Edith Kermit Carow knew Theodore Roosevelt from infancy; as a toddler she became a playmate of his younger sister Corinne. Born in Connecticut in 1861, she grew up in an old New York brownstone on Union Square - an environment of comfort and tradition. Throughout childhood, she and "Teedie" were in and out of each other's houses.
Attending Miss Comstock's school, she acquired the proper finishing touch for a young lady of that era. A quiet girl who loved books, she was often Theodore's companion for summer outings at Oyster Bay, Long Island. This ended when he entered Harvard. She attended his wedding to Alice Hathaway Lee in 1880, and their lives ran separately until 1885, when he was a young widower with an infant daughter, Alice.
He and Edith were married in London in December 1886. They settled down in a house on Sagamore Hill, at Oyster Bay, headquarters for a family that added five children in ten years: Theodore, Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin. Public tragedy brought the large vice-presidential family into the White House when President McKinley succumbed to an assassin's bullet.
Assuming her new duties with characteristic dignity, Edith guarded the privacy of a family that attracted everyone's interest. The public, in consequence, heard little of the vigor of her character, her sound judgment and her efficient household management. But in this administration, the White House was unmistakably the social center of the land. Two family events were highlights: the wedding of "Princess Alice" in 1906 and Ethel's debut in 1908. An aide described the first lady as "always the gentle, high-bred hostess; smiling often at what went on about her, yet never critical of the ignorant and tolerant always of the little insincerities of political life."
President Roosevelt once wrote to his son: "If Mother had been a mere unhealthy Patient Griselda I might have grown set in selfish and inconsiderate ways." Edith continued, with keen humor and unfailing dignity, to balance Theodore's exuberance when they retired in 1909.
After her husband's death in 1919, Mrs. Roosevelt traveled widely abroad but always returned to Sagamore Hill as her home. Alone much of the time, she never appeared lonely, being still an avid reader. She kept till the end her interest in the Needlework Guild, a charity that provided garments for the poor, and in the work of Christ Church at Oyster Bay. She died on September 30, 1948, at the age of 87.
You Might Also Like
Collection Animal Ambassadors
Animals, whether pampered household pets, working livestock, birds, squirrels, or strays, have long been a major part of White House...
Collection Cherry Blossoms
Since the first cherry blossom planting in 1912 by First Lady Helen Herron Taft, Washingtonians have celebrated the scenic beauty and...
Collection White House Women
While there has yet to be a female president, women have played an integral role in shaping the White House...
Collection The First Ladies
Biographies & Portraits
Collection The Presidents
Biographies & Portraits
Bio Rose Cleveland
Rose Cleveland was Grover Cleveland's sister and fufilled the White House hostess duties until she gave up the role to...
Bio Harriet Lane
Unique among first ladies, Harriet Lane acted as hostess for the only president who never married. James Buchanan was her...
Bio Frances Cleveland
"I detest him so much that I don't even think his wife is beautiful," said one of President Grover Cleveland's...
Bio Elizabeth Truman
Whistle-stopping in 1948, President Truman often ended his talk by introducing his wife as "the Boss" and his daughter, Margaret, as "...
Bio Lou Hoover
Admirably equipped to preside at the White House, Lou Henry Hoover had experience as wife of a man eminent in...
Bio Elizabeth Monroe
Romance glints from what little is known of Elizabeth Kortright's early life. She was born in New York City in 1768...
Bio Sarah Polk
Born in 1803, Sarah Childress grew up on a plantation near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Elder daughter of a Captain, she gained something...