Rose F Kennedy

Rose F Kennedy


    Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald was born in Boston’s North End on July 22, 1890, the eldest child of John F. (“Honey Fitz”) and Mary Josephine Hannon Fitzgerald.

    She was first introduced to politics as a child. When she was 5, her father was a congressman. By the time she turned 15, Honey Fitz was one of the most popular and colorful mayors Boston had ever known. He once took Rose and her sister Agnes to visit President William McKinley in the White House, and the president at one point said to Agnes, "You're the prettiest girl who has entered the house." Rose remarked later, "I knew right then that I would have to work hard to do something about myself." Her graduation from Dorchester High School in June 1906 was front-page news in the Boston newspapers as Mayor Fitzgerald proudly gave his daughter her diploma.

    Rose had been accepted at Wellesley College during her junior year in high school, but her father enrolled her in the Convent of the Sacred Heart, in Boston, at the suggestion of Archbishop William O'Connell. At the age of 90, in an interview with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Mrs. Kennedy said her "greatest regret is not having gone to Wellesley College. It is something I have felt a little sad about all my life." However, she eventually grew fond of the convent school, and she said the religious training she received there became the foundation for her life.

    In her teens Rose became acquainted with Joseph P. Kennedy at Old Orchard Beach in Maine where their families were vacationing together. On Oct. 7, 1914, they were married in a modest ceremony in a small chapel at the residence of Cardinal O'Connell, who officiated. The couple's first home was a three-story gray building on Beals Street in Brookline, now a national historic site.

    At the time of their marriage, Joseph Kennedy was making $10,000 a year as a businessman. When the family left Brookline and moved to Riverdale, N.Y., about 10 years later, he was a multimillionaire, in part through his dealings as a lone wolf financier and investor.

    In their first 18 years of marriage, the couple had nine children. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. was born in 1915, John in 1917, Rosemary in 1918, Kathleen in 1920, Eunice in 1921, Patricia in 1924, Robert in 1925, Jean in 1928 and Edward in 1932.

    Mrs. Kennedy was considered by many to be a model parent. "Children," she said, "should be stimulated by their parents to see, touch, know, understand and appreciate." She made the family a self-sustaining unit, with members allowed to go their own way while maintaining interest in the lives of the others. A friend of Mrs. Kennedy, Mary Jo Clasby, once said, "When she would teach you something you would have to do it yourself. She would really want you to do it, so you could find out for yourself it was possible."

    Mrs. Kennedy often retold stories from history books to her children -- about Bunker Hill, the Battle of Concord, and Plymouth Rock -- then took them on outings to see those sites. She also told them stories from the Bible. "I always told the children that if they were given faith when they were young, they should try to nurture it and guard it, because it's really a gift that older people value so much when sorrow comes," she once said.

    One of Mrs. Kennedy's main problems was keeping tabs on her large family. She kept careful records of all her children on index cards, and had an extensive filing system that she said helped her remember each one's physical condition. She said the cards weren't the product of American efficiency, but "Kennedy desperation." They listed weights, shoe sizes, dental treatments, eye examinations and illnesses each child had.

    As Mrs. Kennedy's younger sons grew older, they began to look toward the political scene, and she did little to discourage them. She had learned from her father how to be at ease in public and how to conduct political campaigns, skills she used in her sons' numerous battles. "If you're in politics, I suppose you always work to get to the top," she once said. When her son John ran in 1946 for the Massachusetts 11th Congressional District seat, the one previously held by Honey Fitzgerald, Rose was the first to spur him on. “She was the greatest pol we had in 1946," said Dave Powers, a longtime friend of the family.

    She loved politics, especially the backroom strategies and behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing. "She knew all the nuts and bolts," Pierre Salinger once said, noting that she made prospective voters feel more important by preparing her remarks carefully and addressing them on intimate terms. Mrs. Kennedy's love of history often infused her political discussions. "My view is a historical one," she said. "I tend to take the long view, in the light of history, of events."

    After John's victory in 1946, his next big battle was for the US Senate. During his 1952 campaign to unseat Henry Cabot Lodge, Rose Kennedy was the hostess at many "Kennedy teas" sponsored by the Democratic Party. Newspapers reported that at times the campaign resembled a family feud -- the Kennedys vs. the Lodges.

    In her son's 1960 presidential campaign, Mrs. Kennedy again did her utmost. "For six weeks," Powers said, "every night I'd pick her up and we'd go to meetings. Maybe the first place would be an abandoned North End garage, and she'd put on a babushka and talk to the women about children. And the next stop might be West Roxbury, so in the car she'd change her shoes and maybe put on a mink jacket," he said.

    But during Robert's fateful presidential campaign in 1968, she made perhaps her only political misstep. Just before the Indiana primary, she was questioned about the large sums her family was spending on his behalf. "It's our money and we're free to spend it any way we please," she said. "It's part of this campaign business. If you have money, you should spend it to win. The more you can afford, the more you'll spend." Her comments were carried by newspapers nationwide. Later that spring, during the Oregon primary race, she said: "I don't talk about high finance anymore. If I did, they'd send me home tonight."

    Mrs. Kennedy rarely talked publicly about her personal grief. But once she remarked to a friend: "Wasn't there a book about Michelangelo called 'The Agony and the Ecstasy'? That's what my life has been."

    During World War II, her eldest son, Joseph Jr., a Navy pilot, was killed in action on Aug. 12, 1944, when the plane he was flying on a mission exploded over the English Channel. Her second-oldest daughter, Kathleen, wife of the Marquess of Hartington, who was also killed during World War II, died May 13, 1948, in a plane crash in France. Her second son, John, was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, during his first term as president. At the funeral in Washington, she turned to Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie and said: "It's wrong for parents to bury their children. It should be the other way around."

    Her third son, Robert, who was US Attorney General under his brother and later a Democratic senator from New York, was assassinated in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, while campaigning for president. Her eldest daughter, Rosemary, spent most of her adult life in a home for intellectually disabled people. Mrs. Kennedy's husband suffered a stroke in 1961, and it left him an invalid until his death eight years later.

    "Willpower, just willpower and doing what's necessary is what keeps me going," Mrs. Kennedy once said. And despite all the tragedies she lived to see, she wrote in her 1974 autobiography: "There have been times when I felt I was one of the most fortunate people in the world, almost as if Providence, or Fate, or Destiny, as you like, had chosen me for special favors."

    When asked what were the greatest thrills of her life, one of the first Mrs. Kennedy mentioned was being at her son John's inauguration in January 1961 as President Eisenhower's successor. But she recalled other highlights few people might remember. In the late 1930s, her husband was named US ambassador to Britain. While living overseas, the Kennedy family was invited to attend the coronation of Pius XII in March 1939. They enjoyed a private audience with the new Pope. In 1951, she had the rare title of papal countess conferred on her by the Vatican in recognition of her "exemplary motherhood and many charitable works." She was only the sixth woman from the United States to have the title bestowed upon her by the Roman Catholic Church.

    Aside from the most important aspects of Rose Kennedy's life -- family, religion and politics -- she was also interested and active in many other areas. Much of her time in later years was devoted to securing public support for the campaign to enlighten the public about mental retardation and its causes. The Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation has donated millions of dollars since 1946 to hospitals, institutions, and day-care and research centers throughout the United States.

    Mrs. Kennedy spoke several languages fluently and was an accomplished pianist. Petite and slim, she dressed stylishly. During the '30s she was named the best-dressed woman in public life by a poll of fashion designers.

    For relaxation, she played golf or swam off the beach at the family compound on Cape Cod. She could often be seen, well past her middle-age years, carrying her own clubs on the difficult Hyannisport Country Club golf course, playing nine holes alone against the biting gusts of sea air. During the 1970s, Mrs. Kennedy loved to walk village streets alone, unrecognized by most passersby. But a stroke in 1984 left her in a wheelchair.

    Perhaps the most fitting tributes to Mrs. Kennedy's life are those given by her children and grandchildren. In 1987, celebrating his grandmother's 97th birthday, Rep. Joseph Kennedy II spoke of her as "the magnet that always pulled all of us together as a family, ever since I was a little boy. We could look to her when things were going very well, and she'd give us a smile and encouragement. When things were not going so well, we'd get the same thing. Grandma's so strong and just a tremendous inspiration to all of us."

    Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy died in her Hyannis Port home on Jan. 22, 1995. She was 104.

    Rose Kennedy, Political Matriarch, Dies at 104

      Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, the mother of President John F. Kennedy and of two United States Senators, the wife of a fabulously wealthy businessman-ambassador and the matriarch of a family whose political triumphs and personal tragedies she carried with quiet dignity for 80 years, died yesterday at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Mass. She was 104.

      Surrounded by family members at her rambling, white-shingled seaside home on Cape Cod, she died of complications from pneumonia at 5:30 P.M., her son, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, said. She had been in a wheelchair, partly paralyzed and mostly silent, since 1984, when she suffered the first of a series of debilitating strokes.

      Mother passed away peacefully today," Senator Kennedy said last night. "She had a long and extraordinary life, and we loved her deeply. To all of us in the Kennedy and Fitzgerald families, she was the most beautiful rose of all."

      President Clinton extended his condolences last night. "Very few Americans have endured as much personal sacrifice for their country as Rose Kennedy," the President said. "She played an extraordinary role in the life of an extraordinary family. Hillary and I extend our deep-felt sympathy to the Kennedy family."

      Funeral arrangements were incomplete last night.

      In recent years, Mrs. Kennedy, a devout Roman Catholic who often said she drew on her faith to cope with sorrows, had remained out of the public eye that followed her nearly all her life. She spent her time reciting the rosary daily, attending Mass celebrated by a priest in her living room on Sundays and sitting on a porch overlooking Nantucket Sound on sunny weekends while her children and grandchildren paid visits and regaled her with their latest adventures.

      They were the twilight years of a life she once described as a series of agonies and ecstasies, a life born into fortune and politics, wed to ambition, graced by the exhilaration of a son in the White House and others on Capitol Hill, but touched by violent death, illness, scandal and other adversities.

      Tragedy Intrudes On a Privileged Life

      Raised in Boston, the daughter of John (Honey Fitz) Fitzgerald, a Boston mayor and Massachusetts Congressman, the young Rose Fitzgerald knew a life most only dream of -- private schools, debutante balls, summers on Cape Cod, winters in Palm Beach, trips to Europe and Asia, and hosts of suitors entranced by her young Irish charm and directness.

      She was married at 24 to Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., the son of a saloon keeper, and a dynamo who amassed holdings in banking, real estate, liquor, films and Wall Street that grew to an estimated $500 million. Despite controversy over his wealth and isolationist views, he was posted to the Court of St. James's as Ambassador to Britain from 1938 to 1941.

      There were meetings with kings, presidents and popes, and the satisfaction of children on the national stage, in Congress and in the White House. Although hers was a supporting role, her erect bearing, careful grooming and tireless work in her sons' campaigns, made her a figure of public interest in her own right.

      She was not a powerful public speaker, but family members called her expert at gauging her audiences. On a single evening, they said, she could don a head scarf and mingle with workmen's wives at a stop in a blue-collar neighborhood, then rush off to campaign at a country club, changing in the back seat of a car into a mink coat and stylish shoes. It was a whirl that led to many successes.

      But sorrow intruded time and again. Four of her nine children died in their prime. President Kennedy was slain by an assassin in Dallas in 1963. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot by another assassin in Los Angeles during the 1968 Presidential campaign. Her eldest son, Joseph Jr., a Navy pilot, was killed when his plane exploded over the English Channel on a mission in World War II. And a daughter, Kathleen, died in a plane crash in 1948.

      Her eldest daughter, Rosemary, was diagnosed as mentally retarded and has lived in a nursing home for 40 years. In 1969, a car driven by Senator Edward Kennedy ran off a bridge on Martha's Vineyard and a young aide, Mary Jo Kopechne, was killed. Later that year, Mrs. Kennedy's husband, who had suffered a stroke in 1961 that left him an invalid, also died.

      For Mrs. Kennedy, who had 30 grandchildren and 41 great-grandchildren, the sorrows continued in recent years. A grandson, David, the son of Robert, was found dead in a Florida hotel room in 1985, the victim, officials said, of an apparent overdose of cocaine and Demerol. And Mrs. Kennedy's former daughter-in-law, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, died of cancer last May.

      Four years ago, at celebrations marking her 100th birthday, Senator Kennedy, her last surviving son, told 400 family members and friends, "In the chaos of our household, she was the quiet at the center of the storm, the anchor of our family, the safe harbor to which we always came."

      There were many books that explored the Kennedys and their conduct, and most touched on Rose Kennedy. "J.F.K.: Reckless Youth," by Nigel Hamilton (Random House, 1992), called the President's mother a chilly, remote woman, obsessed with religion, personal hygiene and designer clothing, and incapable of giving her children the affection they craved.

      The assertions prompted a blistering response, published on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, by four of her children: Senator Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Jean Kennedy Smith. "We categorically reject the misjudgments, mischaracterizations, insinuations and outright falsehoods about our family relationships portrayed in the book," they wrote.

      "Our parents gave us love, support and encouragement throughout their lives. Contrary to the malicious portrayal in this book, they were devoted and caring parents who lavished affection and attention on all of us."

      "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys," by Doris Kearns (Simon & Schuster, 1987), also said that Rose and Joseph Kennedy were less than ideal parents, that Mrs. Kennedy eventually became the more remote and even withdrew from her husband into the isolated comfort of her religion, because of "the complicatedly intense relationship she had experienced with her father so many years before."

      In her autobiography, "Times to Remember" (Doubleday, 1974), Mrs. Kennedy said that she had devoted herself to her children and that there had been many satisfactions in her role. "What greater aspiration and challenge are there for a mother than the hope of raising a great son or daughter?" she wrote, and called motherhood "a profession that was fully as interesting and challenging as any honorable profession." Early Introduction To Political Life

      Rose Fitzgerald was born in Boston on July 22, 1890, the oldest of six children of an exuberant politician and his wife, the former Josephine Mary Hannon. After serving in the Massachusetts Legislature and the United States House of Representatives, her father became Mayor of Boston in 1906.

