BOSTON (AP) – Rose Kennedy, for one brief shining moment the most powerful mother in America, went over John F. Kennedy’s head in 1962 to write directly to Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev. For that, she got a playful scolding from her son.

She spunkily wrote a letter asking the Russian leader to autograph photographs of his meeting with her son, and Khrushchev complied.

“Would you be sure to let me know in the future any contacts you have with heads of state …” John Kennedy wrote to his mother on White House stationery on Nov. 3, 1962, just days after the Cuban missile crisis ended. “Requests of this nature are subject to interpretations and therefore I would like to have you clear them before they are sent.”

Unfazed, Rose Kennedy wrote back: “Dear Jack: I am so glad you warned me about contacting heads of state as I was just about to write to Castro.”

The exchange was contained in Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy’s papers – 250 boxes of letters, photographs, notes – that became available to the public at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston.

The collection sheds light on a woman best known as the daughter of a mayor, wife of an ambassador, and mother of sons who became president, attorney general and senator in a family that has known intense grief as well as enormous success.

“She’s a hot ticket,” said Megan Desnoyers, archivist for family collections at the library. “I don’t think people know much about Rose Kennedy.”

The eldest daughter of Boston Mayor John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, who also was a congressman, Rose Fitzgerald married Joseph Kennedy. Their 1914 Wedding Log, which is part of the collection, shows that they traveled to Philadelphia on their honeymoon.

There they watched the Boston Braves play in a World Series game at Shibe Park.

Desnoyers describes Rose Kennedy as a “note taker and a keeper.” She lived to be 104, dying in 1995.

As a teenager she became comfortable on the campaign trail with her father, said James Wagner, exhibits specialist at the library. That came in handy during her son’s 1960 presidential campaign, when she visited more than a dozen states.

A six-page draft of a stump speech she gave in Wisconsin in 1960 includes her handwritten revisions.

“On the dais up until the last minute, she’d be revamping her speech,” Wagner said. “She was a very comfortable public speaker. She would write her own speeches and edit them.”

The papers were donated by the Kennedy family two years ago. Buried somewhere in the 250 boxes, but not yet pulled out for public display, is a letter she wrote to her son Edward in the early ’60s, around the time he was either running for Senate, or after he was elected. It schools him on the proper pronunciation of “nuclear.”

“She was always correcting their grammar. She definitely was a mother,” Desnoyers said.

She was a disciplinarian as well.

“When the children needed to be spanked, I often used a ruler – and sometimes a coat hanger which was often more convenient because in any room there would be a closet and the hangers in them would be right at hand,” she said in a letter dictated in 1972.

“Of course,” it continued, “the children would sometimes anticipate what was coming and stuff their trousers with a pillow so I am not sure the spankings had much lingering effect.”

Rose Kennedy’s papers include solemn remembrances as well.

“My reaction to grief is a certain kind of nervous action,” she wrote in her diaries shortly after the assassination of John Kennedy. “I just keep moving, walking, pulling away at things, praying to myself while I move, and making up my mind that it is not going to get me. I am not going to be licked by tragedy, as life is a challenge and we must carry on and work for the living as well as mourn for the dead.”



On the Net:

http://www.jfklibrary.org

AP-ES-09-28-06 1651EDT


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