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Before Chappaquiddick

The Untold Story of Mary Jo Kopechne and the Kennedy Brothers

William C. Kashatus

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: Potomac Books
Published: 06/2020
Pages: 256
Subject: Biography and Autobiography
eBook ISBN: 9781640123465

DESCRIPTION

On July 18, 1969, a car driven by Senator Edward M. Kennedy plunged off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, off the coast of Cape Cod. Mary Jo Kopechne, a twenty-eight-year-old former staffer for Kennedy's brother Robert, died in the crash. The scandal that followed demeaned Kopechne's reputation and scapegoated her for Ted Kennedy's inability to run for the presidency instead of acknowledging her as an innocent victim in a tragedy that took her life. William C. Kashatus's biography of Mary Jo Kopechne illuminates the life of a politically committed young woman who embodied the best ideals of the sixties. Arriving in Washington in 1963, Kopechne soon joined the staff of Robert F. Kennedy and committed herself to his vision of compassion for the underprivileged, social idealism tempered by political realism, and a more humane nation. Kashatus details her work as an energetic and trusted staffer who became one of the famed Boiler Room Girls at the heart of RFK's presidential campaign. Shattered by his assassination, Kopechne took a break from politics before returning as a consultant. It was at a reunion of the Boiler Room Girls that she accepted a ride from Edward Kennedy—a decision she would pay for with her life. The untold—and long overdue—story of a promising life cut short, Before Chappaquiddick tells the human side of one of the most memorable scandals of the 1960s.   Purchase the audio edition.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

William C. Kashatus holds a PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of more than twenty books, including Jackie and Campy: The Untold Story of Their Rocky Relationship and the Breaking of Baseball's Color Line (Nebraska, 2014). He has also published essays in a multitude of periodicals, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, American History Magazine, Baltimore Sun, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Kashatus has appeared on NPR and Pennsylvania Cable Network, as well as on many local television and radio stations.  

REVIEWS

"Senator Edward M. Kennedy has dominated the tragic story of Chappaquiddick until now. In Before Chappaquiddick William Kashatus gives us the life story of Mary Jo Kopechne, the young woman who died in Kennedy's car that summer night in 1969. Inspired by her volunteer work on JFK's 1960 presidential campaign, Kopechne later became a valued staff member to Robert F. Kennedy. Crushed by his assassination, she rebuilt a political career as a consultant and adviser to Democratic candidates. Ironically, Mary Jo will forever be linked to Ted Kennedy, who was a distant reflection of his elder brothers and the idealism she cherished."—Walter Mears, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of The Kennedy Brothers

"Before Chappaquiddick captures Mary Jo Kopechne's intelligence, idealism, and beauty. Weaving her life story into the fabric of the Kennedy brothers' political careers, Kashatus sets this promising young political consultant free from the rumors and bold-faced lies that have tarnished her reputation for a half century."—Donald D. McFadden, attorney and private investigator for the Kopechne exhumation hearing

"For years after the incident on Chappaquiddick, very little has been published about Mary Jo: who she was, what she and her family suffered. I am so pleased to read Kashatus's book Before Chappaquiddick and to see Mary Jo's story told. She was a young woman with ideals. She had hopes and dreams for her future, only to have her life cut short so tragically. She deserves this book, and anyone interested in what happened on the small island of Chappaquiddick so many years ago will find it a worthwhile read."—Leslie H. Leland, foreman for the grand jury inquest into the death of Mary Jo Kopechne

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