Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt
Alice Hathaway Roosevelt 1.jpg
Alice Hathaway Lee at age 17
Born Alice Hathaway Lee
(1861-07-29)July 29, 1861
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Died February 14, 1884(1884-02-14) (aged 22)
Manhattan, New York
Cause of death
Bright's Disease
Spouse(s) Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
(m. 1880–1884; her death)
Children Alice Lee Roosevelt
Parent(s) George Cabot Lee
Caroline Watts Haskell
Relatives Paulina Longworth (granddaughter)

Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt (July 29, 1861 – February 14, 1884) was an American socialite.[1] She was the first wife of President Theodore Roosevelt. They had one child, Alice Lee Roosevelt.

Early life and courtship by Theodore Roosevelt[edit]

Alice was born in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to banker George Cabot Lee and Caroline Watts Haskell. She was tall for the era at 5'6", and seen as charming and strikingly beautiful. With "blue-gray eyes and long, wavy golden hair", she was called "Sunshine" by her family and friends, because of her cheerful disposition.[2][3] Theodore was quickly smitten by her.

She met Theodore "T.R." Roosevelt, Jr. on October 18, 1878, at the home of her next-door neighbors, the Saltonstalls; T.R. was a classmate of young Richard Middlecott "Dick" Saltonstall (her cousin) at Harvard University. Of their first encounter, he would write, "As long as I live, I shall never forget how sweetly she looked, and how prettily she greeted me."

For young T.R. it was "love at first sight." By Thanksgiving (only a month after meeting her), he had decided Alice was to be his wife; the following June he proposed. She put T.R. off, however, taking another eight months before saying "yes".[4] It is unknown why she declined Theodore's first offer, but a classmate's fiancé later described him as being, "studious, ambitious, eccentric — not the sort to appeal at first." Theodore then recruited his popular mother and sisters, whom he was very close to, to help court her.[5]

Marriage to Theodore Roosevelt[edit]

Marriage certificate of the Roosevelts, 1880

On February 13, 1880, an ecstatic Roosevelt recorded in his diary his great joy that the woman of his dreams, whom he had actively courted for more than a year, had finally accepted his proposal of marriage. Knowing that his love was reciprocated and that he could now "hold her in my arms and kiss her and caress her and love her as much as I choose" gave the enraptured young Roosevelt enormous satisfaction. They announced their engagement on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1880.

At age 19, Alice married Theodore on October 27, 1880 (his 22nd birthday), at the Unitarian Church in Brookline, Massachusetts. Among the guests at their wedding, and at the reception in the home of the bride's parents, was Edith Carow, later to become Roosevelt's second wife. The couple's "proper" honeymoon was delayed until the following summer by Theodore's acceptance into Columbia Law School and after two weeks at the family home in Oyster Bay the couple went to live with Theodore's widowed mother, Martha Stewart "Mittie" Bulloch.[6]


Alice left, with her sisters-in-law, Corinne and Anna (Bamie) Roosevelt

Alice gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Alice Lee Roosevelt at 8:30pm on the night of February 12, 1884. Theodore, then a member of the New York State Assembly, was in Albany attending to business on the Assembly floor because he was positive that the baby would be born on Valentine's Day, the fourth anniversary of their engagement. He received a telegram the next morning notifying him of the birth, and made arrangements to take leave from his duties that afternoon. When he later received another telegram informing him that Alice had taken ill, the commute was such that he did not arrive to his home until midnight, by which time Alice was in a semi-comatose state. He held her for two hours until alerted to his mother's deteriorating condition, two floors below in the Roosevelts' Manhattan home. Theodore's mother Mittie had been ill for several days with what would later be determined to be typhoid fever and died February 14, 1884 at 3:00 am. Theodore then rushed upstairs to his wife, whom he held for several hours until she died that afternoon from a case of undiagnosed kidney failure. Her pregnancy had masked the illness.[7] Her death occurred on Valentine's Day, the fourth anniversary of when their engagement was announced. She was 22 years old.

Theodore was so distraught by Alice's death that except for a diary entry ("The light has gone out of my life"), he hardly ever spoke of her again, much to the frustration of their daughter. In a short, privately published tribute to Alice, Roosevelt wrote:

She was beautiful in face and form, and lovelier still in spirit; As a flower she grew, and as a fair beautiful young flower she died. Her life had been always in the sunshine; there had never come to her a single sorrow; and none ever knew her who did not love and revere her for the bright, sunny temper and her saintly unselfishness. Fair, pure, and joyous as a maiden; loving, tender, and happy. As a young wife; when she had just become a mother, when her life seemed to be just begun, and when the years seemed so bright before her—then, by a strange and terrible fate, death came to her. And when my heart's dearest died, the light went from my life forever.[8]

Richard Nixon made reference to these comments upon his resignation from the presidency in 1974. Paying tribute to Roosevelt and his inner courage, he remarked that "only when you have been in the deepest valley can you know how magnificent it is to reach the highest mountain".

Their daughter Alice primarily got information on her from Theodore's elder sister Anna "Bamie" Roosevelt. Theodore tried to get Alice's death out of his life such that he did not mention her by name in his autobiography.[9] The younger Alice Roosevelt's daughter, Paulina, was born on Valentine's Day, on February 14, 1925, which would have been the elder Alice Roosevelt's 64th birthday.

In the immediate aftermath of his wife's death, Theodore turned the care of their newly-born infant daughter to his sister Bamie, and embarked on a period of self recovery. He went to his ranch in the badlands of Dakota Territory. From this interlude Roosevelt would emerge a renewed man and would go on to the Presidency of the United States in 1901. He and his second wife Edith Kermit Carow would take custody of young Alice at three years old.[10]


Alice Hathaway Lee was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, next to her mother-in-law Mittie, after a double funeral.


  1. ^ Commire, Anne (1999). Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Yorkin Publications. 
  2. ^ Carol Felsenthal (31 December 2003). Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Macmillan. pp. 15–. ISBN 978-0-312-30222-1. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Stacy A. Cordery (30 September 2008). Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker. Penguin. pp. 6–. ISBN 978-0-14-311427-7. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  4. ^ Cordery, S. A.:"Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Boker, page 10, Viking Penguin Viking, 2007.
  5. ^ Felsenthal, C.: "Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, page 17, St. Martin's Press, 1988.
  6. ^ Pringle, H. F.:"Theodore Roosevelt: A Biography" page 45, Blue Ribbon Books, 1931.
  7. ^ Felsenthal, C. "Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, p. 29-32.
  8. ^ Miller, Nathan, (1992) Theodore Roosevelt - A Life, pg 158, ISBN 978-0-688-13220-0, ISBN 0-688-13220-0, New York, Quill/William Morrow
  9. ^ Monk, William Everett. Theodore and Alice: The life and death of Alice Lee Roosevelt. Interlaken, N.Y.: Empire State Books, 1994, pp. 51-68
  10. ^ Miller, Nathan (1992). Theodore Roosevelt: A Life. 

External links[edit]