millions. Kate Clifford Larson, author of Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, will discuss Rosemary’s story on April 6 at Washington College’s Hynson Lounge.
Sponsored by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the Department of Psychology, Department of History, and the American Studies Program, the talk and book signing begins at 5:30 and is free and open to the public.
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. Larson reveals both the sensitive care Rose and Joe gave to Rosemary and then—as the family’s standing reached an apex—the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly difficult in her early 20s. Finally, Larson illuminates Joe’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age 23 and the family’s complicity in keeping the secret. Rosemary delivers a profoundly moving coda: JFK visited Rosemary for the first time while campaigning in the Midwest; she had been living isolated in a Wisconsin institution for 10 years. Only then did the siblings understand what had happened to Rosemary and bring her home for loving family visits. It was a reckoning that inspired them to direct attention to the plight of the disabled.
Larson is the author of three critically acclaimed biographies: Rosemary, The Hidden Kennedy Daughter (2015); Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero (2003); and The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln (2008). She has been a consultant and interpretive specialist for numerous museum and public history initiatives focusing on the lives and contributions of women in the making of our national identity. Larson holds two degrees from Simmons College, an MBA from Northeastern University, and a Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in Winchester, Massachusetts.