Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth was the first child of the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, and occupied center stage in the political and social life of the nation for seventy years.
She was born in 1884, in New York City. Her mother, Alice Hathaway Lee, died only two days after Alice was born.
On that same day, Theodore Roosevelt also lost his mother. Heartbroken, he left his infant daughter Alice with his sister Anna and left for North Dakota.
In 1886, he got married to Edith Kermit Carow with whom he raised Alice and her five half-siblings in Oyster Bay, Long Island.
Alice was highly intelligent, very stubborn, and strong-willed. She was a voracious reader and self-taught.
She never hesitated to reveal her exact sentiments about anything and anyone. Not during her childhood, nor after her debut in the White House.
Alice was 17 in 1901 when her father became the President of the United States and moved his family to the White House.
Although her stepmother was the First Lady, Alice took on a few responsibilities as the First Daughter, such as hosting social events in her new home, advising her father, and representing the family on the international stage by christening a ship which belonged to a German Emperor.
She captured the national attention with her eccentricity and soon became more popular than her father.
She was smoking cigars on the White House rooftop, betting at horse races, riding in cars with men, staying out late partying, and even kept a pet snake named Emily Spinach in the White House.
She became the favorite topic for the press and the public clearly adored her. Free-spirited and curious, Alice loved breaking the rules and opposing social norms.
Newspapers dubbed her Princess Alice. She became an inspiration for millions of American women who copied her choice of fashion as well as her style of living.
Babies were named after her, and songs were written for Alice and her favorite color — a shade of blue-grey — became widely popular as “Alice blue.”
She remained close to her father and supportive of his actions. In 1905, he sent her on a lengthy cruise to China, the Philippines, Korea, and Japan as a goodwill ambassador for the Administration accompanying 23 congressmen, seven senators, and other diplomats and officials.
Roosevelt’s intention was for her to distract the press from the secret negotiations between the USA and Japan on her trip, and she did.
Alice posing for photographs with the Empress of China and the Emperor of Japan, jumping into the ship’s pool fully dressed and persuading a Congressman to join her, to got all the media attention.
In 1906, at the age of 22, Alice married Nicolas Longworth, a 36-year-old Republican member of the US House of Representatives.
They were both leaders of the Washington society and their wedding with more than 1,000 guests was one of the most prominent social events of its day.
Their marriage included frequent infidelities and alcoholism. In the 1912 election, Alice supported her father’s Progressive Party, campaigning against her husband’s Republican Party.
However, they remained together until Longworth’s death in 1931.
In 1909, when William Howard Taft became the President of the USA and Alice had to move out of the White House, she buried a Voodoo doll of Nellie Taft, the new First Lady, in the front yard.
Alice, or Mrs. L. as she preferred to be called in her later years, went on to become an outspoken writer and political activist.
She had isolationist beliefs which granted her a seat on the national board of directors of America First.
She was a tough critic of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s attempts to combat the Great Depression and later advocated for American neutrality during WWII.
Mrs. L later became friends with the Kennedys, the Nixons, and the Johnsons. In 1974, she threw a big party for the celebration of her 90th birthday.
Alice died in 1980, at the age of 96. She is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery.