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Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth (February 12, 1884 – February 20, 1980) was an American writer and prominent socialite. She was the eldest child of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and the only child of Roosevelt and his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee.

Alice led an unconventional and controversial life. Her marriage to Representative Nicholas Longworth III (Republican-Ohio), a party leader and 38th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was shaky, and her only child Paulina was allegedly a result of her affair with Senator William Edgar Borah of Idaho. She was a Democrat during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

Biography[]

Childhood[]

Alice Lee Roosevelt was born in the Roosevelt family home at 6 West 57th St. in New York City. Her mother, Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt, was a Boston banking heiress. Her father, Theodore, was then a New York State Assemblyman. As an Oyster Bay Roosevelt, Alice was a descendant of the Schuyler family.[1]

Two days after her birth, in the same house, her mother died of undiagnosed kidney failure. Eleven hours earlier that day, Theodore's mother Martha Stewart "Mittie" Bulloch had also died, of typhoid fever.[2]

Theodore was rendered so distraught by his wife's death that he could not bear to think about her. He almost never spoke of her again, would not allow her to be mentioned in his presence, and even omitted her name from his autobiography. Therefore, his daughter Alice was called "Baby Lee" instead of her name.[3] She continued this practice late in life, often preferring to be called "Mrs. L" rather than "Alice".[4]

Seeking solace, Theodore retreated from his life in New York and headed west, where he spent two years traveling and living on his ranch in North Dakota. He left his infant daughter in the care of his sister Anna, known as "Bamie" or "Bye". There are letters to Bamie that reveal Theodore's concern for his daughter. In one 1884 letter, he wrote, "I hope Mousiekins will be very cunning, I shall dearly love her."[5]

Bamie had a significant influence on young Alice, who would later speak of her admiringly: "If auntie Bye had been a man, she would have been president."[6] Bamie took her into her watchful care, moving Alice into her book-filled Manhattan house, until Theodore married again.[7]

After Theodore's marriage to Edith Kermit Carow, Alice was raised by her father and stepmother. Theodore and Edith's five children were Theodore III (Ted), Kermit, Ethel, Archibald (Archie), and Quentin. They remained married until his death in January 1919. During much of Alice's childhood, Bamie was a remote figure who eventually married and moved to London for a time. But later, as Alice became more independent and came into conflict with her father and stepmother, Aunt "Bye" provided needed structure and stability. Late in life, she said of her Aunt Bye: "There is always someone in every family who keeps it together. In ours, it was Auntie Bye."

Death[]

After many years of ill health, Alice died in her Embassy Row house on February 20, 1980 at age 96 of emphysema and pneumonia, with contributory effects of a number of other chronic illnesses. She is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C.[4] She was the last surviving child of Theodore Roosevelt.