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Alice Roosevelt Longworth

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Alice in a hat
Alice Roosevelt Longworth was the eldest daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, and was a prominent socialite and writer of her day. She was adored by the American people for her vivacity, beauty, outspokeness, and unconvential lifestyle. She was nicknamed "America's Princess."





Full Name Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth
Who socialite
Birth Date February 12, 1884
Death Date February 20, 1980
Country United States
Born New York, New York, USA
Died Washington D.C., USA
Cause of Death general ill health / emphysema / pneumonia
Education n/a
Father Theodore Roosevelt
Mother Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt
Spouse Nicholas Longworth III
Siblings

Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

Kermit Roosevelt

Ethel Roosevelt Derby

Archibald Roosevelt

Quentin Roosevelt

Children Paulina Longworth Sturm


Connections

Longworth was the only daughter of Theodore Roosevelt and his first wife Alice Hathaway Roosevelt - the rest of his children were had with his second wife, and were Longworth's half siblings. Longworth's mother died when she was only three years old. Her father was so distraught by her death that he could not bear to think of her, and ordered no one to ever speak of her, or mention her name. Thus, Alice was called "baby Lee" instead of by her own name, which had also been her mother's. Roosevelt was not particularly close to his daughter, and their relationship was often strained.

After Longworth's mother died, she was placed in the care of her aunt, Bamie Roosevelt, who was her beloved mother figure for the rest of her life. Longworth and her aunt remained very close from then on, and Longworth greatly admired her. She said that if Bamie had been born a man, "she would have been President," and that her aunt was essential to keeping her family together. Longworth went to visit her aunt frequently while growing up.

Roosevelt's second wife, Edith Roosevelt, was a major mother figure in Longworth's life, though certainly not a loving one. Her image was more of strict, rigid control, which the wild and free-spirited Longworth hated. Edith made it clear to her husband Teddy that she considered Longworth to be a dull, insipid fool, with only one redeeming quality - her beauty. Edith strictly forced Longworth to wear leg braces and torturous metal shoes to bed, no matter how Longworth cried and begged. Though her harsh administration of this caused Longworth to carry a deep resentment of her, it also undoubtedly helped the girl to grow up without any of her genetic disability - she had polio, that caused one leg to grow shorter than the other. If not for Edith's unbending regimen, she would have almost certainly had to be confined to a wheelchair later in life. Instead, Longworth was able to run up stairs, jog about with agility, and touch her toes well into her 80's. Later in life, as a grown woman, Longworth and Edith put aside their differences and became close. Longworth expressed deep admiration for Edith, and the two women bonded over their mutual love of literature.

Through her stepmother Edith, Longworth was the step-great-grandaughter of Civil War general Daniel Tyler.

Longworth accompanied William Howard Taft on a diplomatic mission to Asia in 1905. As a world-revered celebrity and fashion icon, she made headlines and used her beauty and charm to prompt favorable and gracious agreements from hosts. At the time, it was the largest diplomatic mission in history.

While on the diplomatic mission to Asia in 1905, Longworth met with Emperor Meiji and Empress Dowager Cixi.

Longworth had known Nicholas Longworth for years, seeing him often at social gatherings, but the two became close on the Asian diplomacy mission in 1905, when an attraction was sparked between them. Longworth scandalously jumped into the ship's pool fully clothed while sailing to Japan, and convinced Nicholas to jump in with her. The incident, a stark contrast to the ladylike behavior that young women were expected to display, became an international tabloids and newspaper phenomenon. The two began courting, and after returning to the United States, they were engaged. Nicholas was 14 years older than the beautiful Longworth, and while she was known as the daring and unconvential belle of society, the beauty of her age, he was known as one of the country's most eligable bachelors, and as a seductive playboy. The media loved the couple. They married in February of 1906, and their wedding was the social event of the season. Thousands were in attendance, and thousands more gathered outside in hopes of catching a glimpse of Alice. She famously wore a blue wedding dress and dramatically cut the wedding cake with a sword. They had a grand honeymoon, and a happy marriage, until the 1912 Presidential election. Alice supported her father, while her husband supported his mentor, William Howard Taft. She participated openly in presidential campaigns against Taft, even in her husband's own district. Taft lost, and Alice playfully joked that she had been the reason for this. Her husband did not think the joke to be so funny, and the two grew apart. Nicholas was increasingly cold to her following that year, and as a result Alice had a number of affairs. 

