Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rose Kennedy and Her Family

I recently came across a book about Rose Kennedy I didn't know existed, and it does not paint a pretty picture of the matriarch of this once powerful family.

Rose Kennedy and Her Family was written in 1995 by Ted Schwarz and Barbara Gibson. Schwarz wrote the biographical account, and Gibson (Rose's personal assistant for ten years) added first-hand accounts of incidents along the way. Some are amusing, but many are rather disturbing.

Rose was very vain. When pictures of the Kennedy family were taken, she refused to sit next to the younger women. "They make me look older," she told Gibson.

She was a tightwad. Although the Kennedy children had trust funds (between 30 and 300 million each), Rose griped about how much money they spent. And she was constantly upset about wasted electricity. She ordered the help not to turn the lights on until dark.

Rose often gave her old clothes away and took them back. "Remember that blouse I gave you last year?" Gibson heard her tell a family member, "I want it back; please bring it to me." (Incidentally, she gave her threadbare bras to Gibson. But she never took those back!)

She never felt she was as good as the Brahmins of Boston, who looked down on Irish immigrants. She spent her life trying to impress them, but she ended up as snobbish as they. She always referred to Gibson as "The Secretary," and when The Secretary accompanied her to Mass each morning, Rose made her sit in the back of the church. (Because that is where the help is supposed to sit, she explained.)

Ted was Rose's favorite. In her eyes, he could do no wrong. When her youngest son came callin,' she greeted him in full makeup, hair done, acting flirtatious. When her daughters visited, she often greeted them in her robe, hair in curlers. She did not approve of drinking, so when the girls slept over, they sneaked bottles of wine to bed with them. (I'll bet Teddy never hid out to do his drinking!)

Rose disowned her oldest daughter, Kathleen (Kat), when she married a man who was not of the Catholic faith. After he was killed in WW II, Kat began a love affair with a married man. Sadly, they were both killed in a plane crash. Joe attended the funeral, but Rose refused to go. Her death was God's punishment for marrying outside her faith, Rose said. (Judgmental people irritate me no end!)

Rosemary, the eldest Kennedy daughter, was the most attractive of all the sisters. But she wasn't competitive in sports (much to Joe's disdain), and didn't excel in her studies (much to Rose's disdain). Rose tried to work with her, to no avail. Gibson says evidence now proves that Rosemary was never retarded, but simply suffering from dyslexia.

Rosemary had another problem, one the Kennedys never talked about.

"She had 'unbridled sexuality,' which was absolutely forbidden if you were a Kennedy woman," Gibson says, "If, however, you were a Kennedy man, apparently, you could become president or at least a senator."

Joe nipped that in the bud. He authorized a lobotomy, which rendered his daughter drooling and severely impaired." (Talk about double standard! He encouraged his sons' unbridled sexuality!)

Because of his numerous affairs during their marriage, Rose was very bitter toward Joe. She showed neither concern nor empathy when he suffered a stroke, and she seldom went to his room. When his nurse insisted on bringing Joe down to have breakfast with her, Rose ignored him. After he suffered his last stroke and was near death, she went on with her regular schedule. She went up to see him hours later, and then she took a long walk before authorizing the nurse to call an ambulance.

Rose traveled extensively, even when her children were sick. As a child, President Kennedy was in frail health, forced to spend much of his time in bed. But she left him with the help and went on her merry way. "Mother was never there when I needed her, ever!" JFK once said, "She was either in Paris buying clothes, or on her knees in some church!"

Be that as it may, Rose lived to be almost 105 years old.


Debbie said...

I think that family had a lot of stories to tell. I've always heard that Joe was the one who ruled the family with an iron fist. But this makes you stop and think that maybe he had met his match in Rose. Thanks for posting.

Suz said...

Very interesting, Brenda. I'll probably have to get my hands on that book.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Sounds like aninteresting book, Brenda. Famous people seem to have such unusual and complex lives, and they never seem to be truly happy.

Carol@ Writers Porch/ Book House said...

Good review Brenda! I'm not surprised by this as I deemed Rose to be a very cold individual! Nonr of those women were pretty in my opinion.

Rhonda Hartis Smith said...

Sounds like good reading to me and she also sounds just a little cold but interesting :-)

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley