During Theodore Roosevelt's presidency, the White House hosted what is considered the grandest wedding ever held there. It drew media attention and the curiosity of the nation, and the bride was one of America's greatest celebrities: Roosevelt's oldest child, Alice.
|Alice Roosevelt by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1903|
Roosevelt returned two years later, married his childhood friend Edith Carrow, and reclaimed Alice, but the little girl had a strained relationship with both of them (although Edith nursed Alice through a mild case of polio). Edith reportedly told Alice her mother would have bored Theodore to death had she lived. Perhaps in response to the tension, Theodore spoiled Alice and gave her anything she wanted. She had little education but enjoyed reading and had a sparkling wit.
|Alice as a young girl|
Alice did not behave like the typical young lady of her time. She smoked, chewed gum, drove a car, placed bets with bookies, kept a pet snake, and went out with men, unchaperoned--all in public.
Mindful of his daughter's celebrity, President Roosevelt sent Alice on a delegation with Secretary of War Taft to Japan, Hawaii, China, the Philippines, and Korea in 1905. Sailing to Japan, Alice jumped fully clothed into the ship's swimming pool and invited an Ohio congressman, Nicholas Longworth, to jump in with her.
|Nicholas and Alice crossing the Pacific|
|In Korea. Alice in center, Nicholas on the right|
The wedding on February 17, 1906, was a grand affair. The House of Representatives adjourned for the day. A thousand guests came, fighting for parking spots for their new automobiles. People lined Pennsylvania Avenue for a glimpse of the bride, who was determined to marry in her own way.
|The wedding gown|
|Nicholas and Alice Longworth with President Roosevelt|
The couple honeymooned in Cuba, where Alice declared the hills her father had conquered as a Rough Rider to be "mildly sloping." A few years later, when Theodore left the White House, Alice buried a voodoo doll of Taft's wife, Nellie, in the front yard. (She was banned from the White House by Taft, as well as by Woodrow Wilson due to her bawdy jokes.)
Alas, Nicholas did not leave his playboy ways behind when he married. Although he eventually became Speaker of the House, politically-minded Alice was disappointed that he supported Taft's re-election. Both parties had extramarital affairs.
Alice kept busy with politics. She opposed the League of Nations and her cousin Franklin Roosevelt. When Alice was 41, she gave birth to a daughter, Paulina, and both Alice and Nicholas knew the baby's father was Idaho senator William Borah. Alice joked that the baby should have been named Deborah, and apparently some of Alice's friends called the baby "Aurora Borah Alice."
|Alice on her 43rd birthday with her daughter, Paulina|
|The Longworths, 1926|
Alice continued to stay active politically, but made money by appearing in tobacco advertisements and publishing a candid autobiography. Paulina married, but her husband died when she was 26. She died five years later of an overdose of sleeping pills, leaving a daughter, Joanna, to Alice's care.
Being a grandmother didn't slow Alice, however. She remained a favorite dinner party guest at political events and lived how she wished. On the February 17, 1974 broadcast of the program "60 Minutes" (on what would have been her wedding anniversary), Alice told Eric Sevareid she was a "hedonist."
She died in 1980 at age 96.
Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of almost a dozen historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, genealogy, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos. You can visit her on her website, www.susannedietze.com
|Susanne's latest release is The Rails to Love Collection|