Rosemary Kennedy was the first daughter of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. During Rosemary’s birth, Rose went into labor very quickly, and Rosemary entered the birth canal before the doctor arrived. A nurse told Rose to keep her legs closed to prevent her from giving birth until the doctor showed up. This cut off the oxygen to Rosemary’s brain and likely led to her intellectual disabilities. After a fairly quiet childhood, Rosemary began to have violent mood swings. She also had gait issues, including an infamous stumble in front of the King of England.
Throughout her teens, Rosemary never made it past a fourth grade reading or writing level and was shown to have an IQ somewhere between 60 and 70. By the time she was 23, her father, Joe Kennedy, had decided that what she needed was a frontal lobotomy. It was thought he was afraid his daughter might embarrass him and his son and hurt their chances in politics.
Prior to the procedure, Rosemary was described as being absolutely adoring of her brothers, especially Jack, but she could fly into a rage if she didn’t get her way. One night when she was caught sneaking out of the house, she erupted in a violent tantrums that would soon turn to seizures.
In November 1941, Dr. Walter Freeman performed the surgery with Dr. James Watts, and they sliced away at the young woman’s frontal lobe until the left side of her body was partially paralyzed.
After the surgery Rosemary was sent off to a mental institution where she had to relearn how to brush her teeth, walk, and dress herself. The bubbly and sometimes volcanically angry young woman was replaced with someone who was just above an invalid, who could only grunt, shriek, or scream. Tragically, she could no longer even recognize her beloved brothers.
The Kennedy family essentially erased her from their public profile, and her lobotomy wasn’t made public for 20 years. She died in 2005 of natural causes.