Alice Roosevelt took the nation by storm when she moved into the White House with her father, Theodore, and stepmother, Edith, in 1901. She was a 17 year old spitfire. Her father once told a friend, “I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.
Alice was born on February 12, 1884 to Theodore and Alice Roosevelt. The excitement of her birth was quickly overshadowed by two tragedies. On February 14, Alice’s grandmother died of typhoid fever. Later that same day, Alice’s mother died of kidney failure. It was just too much for Theodore who left Alice with her aunt, Anna, and moved to North Dakota.
He returned for her after 2 years, but her aunt remained a significant influence in her life.
During her time in the White House, the public watched Alice’s every move. Women dressed like her and men were appalled by her unladylike behavior. Behaviors like smoking, partying, chewing gum and wearing pants earned her a spot on the front page of national newspapers who called her Princess Alice.
One time, when her father told her that she couldn’t smoke under his roof, she climbed onto the roof of the White House and smoked above it.
On January 3, 1902, her debutante ball was held at the White House. 600 people attended the event in the East Room. The Marine Band played.
In 1905, in an effort to keep Alice busy, Theodore sent her on a diplomatic mission to Asia. While on the trip, she began a relationship with Congressman Nicholas Longworth. The couple was married at the White House on February 17, 1906. Alice used the sword of a military aide in attendance to cut her cake.
The Longworths’ marriage was rocky. It was well-known that there was infidelity in the marriage and most people believe that couple’s only child was actually fathered by a Senator named William Borah.
When her father’s presidency was over, Alice buried a Voodoo doll of Nellie Taft, the wife of the incoming president, in the front yard of the White House. William Taft banned Alice from the White House grounds. In 1916, she was banned from the White House again by Woodrow Wilson after making a joke about him that he deemed inappropriate.
Alice continued to socialize and make waves in Washington DC until her death in 1980. One quote often attributed to Alice was, “If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.”
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