Theodora Keogh

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Theodora Keogh
Born Theodora Roosevelt
(1919-06-30)June 30, 1919
New York City
Died January 5, 2008(2008-01-05) (aged 88)
Caldwell County, North Carolina
Education Chapin School
Alma mater Radcliffe College
Occupation Novelist
Spouse(s) Tom Keogh
Thomas O’Toole
Arthur Alfred Rauchfuss
(m. 1980–89)
Children None
Parent(s) Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt
Grace Lockwood
Relatives Roosevelt family

Theodora Roosevelt Keogh O'Toole Rauchfuss (June 30, 1919 – January 5, 2008) was an American novelist writing under her first married name, Theodora Keogh, in the 1950s and 1960s.[1]

Early life[edit]

Theodora Roosevelt was born on June 30, 1919 in New York City, the granddaughter of United States President Theodore Roosevelt.[2] She was the eldest of three daughters born to Grace Lockwood and Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt’s third son.[3] Archie Roosevelt served in the Army in World War II and received the Silver Star. He later was chairman of Roosevelt & Cross, a Wall Street investment firm. Theodora’s mother was Grace Lockwood, daughter of Thomas Lockwood and Emmeline Stackpole of Boston. In her later life, Theodora played down her Roosevelt connections as she wanted her writings and her talents to be judged on their own merits.[4]

Theodora was brought up on the Upper East Side of New York, near the East River, and in the country at Cold Spring Harbor near Oyster Bay. She attended the Chapin School and finished her education at Countess Montgelas’s in Munich, Germany.[1] She graduated from Radcliffe College.[5]


After finishing her education in Germany, she was briefly a debutante in New York, in 1937,[5][3] and then began her professional life as a dancer in South America and in Canada.[6] In 1945, she gave up dancing when she married Tom Keogh, a costumer, and moved to Paris. In France, Keogh designed for the theater and the ballet and worked as an illustrator for Vogue magazine from 1947 to 1951. He designed costumes for such movies as “The Pirate” (1948) with Judy Garland and “Daddy Long Legs” (1955) with Leslie Caron.[7] Through her friendships in Paris, she became connected with writers and editors for the Paris Review, including George Plimpton and Peter Matthiessen, co-founders of the Review; Scottish novelist Alexander Trocchi; the poet Christopher Logue; and Alabama poet and screenwriter Eugene Walter.[7]

After Paris, she lived in Rome, Italy, and New York.[8] Influenced by the Greta Garbo film “Anna Christie,” she bought a tugboat, which she sailed in the Atlantic Ocean. Her interest in tugboats also led to her second marriage, which also ended in divorce. She lived in an apartment at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, where she kept a margay, a South American tiger-cat similar to an ocelot, for company. A popular story about her goes that one night, after Theodora had drunk too much and was asleep, the margay bit the tip of one of her ears, which she changed her hairstyle to conceal.[7][4]

Writing career[edit]

Keogh wrote nine novels during the period of 1950 to 1962, after which time she gave up writing completely.[9] Her novels tended to focus on characters with psychological conflicts and often dark sides to their personalities. In this regard, her themes are similar to those of novelist Patricia Highsmith, most noted for Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Like Highsmith, she created characters who seemed quite normal on the surface and in relation to the social conventions of their day, but who had another side to their lives and their identities.[1]

Theodora’s works explored such dark areas and themes as rape, incest, double lives, and a doctor’s psychological and emotional fascination with a child criminal. Her novels were also noteworthy for exploring gay and lesbian themes, which were daring topics for the era in which she was writing. Such daring themes brought Theodora a measure of notoriety in her day.[10]

Her novels were largely neglected after the 1960s but were rediscovered and reissued by Olympia Press during 2002-2007. The attention to her work after about thirty to forty years of dormancy brought both surprise and delight to Theodora in the final years of her life.[1]

