Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald Kennedy, Countess Kennedy (July 22, 1890 – January 22, 1995) was an American philanthropist, socialite, and the matriarch of the Kennedy family. She was deeply embedded in the "lace curtain" Irish Catholic community in Boston, where her father was mayor. She was the wife of businessman and investor Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., who was United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom, formally known as Ambassador to the Court of St. James's in the UK. Their nine children included President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and longtime Senator Ted Kennedy. In 1951 she was ennobled by Pope Pius XII, becoming the sixth American woman to be granted the rank of Papal countess.
Rose Kennedy, c. 1965–1967
Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald
July 22, 1890
|Died||January 22, 1995 (aged 104)|
Hyannis, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Resting place||Holyhood Cemetery|
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Education||Girls' Latin School|
|Alma mater||New England Conservatory|
Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart
|Known for||Kennedy family matriarch|
Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.
(m. 1914; died 1969)
|Parent(s)||John F. Fitzgerald|
Mary Josephine Hannon
|Relatives||See Kennedy family|
Rose was born at 4 Garden Court in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. She was the eldest of six children born to Boston Mayor John Francis "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald and Mary Josephine "Josie" Hannon. Her siblings were Mary, Thomas, John Jr., Eunice, and Frederick.
As a young child, she lived in an Italianate/Mansard-style home in the Ashmont Hill section of Dorchester, Massachusetts and attended the local Girls' Latin School. The home later burned down, but a plaque at Welles Avenue and Harley Street proclaims "Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Square". The plaque was dedicated by her son, Senator Ted Kennedy, on her 102nd birthday in 1992.
Kennedy studied at the convent school Kasteel Bloemendal in Vaals, The Netherlands, and graduated from Dorchester High School in 1906. She also attended the New England Conservatory in Boston, where she studied piano. After being refused permission by her father to attend Wellesley College, Fitzgerald enrolled at the Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart (as it was then known) in Manhattan, an institution that did not grant degrees at the time. In 1908, Fitzgerald and her father embarked on a tour of Europe. She and Honey Fitz had a private audience with Pope St. Pius X at the Vatican.
Marriage and family lifeEdit
On October 7, 1914 at age 24, she married Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy after a courtship of more than seven years. The long courtship was partly due to her father's disapproval of Kennedy. He was the elder son of businessman/politician P. J. Kennedy (political rival of Honey Fitz) and Mary Augusta Hickey. They initially lived in a home in Brookline, Massachusetts that is now the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site, and later a 15-room vacation home at Hyannis Port on Cape Cod, which became the Kennedy family’s lasting base. Their nine children were Joseph Jr. (Joe), John (Jack), Rose (Rosemary), Kathleen (Kick), Eunice, Patricia (Pat), Robert (Bobby), Jean, and Edward (Ted).
Joseph provided well for their family, but he was unfaithful. His affairs included one with Gloria Swanson. When Rose was eight months pregnant with the couple's fourth child, Kathleen, she temporarily went back to her parents, returning to Joseph after her father told her divorce was not an option. In turning a blind eye to her husband's affairs, Rose depended heavily on medication. Ronald Kessler found records for prescription tranquilizers Seconal, Placidyl, Librium, and Dalmane to relieve Rose's nervousness and stress, and Lomotil, Bentyl, Librax, and Tagamet for her stomach.
Rose Kennedy was a strict Catholic throughout her life. Even after her 100th birthday, she rarely missed Sunday Mass and maintained an "extremely prudish" exterior. Her strict beliefs often placed her at odds with her children. Jacqueline Kennedy described her mother-in-law in her correspondence to Father Joseph Leonard, an Irish priest: "I don't think Jack's mother is too bright – and she would rather say a rosary than read a book."
Rose Kennedy stated that she felt completely fulfilled as a full-time homemaker. In her 1974 autobiography, Times to Remember, she wrote, "I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love and a duty, but as a profession that was fully as interesting and challenging as any honorable profession in the world and one that demanded the best I could bring to it..... What greater aspiration and challenge are there for a mother than the hope of raising a great son or daughter?"
