Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker

by Stacy A. Cordery

Hardcover, 2007




Viking Adult (2007), Edition: 1st Edition, 590 pages


Alice Roosevelt Longworth lived her entire life on the political stage and in the public eye, earning her the nickname "the other Washington monument." Historian Cordery presents a detailed and entertaining portrait of the witty and whip-smart daughter of Teddy Roosevelt. "Princess Alice" was a tempestuous teenager. Smoking, gambling, and dressing flamboyantly, she flouted social conventions and opened the door for other women to do the same. Her husband was Speaker of the House Nicholas Longworth but--as Cordery documents for the first time--she had a child with her lover, Senator William Borah of Idaho. Alice's political acumen was widely respected in Washington. She was a sharp-tongued critic of her cousin FDR's New Deal programs, and meetings in her drawing room helped to change the course of history, from undermining the League of Nations to boosting Nixon. During the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, her legendary salons remained the center of political ferment.--From publisher description.… (more)


½ (55 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Yahdley
A great bio that illuminates the 20th century from unusual angles. She had a fine mind but little formal education -- one wonders what she might have accomplished otherwise, what changes intellectual fulfillment might have brought about in her often hateful character. An excellent look at "insider
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LibraryThing member michigantrumpet
Hungry for more after finishing Edmund Morris’ three volume opus on Theodore Roosevelt? This biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy’s eldest child might just be the ticket for you (and for those interested in the DC insider politico world.) Alice inhabited the White House through her
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rebellious adolescence – TR famously stated "I can either run the country or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both." She went on to marry a Congressman and bear a Senator’s lovechild.

Cordery writes engagingly, and often wittily – several times I burst out laughing. A few quibbles: 1) I felt Cordery overstated her case for Mrs. L’s political significance. She was a raconteur with a wide circle of influential friends and acquaintances. I would have loved to think she was moved and shook Washington, but I don’t buy that wit and good press copy necessarily equates with true power. 2) I’m always troubled by biographers who engage in armchair psychoanalysis. Cordery alleges Alice was emotionally scarred by ‘abandonment’ (her mother’s death in childbirth, and her father’s placing her with a beloved aunt until the age of three.) Was it so unusual for late Victorians, particularly of TR’s social class, to be hands off in childrearing? If ‘abandonment’ was of such psychological importance, why did TR’s death – the ultimate abandonment – merit half a paragraph -- rarely to be mentioned again?

While the book itself was well researched and evocative of time and place, ultimately I found myself as repulsed by its subject as I am by modern era narcissistic celebrities. Egomaniacal to a fault, Alice Longworth wore her disdain and malevolence to others openly. Nevertheless, readers will find plenty of gossip in these pages about a DC icon whose sofa’s embroidered pillow read: "If you don't have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me."
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LibraryThing member janw
"We've come a long way baby!" Alice along with Emily Posts: Daughter of the Gilded Age gives a pretty good picture of life for a privileged few at the turn of the century. Alice Roosevelt like Mrs Post could have followed social class limitations and expectations for women in their positions and
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today been unknowns. Alice pushed against the political establishment and demanded to be heard. She lived her life to the fullest and it was a great pleasure to read about it. Both Emily Post and Alice Roosevelt Longworth were stuck and expected to stay with philandering husbands. Alice however took full advantage of both her father's and her husband's position but it is because of her own vivacious personality that we are reading about her today.. The importance of family wealth and class position in the early 20th century is very clear in the lives of both women. Emily Post pushed her way into the world of work rather than the world of politics and social activities. Imagine both strong women were initially against giving women the right to vote. It is wonderful to immerse yourself in the colorful times of the 20th century but you realize it would not be so great to be living them as a middle or lower class woman.

Alice was well worth the effort although as she slows down in later life so does the book. An unexpected benefit of reading the full tomb was that it really prepared me for my visit to the Idaho capitol building last summer.
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LibraryThing member briandrewz
A fascinating portrait of one of the countries first "celebrities". Not only was she the daughter of charismatic president Theodore Roosevelt, Alice Roosevelt Longworth was one of the most famous society ladies of her day. This book gives us fascinating incite into the life of a woman with whom the
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public was enamored.
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LibraryThing member megmo07
I thought Alice led such an interesting life but about half way though I felt a little bored.
LibraryThing member Jaylia3
I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both--Teddy Roosevelt.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884 1981), eldest child of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, was known throughout her long life for her wide-ranging intelligence, piercing insights, love
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of mischief, fascination with politics, passionate loyalty, and sharp cutting wit, all of which is well captured in this entertaining biography, as interesting for its history as it is for its personalities. Those personalities include both sides of the politically active but sometimes divisive Roosevelt family, the Oyster Bay faction with Teddy and Alice, and the Hyde Park Roosevelts with Franklin and Alice’s cousin Eleanor--there could not be a larger contrast in temperaments than that between wild Alice and staid Eleanor.

