Edith Roosevelt

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Edith Roosevelt
c. 1903 portrait by Frances Benjamin Johnston
First Lady of the United States
In role
September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byIda McKinley
Succeeded byHelen Taft
Second Lady of the United States
In role
March 4, 1901 – September 14, 1901
Vice PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byJennie Hobart (1899)
Succeeded byCornelia Fairbanks (1905)
First Lady of New York
In role
January 1, 1899 – December 31, 1900
GovernorTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byLois Black
Succeeded byLinda Odell
Personal details
Born
Edith Kermit Carow

(1861-08-06)August 6, 1861
Norwich, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedSeptember 30, 1948(1948-09-30) (aged 87)
Oyster Bay, New York, U.S.
Resting placeYoungs Memorial Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)
Theodore Roosevelt (m. 1886–1919)
ChildrenTheodore III, Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin
Signature

Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt (August 6, 1861 – September 30, 1948) was an American socialite who served as the first lady of the United States from 1901 to 1909 as the wife of the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Before becoming first lady, she was the second lady of the United States from March to September 1901 when her husband was vice president.

Roosevelt also served as the first lady of New York when her husband was governor.

Biography[change | change source]

Early life[change | change source]

Edith Kermit Carow was born August 6, 1861, in Norwich, Connecticut, to Charles Carow and Gertrude Elizabeth Tyler.[1] Though her family was wealthy, her father was an unsuccessful businessman as well as a chronic gambler and an alcoholic, while her mother was a hypochondriac. She was troubled by her childhood and rarely spoke of her parents throughout her adult life.

Marriage[change | change source]

After her husband's first wife, Alice Roosevelt, died on February 14, 1884, Theodore and Edith began dating again in 1885.[2] They married in St George's, Hanover Square, London on December 2, 1886.[3][4]The couple had five children named Theodore, Kermit, Ethel, Archibald and Quentin Roosevelt.[3]

First Lady of New York, 1899–1900[change | change source]

Roosevelt became the first lady of New York on January 1, 1899, when her husband had became the 33rd governor of New York. As the state's first lady, she renovated the New York Governor's Mansion so it would be more comfortable to live in and she redecorated the mansion with new artwork.[5]

She started new hobbies such as joining the Friday Morning Club and accompanying Frances Parsons on botanical trips.[6] When entertaining, Roosevelt's main focus was the flower arrangements, while an aide addressed food, seating, and music.[7][8]

First Lady, 1901–1909[change | change source]

White House hostess[change | change source]

Roosevelt became the first lady of the United States on September 4, 1901 when her husband was sworn in as the 26th president after the assassination of William McKinley. As first lady, her activities included answering her mail, reading the newspaper, shopping, and studying French. In the evenings, she went horseback riding with her husband and spent time with her children.[9][10]

Roosevelt increased the amount of social events held by the White House each season, including dinners, teas, garden parties, and concerts.[11] The 1902 social season saw as many as 40,000 people visit the White House, more than any who visited the previous year.[12]

White House renovation[change | change source]

In 1902, Roosevelt hired McKim, Mead & White to separate the living quarters from the offices, enlarge and modernize the public rooms, re-do the landscaping, and redecorate the interior. Congress approved over half a million dollars for the renovation.[13] The new West Wing housed offices while the East Wing housed the president's family and guests.[13] The plumbing, lighting, and heating were upgraded.[14]

Roosevelt took a historical view of the White House[15] and saw that the Green Room, Blue Room, and East Room were redecorated with period antiques.[14] McKim would have removed most of the existing furniture had Edith not intervened.[16] She intervention ensured that the Victorian furniture seen in the Lincoln Bedroom today was retained.[16]

A larger dining room created a need for more china, so Roosevelt ordered a Wedgwood service with the Great Seal of the United States for 120 people.[14] Roosevelt added to the collection by purchasing missing items from antique shops.

