Occasionally, there were views or policies which raised my 21st Century eyebrows, but the letter which stayed with me long after I first read it; the letter which I mention to anyone who asks about my work this summer, is one that fills me with tremendous respect and admiration for America’s 26th President.
While cataloging correspondence from the Library of Congress Manuscripts Division, I came across the typewritten words of a woman who held the position of “Social Secretary” to the White House. The creation date was 1902. The history of women in the White House suddenly fascinated me, as a major part of social history at the turn of the 20th century. This is not a time period that I would historically associate with female agency in cosmopolitan American society, much less political inclusion, so I was very curious to know more about her. How did she rise to this position? What did she do? Does the White House still have a Social Secretary position?
When I applied for the Theodore Roosevelt Center’s digital cataloging internship, I admittedly knew only a little about Theodore Roosevelt—either as a leader or a personality. In preparation, I did a good deal of research about this man I knew was a towering figure of American history. What I found was an enigma—a man who was many things to many people, but was always singularly himself.