Wives of Presidents: Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt

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Alice Hathaway Lee was born on July 29, 1861 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of George Cabot and Caroline Watts Haskell Lee.

Alice Lee Hathaway Roosevelt

She is described as “Considered tall for the era at 5’6”, she had “blue-gray eyes and long, wavy golden hair” and was described as strikingly beautiful as well as charming. Her family and friends called her “Sunshine” because of her cheerful disposition.”

She met Theodore Roosevelt at the home of her relatives and next door neighbors on October 18, 1878. Roosevelt was a classmate of her cousin. Later writing of their first encounter, Roosevelt said, “As long as I live, I shall never forget how sweetly she looked, and how prettily she greeted me.”

The couple were married on October 27, 1880, which was Teddy Roosevelt’s 22nd birthday.

The couple lived with Teddy Roosevelt’s widowed mother.

On February 12, 1884, she had a daughter named Alice Lee Roosevelt. Her husband was away at the New York State Assembly when the child was born.

Alice Hathaway Roosevelt, began to languish after the birth of her daughter and a telegram was sent to her husband. He arrived to hold her for several hours before she died on the afternoon of February 14, 1884. After her death, it was determined that her pregnancy hid the fact that she was in kidney failure and Bright’s disease.

Roosevelt’s diary entry for that date was marked with a large black X followed by: “The light has gone out of my life.”

Alice Lee Hathaway Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt was so distraught over his wife’s death that he rarely spoke of her and could not look at a picture of her. He did write the following tribute to her, “She was beautiful in face and form, and lovelier still in spirit; As a flower she grew, and as a fair beautiful young flower she died. Her life had been always in the sunshine; there had never come to her a single sorrow; and none ever knew her who did not love and revere her for the bright, sunny temper and her saintly unselfishness. Fair, pure, and joyous as a maiden; loving, tender, and happy. As a young wife; when she had just become a mother, when her life seemed to be just begun, and when the years seemed so bright before her—then, by a strange and terrible fate, death came to her. And when my heart’s dearest died, the light went from my life forever.”

Teddy Roosevelt’s sister, Anna “Bamie Roosevelt, raised Alice Lee until she was three. By then he’d remarried, but the young girl primarily learned about her mother from her aunt.

Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt was buried beside her mother-in-law, Mittie, who died hours before her. They are both buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.



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