Alice Roosevelt Longworth

From Academic Kids

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Alice Roosevelt, taken about 1900. A striking beauty, her outspokeness and antics won the hearts of the America people who nicknamed her "Princess Alice"
Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth (February 12, 1884February 20,1980), was the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, and his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee.

Alice Roosevelt was the first-born child of Theodore Roosevelt and his first wife Alice Lee in New York City in 1884. Shortly after her birth, her mother Alice and her paternal grandmother both died at the Roosevelt family home in Manhattan. Roosevelt was so distraught with the loss of his wife that he never spoke of her again and refused to have her name mentioned in his presence. Grief-stricken, Roosevelt left his infant daughter Alice in the care of his sister and embarked on a journey of personal discovery.

Returning east, Theodore Roosevelt married Edith Kermit Carrow and reclaimed his daughter. While father and daughter idolized one and other, the relationship between young Alice and her stepmother was strained. Ultimately, Theodore and Edith Roosevelt had five children of their own.

Alice matured into young womanhood, and in the course became a great beauty like her mother. However the years of separation between her father and herself in her infancy, combined with the tension between herself and her stepmother, molded a young woman who was as aloof as she was self-confident and calculating. While not cruel, she was even hard-pressed to find kindness in her heart for her cousin Eleanor Roosevelt, the daughter of her father's brother.

When her father took office following the assassination of President William McKinley (an event that "filled (me) with an extreme rapture") Alice became an instant celebrity and fashion icon. The song Alice Blue Gown was written as an ode to her and her signature color. She was also known as a rule-breaker in an era when women were under great pressure to conform. One of her most famous actions was the smoking of a cigarette in public, something that would have national ramifications. When her father banned her from smoking in the White House, Alice followed her father's instructions by moving her smoking to the roof of the White House. President Roosevelt was quoted once as saying "I can run the country, or I can control my daughter, but I can't do both."

Alice was the center of attention in social context of her father's Presidency. "She is," President Roosevelt said, "the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral." Upon hearing this, Alice responded that her father was all of those, including "the baby at every christening."

For her husband, Alice chose Nicholas Longworth, a U.S. House of Representatives member from Cincinnati, Ohio who ultimately held the position of Speaker of the House. Longworth had a well-documented reputation as a Washington, D.C. playboy; however the two made an awkward couple. The couple had a daughter, Paulina Longworth (1925-1957), though there is much evidence to suggest that the real father was Alice's long-time love, Senator William Edgar Borah. Alice and Nick shared an interest in Republican politics and power, but little else. Of the two, Alice was known as taking the more hard-line Republican position, while Longworth was more affable. During their marriage Longworth carried on numerous affairs; Alice responded by taking every opportunity she could find to make disparaging remarks about his home district of Cincinnati, Ohio and calling its residents "ignorant savages" and worse.

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"Alice Blue," so named for its frequent use by Alice Roosevelt. The color's popularity was immortaized in the song "Alice Blue Gown" in 1918.

While her father moved out of the White House, Alice buried a Voodoo doll of the new First Lady, Nellie Taft in the front yard of the White House. During the Administration of Woodrow Wilson, Alice Roosevelt Longworth worked endlessly against the United States entry into the League of Nations. Her dinner and reception lobbying is credited with making passage of the League of Nations memberships less and less likely.

With great relief, Alice welcomed the Presidency of Warren G. Harding, although, her feelings toward the Harding's was slightly lower than those she felt towards Cincinnati. Mrs. Longworth felt that Harding was a crass man, barely educated, and ill suited for the job. She also recognized that Harding's election dimmed the prospects of her own husband's possible ascendancy to the White House, however he was a Republican and he had appointed Henry Cabot Lodge to his cabinet and this was fine by Alice. Her feelings towards First Lady Florence Harding grew more strained as the Harding's years in Washington increased. Alice lost her best friend, Evalyn Walsh McLean, to Florence, and the relationship between the Speaker's wife and the President's wife grew bitter.

Following the death of her husband in 1931, Alice Longworth and her daughter continued to live near Dupont Circle on Massachusetts Avenue, Washington's Embassy Row. When asked if she would run for her late husband's seat, she declined, most likely because of the contempt that she felt for Cincinnati. Her final visits to the city were in order to fulfill obligations, not for pleasure. One such trip was made for the burial of her husband, another for social debut of daughter. When asked if she would be buried in Cincinnati, Mrs. Longworth said that to do so "would be a fate worse than death itself."

The widow Longworth maintained her stature in the community, socially and politically, garnering her the nickname of "Washington's Other Monument". Mrs. Longworth served as a delegate to Republican National Convention.

Of her quotable quotes, her most famous found its way to a pillow on her settee—"If you haven't anything nice to say, come sit next to me." To Senator Joseph McCarthy she stated that the garbage men, taxi drivers and street sweepers in her neighborhood could call her by her Alice, but he could not. She also informed President Lyndon B. Johnson that she wore wide brim hats so he couldn't kiss her. When a well known Washington Senator was discovered to have been having an affair with a young woman more than half his age, Mrs. Longworth quipped, "You can't make a soufflé rise twice."

Paulina Longworth married Alexander McCormick Sturm with whom she had a daughter, Johanna (b. 1944). Sturm died in 1951. Following the suicide of her daughter in 1957, Alice Roosevelt Longworth fought for and won the custody of her Granddaughter Johanna Sturm, whom she raised. Unlike her relationship with her daughter, Mrs. Longworth doted on her granddaughter and the two were very close. Following a break in of her home in the 1960's, Mrs. Longworth planted and trained poison ivy to grow up the fašade of her Washington home as a deterrent to future would be burglars.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth died in her Embassy Row mansion in 1980 at the age of 96. Alice Roosevelt Longworth is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery, Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.

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