White House Wild Child: How Alice Roosevelt Broke All the Rules and Won the Heart of America
The fascinating historical biography of America’s most memorable first daughter, Alice Roosevelt, whose free spirit and status made her the Princess Diana and Jackie O of the early 20th century.
Perfect for readers of female-centric biographies like The Daughters of Yalta and for fans of the glitzy drama of The Gilded Age and The Crown.
“I can do one of two things, I can be President of the United States or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”—Theodore Roosevelt
During Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency—from 1901 to 1909, when Mark Twain called him the most popular man in America—his daughter Alice Roosevelt mesmerized the world with her antics and beauty.
Alice was known for carrying a gun, a copy of the Constitution, and a green snake in her purse. When her father told her she couldn’t smoke under his roof, she climbed to the top of the White House and smoked on the roof. She became the most famous woman in America—and even the world—predating Princess Diana and Jackie Kennedy as an object of public obsession.
As her celebrity grew, she continued to buck tradition, push against social norms, and pull political sway behind the curtain of privilege and access. She was known for her acerbic wit and outspoken tendencies which hypnotized both the social and political world.
Brilliantly researched and powerfully told, Shelley Fraser Mickle places the reader in the time and place of Alice and asks what would it have been like to be a strong-willed powerful woman of that day. Drawn from primary and secondary sources, Alice’s life comes into focus in this historical celebration of an extraordinary woman ahead of her time.
"With wit and fresh insight, Shelley Fraser Mickle brings vividly to life one of the most colorful figures of the 20th Century--the most glamorous, rebellious and contentious woman in the United States, and for a time the most famous." –Jonathan Alter, former editor for Newsweek, author of His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life
"What a tale!. . .The history of the Roosevelts has been predominantly about men, now it's Alice's turn."
—Diana Williams, WABC news anchor
Praise for White House Wild Child: How Alice Roosevelt Broke All the Rules and Won the Heart of America
Award-winning author Mickle (Borrowing Life, 2020) brings the early life of Alice Roosevelt to readers. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, was a powerful, colorful figure who shared the limelight and public eye with her more famed father. Victorian sensibilities weren’t something that constrained Alice; they were mere suggestions she chose to ignore, much to the chagrin of immediate family. Like many members of the Roosevelt family, Alice was a larger-than-life character determined to forge her own path. However, this isn’t just a biography of Alice’s derring-do. The complicated ties with her father, stepmother, aunt, and the mother who died shortly after her birth are brought vividly to life, giving eager readers of history, biography, and women’s history fascinating insight into the Roosevelt family’s personal relationships. Though some of Alice’s adult life is discussed, the majority of the text focuses on her childhood and teenage years, telling the story of how family, politics, personal tragedy, and Victorian society shaped the bold woman who broke all the rules.
Until her death at age 96, Alice Roosevelt (1884–1980) was called the Other Washington Monument. Award-winning novelist Mickle (The Queen of October) presents a vivid account of Roosevelt’s life and her quest for unconditional love from her father, Theodore Roosevelt. This book shows that she never attained it. Theodore’s mother died on the same day as his wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, which occurred just two days after she gave birth to their daughter, her namesake. Infant Alice was put in the care of his sister. When Roosevelt remarried, he and his second wife brought Alice to their home in Cove Neck, NY. When Roosevelt became president, Alice, now 17, became known for her antics. For example, her purse often contained a dagger, a nonpoisonous snake, and the Constitution, and she finally got her father’s attention by doing such things as smoking on the roof of the White House after he told her she couldn’t smoke under it. She later married congressman Nicholas Longworth; both were unfaithful. Her affair with Sen. William Borah produced a daughter, Paulina, whom Longworth doted on. Mickle also covers Paulina’s life, early death, and Roosevelt’s subsequent custody of her granddaughter.
VERDICT A highly recommended exploration of Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s life.