Theodora Keogh’s works were reprinted primarily for three reasons. First, her style is very modern and represents a transition from Romanticism to modernism and postmodernism that mirrors not only writers like Highsmith but also Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Second, she is admired for her exploration of psychological issues and in thus creating complex characters who often present one personality to the world while having a secret and immoral life that is in contradiction. Explorations of the tensions between the socially accepted and the inwardly rebellious or evil side of the same person’s psyche have made Keogh’s novels of greater interest. Third, she is admired for her explorations of lesbian and gay themes, and this approach has made her popular as one of the writers, like Ann Bannon, Marijane Meaker, and Doris Grumbach who opened post-World War II American fiction to explorations of homosexuality. Given her handling of these themes in often lurid detail also made her popular as one of the early writers of lesbian pulp fiction.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Theodora married three times, but did not have any children. In 1945,[5] she married the costumer, Tom Keogh (1921–1980) and moved to Paris, France. The couple eventually divorced in the 1960s[11] after his affair with Marie-Laure de Noailles, but they stayed friends until his death.[7]

She married for the second time to Thomas "Tommy" O’Toole, who has been referred to as a tugboat captain, however, he was actually a steward on the Circle Line.[4] After sailing to North Carolina in the 1970s, he eventually left her and they divorced.[7]

In the 1970s, Theodora moved to Caldwell County, in the western mountains of North Carolina where she became friends with the wife of Arthur Alfred Rauchfuss (1921–1989), owner of a chemical plant.[1] In 1980,[11] after the Rauchfusses divorced, she married Arthur. After his death she continued to live in North Carolina until her own death in 2008.[12] She spent her final years in a house on 19 acres (7.7 ha) on which she kept cats and chickens, until she gave up on keeping chickens because they were being eaten by coyotes.[7]


  • Meg (1950);[13] Mass Market Paperback version published in 1956 was titled “Meg: The Secret Life of an Awakening Girl.”
  • The Double Door (1952)
  • Street Music (1952)
  • The Tattooed Heart (1953)[14]
  • The Fascinator (1954)[15]
  • My Name Is Rose (1956)[16]
  • The Fetish (1959); published in America under the title of The Mistress
  • Gemini (1961)
  • The Other Girl (1962)


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Theodora Keogh". The Telegraph. 29 January 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  2. ^ Times, Special To The New York (28 July 1919). "ROOSEVELT BABY NAMED.; Captain Archie's Daughter Will Be Called Theodora.". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "MISS ROOSEVELT MAKES HER DEBUT; Theodora, a Daughter of the A. B. Roosevelts, Bows at Cold Spring Harbor". The New York Times. June 28, 1937. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c Schenkar, Joan (22 August 2011). "The Late, Great Theodora Keogh". Paris Review Daily. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "THEODORA ROOSEVELT WILL BE WED FRIDAY". The New York Times. June 5, 1945. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "DANCER ROOSEVELT HOME FROM BRAZIL; Theodora, Granddaughter of Late President, Triumphed During 8-Month Trip PLANNED SIX-WEEK TOUR Governor of Sao Paulo Backed a Special Performance for 'Man in the Street'". The New York Times. 4 February 1943. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Theodora Keogh, 88, Author - The New York Sun". New York Sun. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  8. ^ "AbeBooks: A forgotten talent - Theodora Keogh". AbeBooks Inc. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  9. ^ Richards, Linda L. (January 29, 2008). "January Magazine: Theodora Keogh Dies". January Magazine. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  10. ^ "We've All Missed the Boat on Theodora Keogh". Mark Athitakis' American Fiction Notes. 29 January 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Mitchell, Hannah. "Theodora Ranchfuss, danced ballet, wrote novels, granddaughter of Teddy Roosevelt, 88". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  12. ^ Pace, Eric (1 June 1990). "A. B. Roosevelt, a C.I.A. Veteran And Banking Official, Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  13. ^ Times, Special To The New York (6 March 1950). "Books Published Today". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  14. ^ Osborne, Trudie (25 January 1953). "A Youngster Takes a Dare; THE TATTOOED HEART. By Theodora Keogh. 261 pp. New York: Farrar, Straus & Young. $3.". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  15. ^ Nerber, John (14 March 1954). "The Animal Response Is Paramount; THE FASCINATOR. By Theodora Keogh. Illustrated by Tom Keogh. 250 pp. New York: Farrar, Straus & Young. $3.50.". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  16. ^ Times, Special To The New York (11 November 1956). "Monster Unmasked". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2016.