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Spending Time With Alice Roosevelt Longworth

July 10, 2013

If you had been to dinner here recently, or sat outside with us one evening you would have walked away with at least one story about Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the eldest daughter of Teddy Roosevelt.  She was also one of Washington’s most important and celebrated ladies.  Ever.

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I was remarking to a history professor who had come up from Monmouth College to spend an afternoon with us about “this amazing book”, along with a short story found within the covers when she stopped me by asking if this book was Alice by Stacy Cordery.  I told her yes, in fact it was.  The professor then stopped me cold with “My office is two doors down from Stacy.”  That is when the afternoon took off.

I told her that the author’s research was impeccable. the narrative sweeping in scope, and Alice the political power-house who was the longest-lived of all presidential children, most remarkable.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth has always intrigued me, but Cordery’s book was the first one that took me so solidly into her world.  I think this is due to the fact the author uses so much material from Alice’s personal papers.  We watch over the decades as Alice becomes the strong and enduring presence that made her an international sensation.  She molded her own image, and lived life on her own terms.  From a father who was emotionally remote, to a husband who was a drunk and womanizer Alice reined in her own personal feelings, and offered the world a strong dynamic force that after all this time is still one that bounces off the pages.

When Nick Longworth dies Cordery writes one of those many killer lines that makes this book a gem.  “Alice had entered her marriage to Nick without bridesmaids, but she was flanked by black-gowned grieving women at his funeral.”

Readers will find so much to smile, and marvel at between the covers of this book.

The book is offered to readers chronologically, and it is very detailed in many ways.  At nearly 600 pages there is no way not to feel akin to Alice when this book is completed.  Beginning with Alice Lee Roosevelt’s birth on Feb. 12, 1884, which include the terrible events that occurred when both her mother and grandmother (TR’s mom) will die within 11 hours of each other, we find TR going from one deathbed to the other.  It is here again that Cordery uses her pen to make one of those points.  “It was the last time anything would eclipse Alice Roosevelt.”

The book takes us every step of the way through her life, and leaves us at her bedside as she dies February 20, 1980.

Alice was the first ever to be known around the world with one name, and it made for impacts far and wide.

When TR had sent Alice on a diplomatic trip during the time of the treaty between Russia and Japan there was an incident that makes my point.  The Secretary of War, along with members of Congress (including Nick Longworth, her soon-to-be-husband) were all a part of the overseas trip.  Meanwhile the wife and family of the war secretary were traveling in Europe.  At one train station a conductor was very impatient with the family who wanted to hold a train until their luggage arrived.  The train had to run on time, the mother was told.  She informed the conductor that she was the wife of the Secretary of War to the President of the United States.  Still, she was told the train would have to leave on time.  But my husband is on a trip to the far East with Alice Roosevelt, she continued, and can not be here to give assistance.  It was then she heard “Did you say Alice?”  “You know Alice?”   The matter of the train and the luggage was suddenly resolved.

Make this book part of your summer reading.  I know Alice, a lady of grit and politics will become a part of your life as easily as she became a part of mine.

My readers will note that I am always impressed with authors who research a topic to the point that I want to have a separate chapter on just how the book project came about.   That is especially true with the work Stacy Cordery has done with Alice.   Having been so impressed with everything about this book I offer a link to the author to further entice you to pick up the volume, or perhaps just to help you to learn more about one of America’s treasures.

May we forever remember Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

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