On her honeymoon and tour of Europe in 1906, Longworth met with and had dinner with many powerful names, including Edward VII of England,  Wilhelm II of Germany, Georges Clemenceau, Whitelaw Reid, George Curzon of Kedleston, and William Jennings Bryan.

Longworth had a longterm affair with William Borah, while married to Nicholas Longworth. It is generally accepted that her only daughter was Borah's child.

Longworth's best friend, for many years, was Evalyn Walsh McLean, but their relationship grew strained when McLean also befriended Florence Harding, one of Longworth's social enemies.

Longworth was a rival and enemy of First Lady Helen Herron Taft, and frequently made jokes at Taft's expense. Taft was deeply uncomfortable around Longworth, and eventually banned her from coming to the White House.

Woodrow Wilson did not appreciate Longworth's sharp sense of humor, and after a ribald joke at Wilson's expense one night at a White House dinner, Wilson also banned for from coming back for the rest of his presidency. In return, Longworth actively worked to prevent the United States from being accepted into the League of Nations.

Longworth disliked President Warren G. Harding, and despised his First Lady, Florence Harding. She was hurt and furious when the First Lady befriended one of her own closest friends. She considered President Harding to be crass, unfit for the presidency, and barely educated.

Despite Longworth's displeasure with President Harding, she got along well with his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge.

Longworth was critical of 1940 Presidential candidate Wendell Willkie. When the press praised Willkie for his "grassroots support," she fired back to the press that it was actually "the grass roots of 10,000 country clubs."

Longworth was a powerful opponent of politician Thomas Dewey, laughingly likening him to "the bridegroom on a wedding cake" to the press. Her cavalier scorn and view of him stuck, and he soon became the subject of cartoons after Longworth's description of him. As a result, his career brought him ridicule and dismissal, and his career and prospects were dashed.

Longworth did not approve of or support John F. Kennedy during the 1960 Presidential Election, but later came to be enamored with the Kennedy family, whom she considered to be glamorous, attractive, and amusing. With most of the members of the family, she had a friendship that always hovered between strained and comfortable. She was closest to Bobby Kennedy, and the two became close, though he was often offended by her jokes at his expense.

Longworth voted for Lyndon Johnson in 1964 solely because she considered his opponent, Barry Goldwater, to be "too mean." She later cleverly told Johnson that the reason she wore wide-brimmed hats to his events was so that he couldn't kiss her.

During the vice presidency of Richard Nixon, Longworth and Nixon grew very close and became true friends. After President Eisenhower's second term ended and Nixon moved back to California, the two kept in touch. Longworth was instrumental in bringing Nixon back into politics, encouraging him to keep at his political career, and always inviting him to her star-studded dinner parties. After he became president, Nixon was always grateful to Longworth, and often invited her to many intimate family and White House events. Their friendship, however, was cut short by Longworth in 1972, after the uncovering of the Watergate Scandal. In response, Nixon quoted an inspiring quip by Theodore Roosevelt, and compared his struggles to the dark period in which Longworth's father had lost his wife, Longworth's mother Alice Hathaway Roosevelt. Longworth was enfuriated, reportedly screaming curses at the television screen, and was never friendly to Nixon again. The ending of their relationship was not mutual, however, and Nixon continued to speak with great admiration of Longworth, calling her "the most interesting conversationalist of the age" and saying "No one, no matter how famous, could ever outshine her."

Longworth was a friend of Tricia Nixon Cox, and attended her wedding in 1971.

Longworth was a cordial acquaintance of Gerald Ford.

Longworth considered Jimmy Carter to lack social grace, and after he was made President, she declined a meeting with him, and refused to ever attend any of his events. The two never met, and he was the last president that she ever lived to see. Carter was always disappointed at her refusal to meet him, despite his warm invitations. After her death, he praised her for her wit, charm, grace, and sense of humor, and said "She kept generations of political newcomers to Washington wondering which was worse - to be skewered by her wit or to be ignored by her."

Longworth met Queen Elizabeth II of England in 1976, when the Queen traveled to the United States for the country's bicentennial. Despite the queen's prescence, Longworth spent much of her time at the event with some of her old friends - African American kitchen workers at the White House.




Lists - Vintage Beauties

How Added - Through her father, Theodore Roosevelt.

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