Frank, thoroughgoing life of Teddy Roosevelt’s oldest daughter, wife of the Speaker of the House, witty Washington hostess and blistering critic of FDR.
Cordery (History/Monmouth Coll.; Theodore Roosevelt: In the Vanguard of the Modern, 2002) fully utilizes the personal papers of Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884–1980), frequently inserting entries from her diary and letters to provide startlingly intimate material. Alice’s life was ill-starred at the start. Her birth killed her mother, TR’s beloved first wife, on the same day that his own mother died. Subsequently, Teddy ignored Alice, who spent much of her childhood and adolescence trying to capture his attention. By the turn of the century, with TR installed in the White House, Alice enjoyed a spectacular coming-out, embarking as a young celebrity on forays into the world and politics. To gain more independence (and spending money), she married an unsuitable, much older man. Ohio Congressman Nick Longworth was also a philanderer and a hard drinker, but Alice was his match in travel, entertaining and campaigning. Alienated by Nick’s affairs and his decision to back Taft rather than her father in the decisive campaign of 1912, Alice teamed up with Idaho senator William Borah, a fellow opponent of Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations. They became lovers in 1919 and together rode the heady years of the ’20s under Harding, Coolidge and Hoover; Cordery accepts as fact the widely held belief that Borah fathered Alice’s daughter Paulina, though she was still married to Nick when he died in 1931. Alice’s public drubbing of the New Deal and cousins FDR and Eleanor solidified her reputation as the leading political wit in Washington. But Cordery declines to be distracted by bon mots, cogently employing a plethora of detail to get at the character behind the hot air.
A rigorous portrait of a woman of strong opinions who surely should have run for office herself. Promises to revive the old dame’s reputation.