On October 27, 1880, Theodore Roosevelt married Alice Hathaway Lee on what was also his 22nd birthday.
Theodore had met Alice Lee during his junior year at Harvard; Theodore later claimed he had fallen in love at first sight and would not stop until he’d won her hand in marriage. Alice turned down his first marriage proposal. Though it is unclear why, most historians believe Alice’s parents thought her too young to marry and they wanted to see if young Theodore would settle into a profession that would provide for their daughter. It wasn’t until nearly a year later in January of 1880 that Alice finally said yes to Theodore’s proposal.
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Alice Lee, January 28, 1880. MS Am 1541.9 (83). 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.
They were married in a grand fashion on the 27th of October in Brookline, Massachusetts. Elliott Roosevelt, Theodore’s brother, was best man, while Corrine Roosevelt was one of the bridesmaids. The newlyweds lived in New York where Theodore was halfheartedly attending Columbia law school and writing.
Though the marriage was cut short by Alice’s unexpected death in 1884 after the birth of her only child, Alice Lee Roosevelt profoundly shaped the man who became President Theodore Roosevelt.
Stacy A. Cordery, Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker. Penguin Books, 2007.
Transcript of letter:
Mrs. Saltonstall telegraphed to me today not to come over, but to come over tomorrow to lunch instead; I shall try to do so, but for fear I should not see you, I write you this, to tell you I have just written to Uncle Jim that I am engaged to you, but that he must tell no one at present; and I have just written to my family that I am coming on next Saturday, as I have something important to tell them; of course they will guess what it is.
My sweet, pretty queen, how I long to see you! I am so happy, that I hardly dare trust in my own happiness; last Sunday evening seems almost like a dream. And two weeks from next Monday I shall be able to come over to Chestnut Hill openly.
Your Loving Thee