|Name||Birth||Death||Marriage and children|
|Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy Jr.||July 25, 1915||August 12, 1944||Never married and had no children, but was once engaged to Athalia Ponsell|
|John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy||May 29, 1917||November 22, 1963||Married in 1953, to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, had four children, one of whom was stillborn (Arabella) and one who died of hyaline membrane disease after 2 days (Patrick Bouvier Kennedy).|
|Rose Marie "Rosemary" Kennedy||September 13, 1918||January 7, 2005||Never married and had no children|
|Kathleen Agnes "Kick" Kennedy||February 20, 1920||May 13, 1948||Married in 1944, to William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, never had children|
|Eunice Mary Kennedy||July 10, 1921||August 11, 2009||Married in 1953, to Robert Sargent "Sarge" Shriver Jr., had five children|
|Patricia Helen "Pat" Kennedy||May 6, 1924||September 17, 2006||Married in 1954, to English actor Peter Lawford, had four children; divorced in 1966|
|Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy||November 20, 1925||June 6, 1968||Married in 1950, to Ethel Skakel, had eleven children|
|Jean Ann Kennedy||February 20, 1928||Married in 1956, to Stephen Edward Smith, had two sons and adopted two daughters|
|Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy||February 22, 1932||August 25, 2009||Married in 1958, to Joan Bennett, had three children; divorced in 1982. Remarried in 1992 to Victoria Reggie; had no children|
After her son John was elected President in 1960, Rose "became a sort of quiet celebrity" and appeared on the International Best Dressed List. Most of her social activities consisted of involvement in charities and women’s groups. Rose also took brisk ocean swims outside her Cape Cod house in fifty-degree weather.
After suffering a stroke into her nineties in 1984, she used a wheelchair for the remaining eleven years of her life. She maintained her residence at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts and was cared for by private nurses and staff.
On January 22, 1995, Kennedy died from complications from pneumonia at age 104 at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port. She was survived by five of her children as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Rose Kennedy was interred with her husband at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts.
In 1951, Pope Pius XII granted Kennedy the title of countess in recognition of her "exemplary motherhood and many charitable works."  In 1992, when she turned 102, the intersection of Welles Avenue and Harley Street in Boston was proclaimed "Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Square". The plaque was dedicated by her son, Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Also, the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, Massachusetts – the park that was created when the city's Central Artery was sunk below ground level in the "Big Dig" – was named after her on July 26, 2004. Well known for her philanthropic efforts and for leading the Grandparents' Parade at age 90 at the Special Olympics, Kennedy's life and work are documented in the Oscar-nominated short documentary Rose Kennedy: A Life to Remember. She was a lifelong autograph collector.
In popular cultureEdit
- The Rose Kennedy Cocktail is a popular drink in bars in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic United States.
- Kennedy was played by Geraldine Fitzgerald in the miniseries Kennedy (1983).
- Kennedy was played by Annette O'Toole in the TV miniseries The Kennedys of Massachusetts (1990).
- Kennedy was played by Corinne Conley in the TV movie RFK (2002).
- Kennedy was played by Michelle Trout in the film Lives and Deaths of the Poets (2011).
- Kennedy was played by Diana Hardcastle in the TV miniseries The Kennedys (2011) and its sequel The Kennedys: After Camelot (2017).
- The American band Rasputina's song "Rose K." from their album How We Quit the Forest is based on her life.
- French chanteuse Patricia Kaas recorded a song, "Kennedy Rose," on her 1990 album Scène de vie, which is very critical of the Kennedy family's ambitions for their sons.
- Rose Kennedy is the First Lady of the United States in Alternate History Novel Fatherland.
- French singer Benjamin Biolay recorded a song "Rose Kennedy" on his 2001 album Rose Kennedy.
- "North End Walk: N5: Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Birthplace: 4 Garden Court". Boston Women's Heritage Trail. February 22, 2001. Archived from the original on February 22, 2001. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2001). The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga. Simon and Schuster. pp.88–89.
- Kessler, Ronald. The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded. Warner Books, 1996. ISBN 0-446-60384-8. pp. 318, 372–373.
- "Biography: Rose Kennedy". American Experience. PBS. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
- Hodgson, Godfrey (January 24, 1995). "Obituary: Rose Kennedy". The Independent. Archived from the original on July 1, 2014.
- Letters from Jackie, The Irish Times, May 13, 2014
- "Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy". jfklibrary.org.
- "NY Times: Rose Kennedy: A Life to Remember". NY Times. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
- Barbara A. Perry in Rose Kennedy, the Life and Times of a Political Matriarch ISBN 978-0-393-06895-5 p. 257
- "Times To Remember 1974 edition". Amazon.com. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
- "Times to Remember 1995 edition". Amazon.com. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
- Nasaw, David. The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (2012), scholarly biography of her husband
- Perry, Barbara A. Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch (W.W. Norton & Company; 2013)
- Shriver, Timothy. "Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most," (Sarah Crichton Books-Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014)