      Her mother was a quiet woman who disliked the limelight, and Rose tasted politics early, parading through the streets with her father and attending public gatherings where the beer and the blarney flowed like the lilt of brogue. He introduced her to Presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley, and to his wealthy, influential friends.

      She graduated with honors from Dorchester High School at 15, and wanted to enter Wellesley College, but her parents thought she was too young and enrolled her at the Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart in Purchase, N.Y. She was also sent to Blumenthal Academy, a finishing school run by German nuns, in the Netherlands, where girls majored in French and German.

      The Irish were still being snubbed by the Boston Brahmins in those days, and despite her stylish education and attractive, self-assured manner, she was blackballed from the Junior League. She shrugged off the slight and formed her own group, the Ace of Clubs.

      There were many suitors, including Sir Thomas Lipton, a tea merchant and yachtsman. But she chose Joseph Kennedy, a political lieutenant of her father. Mr. Fitzgerald did not particularly like Mr. Kennedy. He was too brash and early in the courtship, was made unwelcome in the Fitzgerald house.

      But he proposed on the sidewalk outside, and Rose made it clear that she was going to marry him, with or without her father's permission. Mr. Fitzgerald grudgingly blessed the marriage, which took place on Oct. 7, 1914. Soon, Mr. Kennedy gained control of the Columbia Trust Company in Boston and, at 25, became the youngest bank president in the country.

      Moving into real estate and liquor interests, he also made fortunes on Wall Street and in Hollywood films. And there were many rumors of infidelity with socialites and movie stars, notably the actress Gloria Swanson.

      Meantime, his wife stayed home on Beale Street in Brookline, near Boston, giving birth to and raising her children. Joseph Jr. was born in 1915, followed by John, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean and Edward.

      In 1938, Mrs. Kennedy accompanied her husband to the Court of St. James's and was formally welcomed by King George VI. By 1941, the Kennedys were back in the United States.

      Mrs. Kennedy took Rosemary, then 22, to several specialists to determine why she had been "slow" since birth. The diagnosis was mental retardation. She was placed in a home in Wisconsin, where she still lives. According to Ms. Kearns's book, she was also given a lobotomy upon orders of her father. Three years later, Mrs. Kennedy's oldest son, Joseph Jr., was killed in the war.

      After the war, as John's political career began, Mrs. Kennedy took to the campaign trail with extraordinary zest and considerable effectiveness, speaking at women's functions and shaking hands and chatting at rallies and other functions.

      Acquaintances recalled that she was remarkably frank in her conversations with voters and reporters, sometimes even embarrassingly so. Once when there were complaints that large amounts of Kennedy money were being spent on a race, she told a reporter, "It's our money, and we're free to spend it any way we please."

      An Inauguration Of a Son

      The high point of her life, perhaps, was the inauguration of her son John as the 35th President of the United States on Jan. 20, 1961. The gown she wore to his Inaugural Ball was the one she wore when she was introduced to King George VI 20 years earlier.

      Her son Robert was appointed Attorney General, and Edward was elected to fill John's unexpired Senate term. Mrs. Kennedy continued to travel widely, appearing with her sons. Her other children were not in the center of public life, although Eunice married Sargent Shriver, who became director of the Peace Corps and the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee in 1972, Jean was named the Ambassador to Ireland by President Clinton, and Patricia married the actor Peter Lawford, who died in 1984.

      Her grandchildren include the son and daughter of President Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr., a lawyer, and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, who has been active in family interests, including the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. Another grandchild, William Kennedy Smith, was in the news in 1991 when a Florida woman accused him of rape at the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach; he was later acquitted.

      Several of her grandchildren have followed the family tradition of entering politics. Joseph P. Kennedy 2d, Robert's oldest son, became a United States representative from Massachusetts in 1986, replacing the House Speaker, Thomas P. O'Neill, who retired.

      Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Robert's oldest child, was elected Lieutenant Governor of Maryland in 1994; Patrick Kennedy, one of Edward's sons, was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1994 after serving as a Rhode Island state legislator. And Mark Shriver, the son of Eunice, was elected in 1994 to the Maryland House of Delegates.

      In 1985, the City of Boston dedicated a one-acre rose garden to Mrs. Kennedy. "I'm one of the most fortunate people in the world," she told an interviewer. "Even though my life has been scarred by tragedy, I have never lost this feeling. God has held us all in his hand."

          Rose with her father, Honey Fitz Fitzgerald

            Mrs. and Mr. Fitzgerald, their daughter, Mrs.Rose Kennedy and Mr Joe Kennedy