Alice was a teenager when her father became president after McKinley’s assassination in 1901, and the country was fascinated with her and her daring exploits as she ran around Washington and then traveled the world as an ambassador for her father, charming everyone but ignoring social conventions and breaking boundaries proscribed for women in that pre-feminist time. Her While House wedding in 1906 was the social event of the season, and even after her father left the presidency Alice stayed connected and involved with politics, in part by being friends or frenemies with most of the presidents through Richard Nixon.

She never received much of a formal education but read so widely, including books of literature and science, that she educated herself. Alice had first hand experience of many of the important events of the last century, and it’s fascinating to read about The Great Depression, the pre-WWII America First movement, the McCarthy Cold War interrogations, and the Civil Rights era with regard to her informed but opinionated perspectives. Characteristically, she was playful even on her death bed. One of her final acts was teasingly sticking out her tongue.

This is a lengthy book, 483 pages of text and almost another 100 of notes, but time flew while I was reading it. It makes a great follow up volume to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s dual biography of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. After reading that book I really wanted to know more about Alice, a craving this book by author and historian Stacy Cordery went a long way towards satisfying.
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LibraryThing member Christina_E_Mitchell
I gravitate to any strong woman (I am unapologetically a feminist). However, give me a strong woman who is also a smart-ass and you have alighted in me pure hero worship. Alice Roosevelt Longworth would never have classified herself as a feminist. She honestly disavowed any formal identity
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whatsoever besides as a member of the Republican/Bull Moose party of her father. Yet, Gloria Steinem was one of her admitted heroines (Cordery, 2007, p. 463). Her lack of identification was fully explained in that "Alice told a reporter that her lifelong preference as a nonjoiner kept her away from the women's liberation movement [of the 1960s] -- and the fact that she "feels she has been treated by men as an equal"" (Cordery, 2007, p. 463). Indeed, she was not only treated as an equal, she was an equal.

Alice was the only daughter of TR's first marriage. Her mother died due to complications from childbirth. TR concentrated on his political career, never fully giving Alice the attention she needed. TR then married Edith, a long-time family friend. Although Alice and her stepmother eventually became good friends, Edith was never outwardly affectionate toward Alice. This did not give Alice excuse to behave as she did in terms of her independent antics that just bordered on scandal; however, it did mold her into the person she became who was at the center of Washington, D.C., politics no matter the administration in place.

Alice was an equal because she never saw herself as anything but. She studied (was a voracious reader) and educated herself in a wide range of subjects, displaying a keen sense of curiosity nurtured by a willingness to learn. She despised self-pity, and despised anyone who displayed such nonsense. She was not overly-affectionate, but a tremendously funny, sarcastic, quick wit with a penchant for adventure and laughter. Alice lived her life on her own terms, even when life did not turn out as she expected. She made chicken soup out of chicken shit and ate it with relish. It was a life well lived and lived without regrets.

I have her autobiography "Crowded Hours" -- unfortunately I am between residences and it is packed away in storage. I cannot wait to get my hands on it. Alice was not as brilliant a writer as she was a social speaker (social meaning 'informal' in that she was extremely shy and rarely gave official speeches). Her mannerisms and wit did not come through well on the written page. To know her personally was to delight in her.

This biography concentrates marvelously on Alice's position as THE go-to person in D.C. politics. She influenced more than a few national and international leaders. She WAS the D.C. political scene surpassing the clout of her husband, Nick Longworth (R-OH, Speaker of the House), and brother Ted (the only Roosevelt offspring to enter a political career). Socially, Alice did exactly what she wanted and displayed independence long before the ERA. If you condemned her, she did not care. If you fawned over her, she lost interest. If you could speak intelligently on any matter, you had her ear and her attention. She was a progressive favorite kind. She has also long captured my admiration, esteem, and imagination.
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LibraryThing member japaul22
What an interesting book! Alice Roosevelt led a long and interesting life. She was an active member of Washington society and politics from her father's time as President until her death in 1980 - about 80 years! Particularly interesting to me were the descriptions of her rise to stardom as the
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First Daughter, details of her marriage and affairs, her scathing criticism of FDR and his policies, and of course, her love of reading. My only complaint is that the author's writing style is not quite as exciting as the subject matter. At times I found the book a bit dry - hard to imagine with a life like hers. Overall, though, highly recommended.
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Physical description

590 p.; 6.38 inches


0670018333 / 9780670018338
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