Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884 1981), eldest child of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, was known throughout her long life for her wide-ranging intelligence, piercing insights, love of mischief, fascination with politics, passionate loyalty, and sharp cutting wit, all of which is well captured in this entertaining biography, as interesting for its history as it is for its personalities. Those personalities include both sides of the politically active but sometimes divisive Roosevelt family, the Oyster Bay faction with Teddy and Alice, and the Hyde Park Roosevelts with Franklin and Alice’s cousin Eleanor--there could not be a larger contrast in temperaments than that between wild Alice and staid Eleanor.
Alice was a teenager when her father became president after McKinley’s assassination in 1901, and the country was fascinated with her and her daring exploits as she ran around Washington and then traveled the world as an ambassador for her father, charming everyone but ignoring social conventions and breaking boundaries proscribed for women in that pre-feminist time. Her While House wedding in 1906 was the social event of the season, and even after her father left the presidency Alice stayed connected and involved with politics, in part by being friends or frenemies with most of the presidents through Richard Nixon.
She never received much of a formal education but read so widely, including books of literature and science, that she educated herself. Alice had first hand experience of many of the important events of the last century, and it’s fascinating to read about The Great Depression, the pre-WWII America First movement, the McCarthy Cold War interrogations, and the Civil Rights era with regard to her informed but opinionated perspectives. Characteristically, she was playful even on her death bed. One of her final acts was teasingly sticking out her tongue.
This is a lengthy book, 483 pages of text and almost another 100 of notes, but time flew while I was reading it. It makes a great follow up volume to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s dual biography of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. After reading that book I really wanted to know more about Alice, a craving this book by author and historian Stacy Cordery went a long way towards satisfying.
Alice as a debutante, and then later in life holding a pillow with one of her mottos: “If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me”