January 26, 2011
The relationship between siblings is always a complicated one. Siblings are often our best friends and they are also often the only people who know how to push our buttons faster than anyone else alive! I know for me, my relationship with my sister has been one of the most rewarding of my life. Theodore Roosevelt’s relationship with his sister, Anna, called by the family Bamie, is a very special one. She was always his great counselor, someone he trusted implicitly. After the death of his first wife and his mother, Theodore trusted Bamie to raise his infant daughter while he headed west, to recover from the loss of two very important women in his life.
Theodore’s letters to Bamie are touching and poignant. He usually addresses her “My Darling Bye” (another family nickname) and often, especially later in life, he signed his letters “your devoted brother.” These were some of the letters received in our first shipment from Harvard College Library and I wanted to share two of them with you.
This first letter is during Theodore’s teenage years and his letter bursts with enthusiasm for the natural science hunt he was on at Oyster Bay. I particularly love his quote, “ornithological enjoyment and reptilian rapture.” I am sure his sister was thrilled to hear about his joy of pickled toads and salamanders!
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Anna Roosevelt Cowles. August 6, 1876. Theodore Roosevelt Collection. Houghton Library, Harvard University. MS Am 1834 (120), Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.
The other letter is from much later in life, after Theodore has lost a son in World War I and his sister is bearing the burden of having her own son in combat. The siblings have turned to each other for comfort in a time when they were realizing the sacrifice their family had to make, a sacrifice they bore proudly.
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Anna Roosevelt Cowles. October 27, 1918. MS Am 1834 (781), Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.