Longworth, Alice Lee Roosevelt


Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980) was the only daughter of Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt. She was born on February 12, 1884. Her mother and paternal grandmother died two days later. Her aunt, Anna Roosevelt, raised her until her father married Edith Kermit Carow in December 1886. 

Alice Roosevelt poses outside the White House in 1902. Photo from the Roosevelt Family scrapbooks, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division.Alice grew up with her five half-siblings at Sagamore Hill, and in Washington and New York City as her father’s jobs dictated. An autodidact and a life-long voracious reader, Alice was intelligent, stubborn, and strong-willed. When Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901, she made her debut in the White House. Shortly after, she entered on the international stage by christening a ship belonging to the German emperor. 

Alice Roosevelt was a celebrity First Daughter known for antics like smoking on the White House roof, carrying a snake in her purse, and betting at horse races. Her parents swallowed their aggravation because the public clearly adored her. In 1905, she accompanied congressmen to Asia as a goodwill ambassador for the Administration, the first First Daughter to act in this capacity.

On February 17, 1906, Alice married Republican Representative Nicholas Longworth of Ohio at the White House. The two were leaders of Washington society, but their marriage was riven by his infidelity and alcoholism. They drifted apart politically in the 1912 election when Alice supported her father’s Progressive Party rather than her husband’s Republican Party. 

When Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919, Alice led the charge to keep the U.S. from joining the League of Nations by exerting her influencing over legislators. In the 1920s she was intimately connected to two of the most powerful men in Washington—Nick, who became Speaker of the House in 1925, and her lover, Senator William E. Borah of Idaho, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Alice gave birth to her only child, Paulina, in 1925. Nick Longworth died in 1931.

Alice Roosevelt wrote her memoirs, entitled Crowded Hours, in 1933, and with her brother Ted, co-edited The Desk-Drawer Anthology:  Poems for the American People in 1938. She allowed her likeness to be used in a cold cream and a cigarette advertisement, in part to raise money for her daughter.

Alice was a tough critic of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s attempts to combat the Great Depression. Her syndicated newspaper column condemned his policies. Her home became a magnet for anti-New Dealers and her sharpest jabs were directed at FDR and her cousin, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Her isolationist beliefs led her to a seat on the national board of directors of America First, an organization devoted to maintaining U.S. neutrality in World War II, until Pearl Harbor. After the war ended, Alice Longworth campaigned for Ohio Republican Robert Taft, and became friends with the Kennedys, the Nixons, and the Johnsons. 

For six decades she hosted a salon at her Dupont Circle home where views were exchanged and deals struck. She invited scientists, authors, conservationists, diplomats, and politicians of all persuasions. Alice Roosevelt Longworth was well known for her witticisms. She suggested that Franklin Roosevelt was “one-thirds mush and two-thirds Eleanor,” and after a double mastectomy late in life she called herself “Washington’s only topless octogenarian.” At her tea table she kept a pillow which read, “If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.” Called “the other Washington monument,” she kept alive the memory of her father and family members until her death at age 96 in 1980.