A Story of First Love

Apr 22, 2014

Today's blog post was submitted by our student intern, who is a Communications major at Dickinson State University.

The love story of Alice Hathaway Lee and Theodore Roosevelt is a very romantic one. Roosevelt himself described it as “a real case of love at first sight and my first love too.” It all started on Chestnut Hill, where the couple took their first stroll together. Chestnut Hill is a village located not far from Harvard University, where Theodore was attending college. He had accepted an invitation in October 1878 to visit the home of his friend, Dick Saltonstall. During this visit, he met Dick’s sister Rose and her cousin, Alice Lee. At this time, Alice was seventeen and Theodore was nearly twenty.

Theodore Roosevelt, Alice Hathaway Lee, and Rose Saltonstall

Theodore Roosevelt, Alice Hathaway Lee, and Rose Saltonstall, 1878. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs collection.

Only a few select families lived at Chestnut Hill, including the Lees and the Saltonstalls. The day after TR and Alice first strolled through the woods, the couple were joined in their rambles by the siblings, Dick and Rose, for another walk in the woods and a drive to Ellerton Whitney’s for a midday dinner and afternoon tea. On Sunday, both families attended church together, but Theodore was able to go “chestnutting” with Alice alone. This weekend was enough to convince him that she was the one for him.

Theodore adored Alice; he was infatuated with everything about her. He explained that he could talk to her about anything from politics to poetry. Alice was known to be a really bright, intelligent woman. She was described as the life of the party and was nicknamed “Sunshine.” Alice was also a very athletic girl who would hike alongside Theodore, to his delight. Their courtship consisted of a lot of outdoor engagements, spending time with Rose, and a lot of dancing. His infatuation was so intense that his diary entry from February 13, 1880, includes this statement, “for a year and a quarter now I have never (even when hunting) gone to sleep or waked up without thinking of her; and I doubt if an hour has passed that I have not thought of her.”

Not long after meeting Alice Hathaway Lee, Theodore Roosevelt determined that he would do all he could to win her. His first proposal, however, did not meet with much success. It was eight months after his first proposal that Alice finally agreed to marry him in January 1880. TR’s diary entry from that day details his happiness – “…the aim of my whole life shall be to make her happy, and to shield her and guard her from every trial; and, oh, how I shall cherish my sweet queen!”

Personal Diary of Theodore Roosevelt, 1880

Personal diary of Theodore Roosevelt, 1880. From the Library of Congress Manuscript collection.

The couple married on Theodore’s twenty-second birthday, October 27, 1880, and honeymooned at the Roosevelt’s summer home at Oyster Bay, which was named “Tranquility.” After this tranquil interlude, Theodore and Alice settled with his family at their home in New York City.


Putnam, Carleton. Theodore Roosevelt: Volume One: The Formative Years, 18558-1886. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958.

Morris, Edmund. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. New York: The Modern Library, 2001.

Posted by Mariah Duran on Apr 22, 2014 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)  |  Share this post

Alex said,

That's so sweet, and it's so unfair that they only had such a short time together :')

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