Rose Kennedy didn't drink and she didn't smoke. She told people who offered her a drink or a cigarette, "Well, I am just an old-fashioned girl. I don't drink and I don't smoke and I have a lot of children."
She and her husband, Joseph P. Kennedy, had nine. One became president of the United States. Two became U.S. senators. Two of her sons were assassinated, one was killed in World War II. One of her daughters died in a plane crash. Another was mentally disabled.
She was born Rose Fitzgerald on July 22, 1890, in the North End of Boston, one of six children born to John Francis "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald and Mary Josephine Hannon. Her father served as Boston mayor and as a congressman. Though she yearned to attend Wellesley College, her father wouldn't let her. She did study at a convent school in the Netherlands and at the New England Conservatory of Music before attending Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart, which didn't offer degrees. Her father made up for his refusal to send her to Wellesley by taking her on a tour of Europe when she was 18.
Rose Kennedy traveled widely throughout her life. She spoke several languages fluently and was interested in fashion and the arts. In those respects she resembled her famous daughter-in-law, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. And both married powerful, ambitious, unfaithful men.
As a young mother, Rose was frustrated. She wrote,
I used to say, 'Why did I spend time learning to read Goethe or Voltaire if I have to spend my life telling children why they should drink their milk or why they should only eat one piece of candy each day and then after meals.' But then I thought raising a family is a new challenge and I am going to meet it.
She put a little better spin on motherhood 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?
Rose Kennedy died Jan. 22, 2004 in Hyannis, Mass.
Photo of Rose Kennedy a detail from "President Kennedy with his mother crop" by Abbie Rowe. "The Kennedy Family" by Richard Sears. Both from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. With thanks to 'Finding Her Way in the Clan,' by Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe, May 13, 2007.