After U.S. President John F. Kennedy was shot dead during a 1963 visit to Dallas, Texas, his eldest sister, Rosemary, was among those glued to the television coverage.
There were no family members by her side, no one but the nuns who cared for her to comfort her through the horror.
While her family lived in the limelight, Rosemary Kennedy had been left to live in secret for more than two decades, confined to a Wisconsin facility for adults who need lifelong care.
Exiled. Hidden. Forgotten.
A private struggle.
Rosemary Kennedy’s birth was a traumatic one.
Like her elder brothers, Joe Jr. and John, she was born at her parents’ sprawling Massachusetts home. Only, there was no doctor present when her mother, Rose, was ready to deliver her daughter in September 1918. The nurse, intent on waiting for help, ordered Rose to keep her legs together until the doctor arrived.
Rosemary was held inside the birth canal for two hours, deprived of vital oxygen.
It was a decision which many have speculated may have influenced the course of Rosemary’s entire life.
As she grew, typical milestones were missed. She was slow to crawl, talk and walk, and later at school lagged years behind her classmates in reading and writing.
At age 11, she was sent to a Pennsylvania boarding school for intellectually challenged students, and at 15 to a convent school in Rhode Island where she was educated separately, with the help of a dedicated staff. Reports suggest her family made large donations to the school for its efforts.
To the outside world, it appeared Rosemary enjoyed the same charmed life as her siblings.
After her father, millionaire businessman Joseph P. Kennedy, was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Britain in 1938, she stunned at a reception at Buckingham Palace where she was introduced to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Her diaries tell of attending the opera, dances, luncheons in their new home city of London.