SUMMARY: Alice Roosevelt Longworth (February 12, 1884 – February 20, 1980) oldest child of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States
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Alice Roosevelt Longworth was the oldest child of President Theodore Roosevelt. Her mother, Alice Hathaway Lee was the first wife of President Roosevelt. Alice’s mother was a banking heiress and her father was a state assemblyman at the time of her birth. Alice’s mother Alice died of Bright’s disease two days after Alice’s birth on February 12, 1884.
Alice was left by her father and raised by her aunt while her father moved to North Dakota. Alice was left with a large inheritance from her mother and this and the lack of a father in her early years helped contribute to her irreverent attitude towards her father.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth was raised by her Aunt Barnie and developed a great relationship with her. She would spend vacations with her aunt Barnie when her father and stepmother couldn’t handle her.
Alice’s father, Theodore married Edith Kermit Carow, a childhood friend. They married in London and had 5 children together. Alice came back to live with her father once he remarried. She spent many summers and holidays with her Lee grandparents. She enjoyed this time and was spoiled and given undivided attention by her grandparents. Alice did not get this from her step mom.
Alice contracted polio and it was her stepmother’s forcefulness that prevented a life in a wheelchair or on crutches. Edith forced Alice to wear the leg braces and shoes, even through Alice’s sobs and complaints. Alice had little evidence of the disease and could run up stairs and touch her toes to her nose into her 80’s.
Alice matured onto a beautiful young woman and when her father became the 26th President of the United States, she became a celebrity and fashion icon. Alice was well known as a rule-breaker during a time when women conformed under great pressure. Alice made headlines everywhere she went. She took a tour with the secretary of war among others on a diplomatic mission to Japan and China. She was photographed with the Emperor of Japan and the Empress of China.
On this mission she met her future husband, Nicholas Longworth. They were married in1906 and it was the social event of the season. Alice and Nick resided in Washington D.C. where Nick could work as a member of the House of Representatives.
Alice had a daughter Paulina while married to Nick. The father of Paulina is Senator William Borah. Alice and Nick both had affairs after Alice campaigned against her husband in a political race.
Alice’s husband, Nick died in 1931. She and Pauline continued to live in Washington. Alice’s daughter died at the age of 31 in 1957, by a drug overdose. Alice fought in court and won the custody of her granddaughter, Joanna.
During the depression Alice found she had no fortune. She published her autobiography, Crowded Hours, and it was well received by the public.
Alice had two nicknames. The first, Princess Alice, was when her father was president. Her second, the other Washington Monument, was by maintaining her community, social and political stature. She was not one you would want to trifle with. One bad word from Alice Roosevelt Longworth and no one liked you. But if she liked you then everyone liked you.
Alice began to have health problems in the 1950s. In 1955 she fell and broke her hip. In 1958 she had a mastectomy for her breast cancer. She had breast cancer again in 1970, requiring a second mastectomy. In 1960, age 76; Alice was diagnosed with emphysema as a result from her many years of smoking.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth was a guest in the White House since her father was the President. She choose not to always attend the activities and had no problems making fun of the First Lady’s she did not like. She did however show support to many Presidents.
Alice’s last public appearance was at the christening of the sub named after her father, the USS Theodore Roosevelt in 1959. Then after many years of failing health, Alice died in her Embassy Row home in 1980. She was 96 years old and had died of emphysema, pneumonia, cardiac arrest and a number of other extended illnesses.