Mixing biographical and fiction, The Book of Simona New Year and Marina Marazza “No Tears for Rosemary. The dramatic story of the forgotten Kennedy ” traces the painful human and family story of Rosemary Kennedy, sister of the 35th president of the United States, born with a mild intellectual disability and subjected, by her father’s decision, to a devastating lobotomy operation. Her life ” deserves to be known, not only to do her some posthumous justice, but above all, as sister Eunice said, “to make the world a better place””by expertly mixing biographical tale and fiction No Tears for Rosemary. The dramatic story of the forgotten Kennedy (Fabbri, 2021), by Simona New Year and Marina Marazza, traces the painful human and family story of Rose Marie Kennedy (1918-2005), better known as Rosemary.
Rosemary was the third (and first female) of the nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald, and is the younger sister of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963), better known by the diminutive of Jack, who became the 35th president of the United States of America in 1961, and he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.
The Kennedys ‘ first two children were born in the House, and the Kennedys decided to give birth to Rosemary in the House as well. The nurse who assisted the mother during childbirth, waiting for the doctor to arrive, induced the parturient to hold the fetus inside the uterine canal for over two hours, which produced fetal suffering and brain damage of an extent not quantifiable at the time of birth.
For a long time the family showed Rosemary as the most beautiful of the Kennedy daughters, but she was very careful to hide from the public that disability that the family itself managed to admit to itself only after many years. Rosemary was able to attend many different schools, and she was joined by many teachers and private assistants, but this was not enough to bridge the gap between her peers and her brothers and sisters.
“If she had been the daughter of any parents, without any particular desire, she could have continued a quiet life, stopped studying and simply lived in the shadow of a very rich family without any need to find a job, nor to have to prove anything. It is not essential to know how to beat the tennis ball impeccably or write without spelling errors. Too bad The Kennedys were the Kennedys”, reads a passage of the work. And this is perhaps one of the most terrible aspects of the whole affair: the fact that even Rosemary, like her brothers and sisters, was the target of expectations of performance, perfection and success unattainable for her.
“If you come second, you lose,” was Father Joe’s motto, and if you lose, it means you haven’t worked hard enough. “The Kennedys do not cry”, was instead the philosophy of life that mother Rose made her own and to which she expected her children to conform even in the most difficult moments of their lives.
For the Kennedys it was already quite complex to accept the idea that Rosemary, now a teenager, was still behaving like a child, but when, from the age of twenty, she blossomed in all her exuberant beauty and began to take an interest in men, their fear became that of finding themselves involved in a sex scandal. If it were not tragic, the situation would almost smile, saw that right from the first pages of the book, Joe, founder of the dynasty Kennedy, is presented as a “sick sex” (a erotomane, as we might say today, even if in that time the term did not yet exist), that goes from one bed to the other, hiding, with the complicity of his wife, his true nature under an air of model citizen, a catholic and a sober father of nine children. But you know, women’s sexual freedom is not measured by the same meter as men’s, and a sex scandal related to a daughter with a disability could have shattered the Kennedy’s immeasurable ambitions.
It seems that it was precisely this fear that led Joe to have Rosemary undergo a lobotomy, an experimental procedure that was performed in November 1941 at the George Washington University Hospital by doctors Walter Freeman and James Watts. Then Rosemary was 23 years old. The person who came out of the surgery had nothing more than the sunny girl and in love with the life that she had always been: she could pronounce only a few disconnected words, had motor problems, had lost the use of an arm and a leg (which she could never recover), had to move in a wheelchair and had become incontinent.
Joe was the only one of the Kennedys to be informed of the incident, while it is not known when mother Rose was informed and what her reaction to the news was, although the fact remains that he will decide to visit his daughter only twenty years after the operation and that their relationship will never adjust. The other sons and daughters were told that Rosemary was in the Midwest, where she worked as an assistant teacher at a school, and it seems that they were satisfied with this explanation for many years.
After the surgery Rosemary was moved to Craig House, on the Hudson River, about eighty kilometers from New York, where she remained for seven years. So, to better protect confidentiality (Joe and Rose’s problem has always been to save appearances), she was transferred to St. Coletta in Jefferson, Wisconsin, a religious institution run by nuns.
The Sisters of the structure became her new family, learning to love her and helping her to recover some physical functions and, at least in part, memory and speech. At the urging of Eunice, The sister who was most fond of her, she was able to return to the family for short visits on the occasion of some holidays and during the holidays. Rosemary died at Atkinson Memorial Hospital, near Santa Coletta, in 2005, at the age of 86. Today, lobotomy is a practice that evokes the horror, but the sexuality of women with disabilities, especially women with intellectual disabilities – still tends to be regarded as an aspect to be kept under control, to deny or inhibit in many cases, and not as a component of life that every person should legitimately be able to express.
Although she was also part of one of the most powerful families in America, her story is still little known, and this is precisely the reason that led the two authors to write her biography.
“A famous surname, but a forgotten existence”, summarizes Marina Marazza, in a note placed at the end of the volume. “[ the story we tell is authentic and documented, there are only a few “creative licenses” that do not go to change the facts. The dialogues written by Marina are as likely as you can imagine. The result I hope is something to read with interest and passion, but also with the critical spirit that must be dedicated to a complaint: what was done to Rosemary cried revenge”, says Simona New Year, in the same note. He adds: “a life spent for the most part in stillness, sitting in a wheelchair, relegated to a retirement home. And yet, Rosemary did not remain silent, her cry reached the hearts of her powerful brothers and sisters and was able to perform a small great miracle, forever transforming their perception of disabilities. An immense legacy also for all of us [bold ours in the quote, N.d. R.]”.
Jack, in fact, will go to find her sister at the St. Coletta only in 1958, on the occasion of a stage of the presidential campaign in Wisconsin, and he was so impressed by its condition by re-proposing that, if he became president, he proposed measures for the protection of persons with disabilities and their families. Once elected president, he kept his promise, implementing a long series of reforms aimed at people with disabilities, allocating large funds for research on mental illness, creating institutions, schools and associations.
Also the brother Ted, senator of Massachusetts for over forty-seven years, has passed numerous laws in favour of persons with disabilities, among which should be mentioned first of all, the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, maintaining their presence in all areas of the employment, study and sport.
And again, Jean, The Last Of The Nine Kennedy brothers, who died in 2020, former American ambassador in Dublin, has contributed to the cause of disability, founding the VSA, Very Special Arts, a non-profit organization that aims to give people with disabilities the opportunity to participate and enjoy the arts. Through it every year, in fifty-two countries, people of all ages and abilities participate in programs of music, dance, visual arts, theater and literary arts.
But it was especially with Eunice and her children (especially Anthony and Timothy Shriver) that Rosemary managed to establish a beautiful relationship of great mutual affection. And it was Eunice, from the Sixties onwards, to undertake a series of initiatives for boys and girls with disabilities, such as summer camps for youth with mental health problems, launched in 1962, and the Special Olympics, launched in Chicago in 1968, that is, the Olympic games dedicated to athletes with intellectual disabilities who now train and make the race more than five million athletes with disabilities to more than 170 Countries around the world [the start of the Special Olympics in 1968, he read widely on our pages, N. d.R.].