Rosemary Kennedy Was Lobotomized to Help JFK Succeed. Here’s Her Horrific Story

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Rosemary Kennedy wasn’t like the rest of her family. She had the same dark hair and bright eyes, but she suffered from a mental deficiency.

Rosemary Kennedy with
Rosemary Kennedy with “Visible Speech” Device. Photo By Getty Images/ Bettmann

When Rose Kennedy, Rosemary’s mother, was about to give birth to her, the obstetrician happened to be running late. Since the nurse was reluctant to deliver the baby without him, she simply reached up and held Rosemary in place in the birth canal. This cut off the crucial oxygen supply to the baby and ultimately led to a mental deficiency.

Keeping It All Quiet

Mental illness was highly stigmatized in the 1920s, which is why the Kennedys fought hard to keep Rosemary’s mental deficiency under the wraps. She was pulled out of school and home-schooled.

The Kennedy Family at Hyannis Port
The Kennedy Family at Hyannis Port. Photo by CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Instead of institutionalizing her later, she was sent to boarding school. Things finally settled down when her family moved to England, where she was sent to catholic school, but unfortunately, she and her family had to move back to the states when Germany invaded Paris.

The Answer They Were Looking For

At this point, Rosemary’s siblings were being groomed for a career in politics. The entire family was afraid that Rosemary’s behavior might cause the whole family ill-repute and disgraceful. They tried to look for a suitable answer to the problem.

Eunice and Rosemary Kennedy on Ship Deck
Eunice and Rosemary Kennedy on Ship Deck. Photo By Getty Images/ Bettmann

Finally, they came across Dr. Walter Freeman, who was known for developing a neurological procedure that would heal the mentally and physically disabled. This procedure was known as a lobotomy.

Disastrous Consequences Follow

Nobody asked Rosemary if she was willing to undergo this procedure. Her father decided for her, and at 23 years old, she underwent a lobotomy. Dr. Freeman drilled two holes into her skull and inserted a couple of small spatulas to cut the link between the brain and the prefrontal cortex.

Mrs. Rose Kennedy (c) with their daughters Kathleen and Rosemary
Mrs. Rose Kennedy (c) with their daughters Kathleen and Rosemary. Photo by Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Rosemary had not been given any anesthesia during this procedure. She was awake, and she continued to talk to the doctors and nurses. However, once the process was completed, she never spoke again.

She Was Sent To An Institution

Unable to walk or talk anymore, Rosemary had to be sent to an institution for almost 20 years after the procedure. Her family did not visit, and the one time that her mother went to see her, Rosemary ended up attacking her for what she had been put through.

Joseph Patrick Kennedy, and his wife Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy with eight of their nine children
Joseph Patrick Kennedy and his wife Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy with eight of their nine children. From left to right: Edward, Jeanne, Robert, Patricia, Eunice, Kathleen, Rosemary, and John. Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

The Kennedys were guilty of what they had done, and they decided to champion the rights of the mentally disabled. JFK even signed the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Amendment to the Social Security Act during his presidency.