Interviews with matriarch Rose Kennedy, recorded by her memoir ghostwriter in the early 1970s, feature details of life in the Massachusetts dynasty which until now were never revealed. From her daughter’s lobotomy, to banning crying and how she weighed her children every week the new tapes show life in the Kennedy clan according to Rose.
In 1974 Rose’s memoir, "Times to Remember", ghost-written by Robert Coughlan, was released. The author recorded over 40 hours of interviews with Rose but until now they have not been made public. After Coughlan’s death in 1992 his widow gave the tapes to Kennedy historian Laurence Leamer whose Broadway play “Rose” was based on their contents.
Leamer has previously authored four books on the Kennedy dynasty. In an interview with People.com the historian shared some of the interesting and strange topics discussed during the 40 hours of interviews.
He said, “She's been ignored by history. Yet she's the only person who's lived the whole story - the only one who could speak with honesty and depth about everything that happened.”
Wife of Ambassador Joe Kennedy Sr and mother of President John F. Kennedy, Senators Robert F. and Ted Kennedy and Second World War hero Joe Kennedy Jr, Rose was the woman who stood behind five great men.
Rose died in 1995 at the age of 104. Sadly during her life, four of her nine children died untimely deaths. Her eldest Joe Jnr in WWII, John and Robert were assassinated and Kathleen died in a plane crash. In the interviews she spoke about how the family dealt with the great loss by banishing depression.
She said, “It would be selfish and demoralizing to focus on our tragedies. When the children come home, we try not to talk about [them]. There was a saying after Jack died, for the grandchildren, no crying in the house. If you cry, you'll be sent back to wherever you come from. I insisted that.”
Famously there a superstition that the Kennedy family is cursed, as they have suffered such great losses and tragedy. However she saw it more stoically.
She said, “We met presidents and dukes, kings and queens. We had money, talent and relationships with one another; we boasted of good looks. I'm not surprised when some tragedy came ... It was too perfect to last.”
She also commented on the Kennedy’s famously good summers in Hyannis Port, in Cape Cod, sailing and attending balls in London.
During the interviews the matriarch also discussed how she becomes obsessive about tracking her children’s weight and how they children had “tummy trouble” and could not eat certain foods like ice cream. She also admitted to physically punishing them with a ruler or a coat hanger when they misbehaved at the dinner table.
Rose discussed her daughter Rosemary’s 1941 lobotomy with her ghostwriter. Rosemary, the Kennedy’s third-eldest child, was born in 1918. She was born with cognitive disabilities and never progressed beyond the intellectual level of a fourth grader. In her teenage years she became prone to outburst. At the age of 23 her father, Joe, secretly took her to get a lobotomy. She was incapacitated for the rest of her life.
When asked about the tragedy during the interviews Rose only said, “Rosemary's mind is gone completely. That was due to an accident, which I don't really discuss.”
Her marriage with Joe Snr was described as “calculated.” She was the daughter of the Boston Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald and her groom a successful stockbroker. However, during their 55 years of marriage was rumored to have had affairs with famous Hollywood stars such as Gloria Swanson and Marlene Dietrich. During the interview she never made reference to the affairs. However, she did say that she warned her daughter-in-laws to ignore any rumors about their husbands.
Leamer’s version of it is that Rose “was as ambitious as Joe and in a sense even more so because she lived through her children.”