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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 January, 2005, 13:17 GMT
President Kennedy's sister dies
Rosemary Kennedy in 1938
Kennedy underwent a lobotomy when she was 23
Rosemary Kennedy, the older sister of the late US president John F Kennedy and the inspiration for the Special Olympics, has died aged 86.

The third child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy, she was mentally retarded and was lobotomised when she was 23.

She spent most of her life at an institution in Jefferson, Wisconsin, where she died surrounded by members of her family, including brother Edward.

After her death on Friday, her family called her a "lifelong jewel".

"Her mental retardation was a continuing inspiration to each of us and a powerful source of our family's commitment to do all we can to help all persons with disabilities live full and productive lives," it said.


Rosemary's condition inspired her younger sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver to become an advocate for recognition for the mentally retarded. She set up the Special Olympics in 1984 for mentally retarded athletes.

She later looked after Rosemary after the family matriarch, Rose, suffered a stroke.

She was born in 1918 in Boston. Brain damage at birth may have caused her mental retardation.

Her father is believed to have approved her lobotomy, an operation to remove part of the brain, because of fears she might damage the politically ambitious family's reputation.

"Rosemary was a woman, and there was a dread fear of pregnancy, disease and disgrace," author Laurence Leamer wrote in his book The Kennedy Women: The Saga of an American Family.

Before her lobotomy at age 23, Rosemary kept diaries which recounted a privileged life of tea dances and trips to Europe and the White House.

The diaries came to light in 1995, after being kept by her mother's secretary.

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