Man-Cub Mamas in History: Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

This post series is inspired by the book, First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents by Bonnie Angelo. The book is about 11 mothers of presidents, all of whom lived in the 20th century. While Angelo presents a much more rounded version of the President’s mothers, my goal in these posts is to share only the positive things each mother did. So without further ado, here are some anecdotes about Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.

  • Of being a mother, Rose said: “I looked at child rearing not only as a work of love and 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 it.”
  • She had 9 children, four boys and five girls, over a period of seventeen years.
  • She would take her children to historic places like Plymouth Rock or the Old North Church and tell them stories about the early years of America.
  • Rose had an impressive filing system and would record information about her children on file cards. She recorded doctor visits, achievements, shoe sizes, anything relevant she needed to remember about them. She would weigh each child once a week and take them all to the dentist quarterly.
  • Like many other first mothers, Rose made reading books a priority in her family.
  • She went to college and studied German and French. She kept up these languages throughout her life, “swam regularly in the cold Cape Cod waters well into her eighties, and vigorously walked the beach.” She learned how to ski when she was sixty, and tried out skateboarding at eighty-five.
  • She outlived many of her children, four of which died violently (either in war, plane crashes, or assassination) and a fifth who was mentally disabled. Despite the tragedies in her life, she continued to push forward. She encouraged her son JFK to increase funding for programs for the mentally retarded.
  • Rose participated in both of her son’s presidential campaigns on a national level. One of her campaign techniques was to have a tea party. She would send formal invitations to the local ladies to meet the candidate and his mother. The first tea was an experiment that brought huge results: fifteen hundred women lined up come.
  • Of her, her surviving son Ted said, “She was ambitious not only for our success but for our souls. From our youth, we remember how, with effortless ease, she could bandage a cut, dry a tear, recite from memory The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, and spot a hole in a sock from a hundred yards away.”

If you want to learn more about the first mothers, read the whole book!