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.
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