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Roosevelt, Alice Lee (1861–1884)

Roosevelt, Alice Lee (1861–1884)

American socialite who was the first wife of Theodore Roosevelt and the mother of Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Name variations: Alice Hathaway Lee; Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt; Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt. Born Alice Hathaway Lee on July 29, 1861, in Boston, Massachusetts; died on February 14, 1884, in New York, New York; second daughter of George Cabot Lee (a banker) and Caroline Watts (Haskell) Lee; married Theodore Roosevelt (future president of the U.S.), on October 27, 1880, in Brookline, Massachusetts; children: one daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884–1980).

At a party during his junior year at Harvard, young Theodore Roosevelt is said to have pointed to a stunning young woman across the room. "See that girl?," he said. "I'm going to marry her. She won't have me but I am going to have her." Indeed, Alice Hathaway Lee, a Boston debutante, wanted no part of Theodore Roosevelt and turned down his first proposal. His persistence, however, eventually won her over, and the couple married in October 1880. Present at the ceremony was the woman whom everyone had thought Theodore would marry—his childhood companion, Edith Kermit Carow (Roosevelt ).

It was a happy union, though Alice had to adjust to Teddy's more adventuresome side. During a trip to Switzerland soon after the wedding, he undertook a trek up the Matterhorn, while she nervously awaited his return in a hotel room. The newlyweds settled in New York City, where Theodore entered politics as a precinct worker and, within a short time, was elected to the state assembly. During his second term, Alice was expecting their first child, so she did not join him in Albany. Alice Roosevelt Long-worth was born on February 12, 1884, but her mother became very ill. By the time Theodore returned home, his wife had developed serious kidney complications and was unconscious. She died two days later, age 22, the same day Theodore Roosevelt's mother Martha Bulloch Roosevelt died of typhoid fever, one floor away in their 57th Street house. Inconsolable, he wrote of his wife: "When my heart's dearest died, the light went from my life forever." Vacating his assembly seat, Theodore left the baby with his sister Anna Roosevelt Cowles and fled to his ranch in North Dakota. He never spoke of his first wife again, and there is no mention of her in his autobiography. In 1886, he quietly married Edith Kermit Carow, who would later become first lady.


Melick, Arden David. Wives of the Presidents. Maple-wood, NJ: Hammond, 1977.

Paletta, LuAnn. The World Almanac of First Ladies. NY: World Almanac, 1990.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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