Saturday, January 6, 2018
The Kennedy's joy in life would come, of course, to prove vulnerable. It was the following year, 1941, that brought what Rose Kennedy would call "the first of the tragedies." Her third child and oldest daughter, Rosemary - who'd suffered serious oxygen deprivation at birth - was then living at St. Gertrude's School of Arts and Crafts in Washington, D.C. There, "educable or mildly emotionally disturbed, handicapped girls" were looked after by a small but devoted staff of Benedictine sisters.
Rosemary, in her early twenties, was cause problems: she'd get angry, even violent, striking at people. Worse, especially for her protective father, was her tendency to disappear from the grounds and then be found wandering local streets. Hearing of an experimental surgery - known as a prefrontal lobotomy, a procedure necessitating the cutting away of brain matter - Joe made the decision, entirely on his own, to have it performed on Rosemary at George Washington University Hospital. His hope was, if not a cure, at least an improvement in her behavior. But it was far from a success.
Greatly more handicapped - that is to say, more infantilized than she'd previously been - Rosemary now was unable to speak or walk. Even personality had been taken away from her. From then on, only her father was allowed to see her. For her brothers and sisters, it was as if she'd stepped off the face of the earth. Joe Kennedy never told them the truth of what he'd done.
-Chris Matthews, Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit