Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt

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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 and the first wife of President Theodore Roosevelt. Less than two days after giving birth to their only child, Roosevelt died from Bright's Disease.[1]

Early life and courtship by Theodore Roosevelt[edit]

Alice Hathaway Lee was born in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to banker George Cabot Lee and Caroline Watts Haskell. Considered tall for the era at 5'6", she has "blue-gray eyes and long, wavy golden hair" and described as strikingly beautiful as well as charming. Her family and friends called her "Sunshine" 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 relatives and next-door neighbors, the Saltonstalls; T.R. was a classmate of her cousin, Richard Middlecott "Dick" Saltonstall, 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 Roosevelt, it was "love at first sight" and he proposed marriage to Lee in June 1879. She put him off, and waited eight months before accepting.[4][5]

Marriage to Theodore Roosevelt[edit]

Marriage certificate of the Roosevelts, 1880

After announcing their engagement on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1880, the 19-year old Lee married Roosevelt on his 22nd birthday, October 27, 1880, at the Unitarian Church in Brookline, Massachusetts. The couple's "proper" honeymoon was delayed until the following summer due to her new husband's acceptance into Columbia Law School. After spending the first two weeks of their marriage at the Roosevelt family home in Oyster Bay, the couple went to live with Theodore's widowed mother, Martha Stewart "Mittie" Bulloch.[6]

Birth of their daughter and death[edit]

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

Roosevelt gave birth to the couple's daughter at 8:30 pm on February 12, 1884; the child was named Alice Lee Roosevelt. Her husband, then a member of the New York State Assembly, was in Albany was not present at the birth but attending to business on the Assembly floor. He had been convinced their child would be born on Valentine's Day, the fourth anniversary of their engagement. After Assemblyman Roosevelt received a telegram the morning of the 13th notifying him of the birth, he made arrangements to leave that afternoon and be with his wife. Another telegram was sent and received regarding her ill health, but she was in a semi-comatose state by the time her husband arrived home around midnight. Roosevelt languished for several hours while her husband held her, dying the afternoon of February 14, 1884 from undiagnosed kidney failure. It was determined that her pregnancy had masked the illness. Roosevelt was 22 years old at the time of her death.[7]

Theodore Roosevelt was so distraught by the death of his wife that, except for a diary entry, he hardly ever spoke of her again, much to the frustration of their daughter. He later wrote the following short, privately published tribute to Alice Roosevelt:

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]

Roosevelt's daughter, Alice Lee Roosevelt, learned of her mother primarily from her father's older 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]

In the immediate aftermath of Roosevelt's death, her widowed husband turned the care of their newborn daughter over to his sister Anna "Bamie" Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt left New York for his ranch in the Badlands of Dakota Territory. During this time and in later years, Alice learned of her mother primarily from aunt. Theodore Roosevelt and his second wife, Edith Kermit Carow, took custody of his daughter when she was three years old.[10][11]

Burial[edit]

Alice Hathaway Lee was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, next to her mother-in-law Mittie, who had died just hours before her. The families of each held a joint funeral for both women.

References[edit]

  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. 
  11. ^ Monk, William Everett. Theodore and Alice: The life and death of Alice Lee Roosevelt. Interlaken, N.Y.: Empire State Books, 1994, pp. 51-68

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