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Felsenthal, biographer of Phyllis Schafly (Sweetheart of the Silent Majority, 1981) this time out turns her attention to Theodore Roosevelt's notorious, rabble-rousing daughter Alice. A future darling of the society pages, Alice was the only child from Roosevelt's first marriage to Alice Lee, who died shortly after giving birth to her daughter. When Theodore remarried the devout Edith Carow, Alice was pushed aside, spending much of her youth away from home with relatives while Roosevelt ascended through the ranks of the Republican Party. Rebellious from the start, Alice refused to be packed off to boarding school, receiving little formal education and left to her own devices in the family library. A self-described ""shy, uncomfortable child,"" Alice was 17 when Theodore became President. Felsenthal suggests that it was Alice's shyness, coupled with a sense of abandonment, that accounts for the brash exterior. She wasn't about to settle down for a quiet life with Dad at the White House; and at the same time that Roosevelt was cracking down on the country's major monoply holders, Alice was consorting with their sons and daughters at Newport, official playground of the hyper, snob Four Hundred crowd. Society-page editors much appreciated the extravagant pranks and late nights of the person one White House guest described as being ""like a young wild animal that has been put into good clothes,"" and marriage to Congressman Nick Longworth didn't cool public fascination with Washington's favorite brat: Longworth drank too much, they both carried on affairs, and the true patrimony of their daughter Paulina was the subject of much idle curiosity. Fiesty until the end, Alice survived the early death of her husband and the suicide of Paulina to become an influential Republican insider and Washington hostess to whom the likes of Richard Nixon would later pay regular and profitable tribute. Brisk, straight-to-the-point biography of the ultimate problem-child that, while not going much beyond the headlines, nevertheless makes for some very engaging reading.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 1987
Publisher: Putnam