A readable and informative appraisal of the relationships among the Roosevelt cousins—close in the early years but increasingly strained by conflicting political ambitions and jealousies as FDR became the heir to TR’s progressive political legacy.
In the Middle Ages, the deteriorating relations between the Oyster Bay and Hyde Park Roosevelts would soon have escalated into bloody feuds, but, as Donn (Freud and Jung, not reviewed) vividly details, both factions’ skillful use of the media was no less lethal. She begins her story in 1884, the year Alice Longworth Roosevelt was born to Teddy Roosevelt and Eleanor to TR’s younger brother Elliott. The two were very close as children and teenagers, and Eleanor was TR’s favorite niece as well. Donn details the close-knit childhoods of Oyster Bay and Hyde Park, FDR’s and Eleanor’s courtship and marriage, and Alice’s unhappy marriage to Nicholas Longworth, and then traces the estrangement of the cousins as adults. When TR formed the New Progressive party in 1912 and ran as its candidate for President, Alice in particular felt betrayed by Eleanor’s and FDR’s endorsement of the popular Woodrow Wilson rather than his lackluster opponent as the Democratic candidate. After TR’s death in 1918, his family were even more outraged when his eldest son Ted was selected as the Republican candidate for governor of New York in 1924, and Eleanor not only seconded the Democratic choice but also, mindful that Ted had been falsely accused of involvement in the Teapot Dome scandal, had a mock teapot built on a car she parked wherever he was speaking. The battle lines, once drawn, would harden in the years to come as Alice regaled the press with her often vitriolic critiques of Eleanor and Franklin.
Not only a lively history of an extraordinary clan, but a perceptive analysis of the clash between loyalty and ambition in an epic family drama played out in the public eye. (110 illustrations)