She created a display of the china on the ground floor of the White House.[15]Across from the White House china, she displayed portraits of former first ladies. The once-scattered portraits were a hit with the public and guests to the White House could view the historical china and portraits as they waited to enter receptions.

Roosevelt called on former White House gardener Henry Pfister to help her design a colonial garden on the west side of the White House.[16] The public would first see the renovations to the White House during the 1903 New Year's Day reception.[14][17]

Charity and social events[change | change source]

She donated handkerchiefs and other items to be auctioned for charity during her first two years as first lady. Roosevelt frequently did needlework for charity, participating in the St. Hilda Sewing Circle with Oyster Bay's Christ Episcopal Church.[18] In 1907, she joined the New York Assembly of Mothers.[19]

Roosevelt sponsored a number of classical instrumentalists and singers and gave them a venue to perform at the White House.[20] She enjoyed classical music and allowed the performance of plays at the White House at a time when actors were seen as lower class.[21]

Roosevelt was also the first presidential wife to hire a social secretary. She Belle Hagner and she was responsible for answering Roosevelt's mail, managing her schedule, overseeing guest lists and giving information about the first lady's activities to the press.[22]

Later life and death[change | change source]

Roosevelt was the honorary president of The Needlework Guild of America, one of the oldest nonprofits in the United States which provided new clothes to the poor, from 1917 to 1921.

During the Great Depression, she campaigned for Herbert Hoover to emphasize that the Democratic nominee Franklin Roosevelt, was not her son. Roosevelt had disliked Eleanor since her childhood and when Eleanor campaigned against Theodore Roosevelt Jr. during his run for governor of New York.

She died at Sagamore Hill on September 30, 1948, at the age of 87. She is buried next to her husband at Youngs Memorial Cemetery in Oyster Bay.

Official websites[change | change source]

"Edith Roosevelt". The White House.

"Edith Roosevelt". White House Historical Association.

"Edith Roosevelt". Miller Center. 4 October 2016.

"Edith Roosevelt". Smithsonian Institute.

"Edith Roosevelt". National Park Service.

"Edith Roosevelt". Theodore Roosevelt Center.

References[change | change source]

  1. Schneider & Schneider 2010, p. 163.
  2. Sibley, Katherine A. S. (March 14, 2016). A Companion to First Ladies. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781118732182.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "TR Center – Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt". www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
  4. Lansford, Tom (2001). A "Bully" First Lady: Edith Kermit Roosevelt. Huntington, New York: Nova History Publications, Inc. pp. xiv. ISBN 1-59033-086-2.
  5. Gould 2013, p. 19.
  6. Morris 1980, p. 194.
  7. Schneider & Schneider 2010, p. 166.
  8. Morris 1980, p. 196.
  9. Schneider & Schneider 2010, p. 167.
  10. Morris 1980, pp. 224–225.
  11. Forslund 2016, p. 307.
  12. Gould 2013, p. 40.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Cordery, Stacy A. (1996). "Edith Kermit (Carow) Roosevelt". In Gould, Lewis L. (ed.). American First Ladies: Their Lives and Their Legacy. Garland Publishing. pp. 294–320. ISBN 978-0-8153-1479-0.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 "Edith Roosevelt—Miller Center". millercenter.org. Archived from the original on December 4, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Hendricks, Nancy (October 13, 2015). America's First Ladies: A Historical Encyclopedia and Primary Document Collection of the Remarkable Women of the White House: A Historical Encyclopedia and Primary Document Collection of the Remarkable Women of the White House. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781610698832.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Truman, Margaret (December 18, 2007). The President's House: 1800 to the Present The Secrets and History of the World's Most Famous Home. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 9780307417312.
  17. "First Lady – Edith Roosevelt | C-SPAN First Ladies: Influence & Image". firstladies.c-span.org. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
  18. Gould 2013, p. 24.
  19. Gould 2013, p. 54.
  20. Gould 2013, pp. 48–66.
  21. Gould 2013, pp. 66–67.
  22. Caroli 2010, p. 123.