Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald was born July 22, 1890 in Boston, Massachusetts.
She was the eldest of six children born to “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald and Josie Hannon.
Rose 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.
In 1908, Rose and her father embarked on a tour of Europe. She and her father even had a private audience with Pope St. Pius X at the Vatican.
On October 7, 1914, Rose married Joseph Patrick “Joe” Kennedy, Sr. after a courtship of more than seven years.
Joe was the elder son of Patrick Joseph “P. J.” Kennedy (a political rival of Rose’s father, Honey Fitz).
Rose gave birth to her first son, Joseph Patrick “joe” Kennedy, Jr. July 25, 1915.
Two years later, Rose gave birth to John Fitzgerald Kennedy May 29, 1917.
Her husband provided will for her family, but was unfaithful. Rose even temporarily moved back with her parents while pregnant with her first daughter.
Rose remained married and went back to Joe, turning a blind eye to his affairs.
Rose, then had four daughters; Rosemary on September 13, 1918, Kathleen “Kick” on February 20, 1920, Eunice on July 10, 1921, and Patricia “Pat” on May 6, 1924.
Rose then had Robert “Bobby” Kennedy on November 20, 1925, Jean Ann on February 20, 1928, and her ninth and last child, Edward “Teddy” Kennedy on February 22, 1932.
Rose would later state that she felt completely fulfilled as a mother and full-time homemaker.
Then on August 12, 1944, Rose lost her eldest son Joe to World War II. He died in a naval airplane crash over the English Channel.
Her second son, John “Jack” famously almost lost his life during the war commanding PT 109.
Rose’s strict beliefs often placed her at odds with her own children.
She refused to attend her daughter Kathleen’s wedding in 1944 to William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, an Anglican, who was the eldest son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire. Normal relations eventually resumed, particularly after the death of Kathleen’s husband during World War II.
However, when daughter Kathleen herself died in a plane crash over France on May 13, 1948 (along with new fiance, the 8th Earl FitzWilliam, a divorced Anglican), only her husband Joe attended their daughters funeral and burial at the Devonshire family seat.
In 1951, Pope Pius XII granted Rose Kennedy the title of countess in recognition of her “exemplary motherhood and many charitable works.”
After her son John “Jack” became President in 1961, Rose “became a sort of quiet celebrity,” appearing 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.
On December 19, 1961, at the age of 73, her husband Joe Kennedy suffered a major stroke. He survived, but was left paralyzed on his right side and with a language disorder, aphasia, that severely affected his ability to speak.
Photo of Rose and a family get together on September 7, 1963. (From L-R) Kneeling: First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy; Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (L-R) Standing: R. Sargent Shriver; Stephen Smith, Sr.; Ethel Kennedy; President John F. Kennedy; Jean Kennedy Smith; Rose Kennedy; Robert F. Kennedy; Eunice Kennedy Shriver; Patricia Kennedy Lawford; Edward (Ted) Kennedy; Joan Kennedy.
Then on November 22, 1963, her son and President John F. “Jack” Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
And if that was not enough, Rose has to endure another son losing his life to assassination when “Bobby” Kennedy was killed June 6, 1968 in Los Angeles.
Rose’s severely disabled husband Joe Kennedy died November 18, 1969, two months after his 81st birthday.
Rose was a devout Irish Catholic throughout her life, and well known for her philanthropic efforts.
In her 1974 autobiography, Times to Remember, Rose 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?”
In 1980, at the age of 90, Rose Kennedy proudly led the Grandparents’ Parade for the Special Olympics.
Then, after Rose suffered a stroke in 1984, she had to use a wheelchair for the remainder of her life.
She maintained her residence at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts and was cared for by private nurses and staff.
Even after her 100th birthday in 1990, Rose rarely missed Sunday Mass and maintained an “extremely prudish” exterior.
In 1992, when Rose 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.
Then on January 22, 1995, Rose Kennedy died from complications from pneumonia at the age of 104, having outlived her husband by a quarter of a century, four of her nine children (Joe, Jr., Jack, Kick, and Bobby), her ex-son-in-law Peter Lawford, her son-in-law Stephen Edward Smith, her daughter-in-law Jackie, and three of her grandchildren, David, Arabella, and Patrick.
Rose Kennedy’s life and work were later documented in the Oscar-nominated short documentary Rose Kennedy: A Life to Remember.
Now WE know em