You might be forgiven for thinking that the cult of celebrity is a modern phenomenon — just look at all those glossy magazines and gossip websites available today. But more than a century ago, Alice Roosevelt was an icon of her era. And at a time when women were expected to be well-mannered and reserved, President Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter was anything but.
Making headlines — and making waves
Known as probably the most unruly first daughter in White House history, Alice followed her father, Teddy Roosevelt, into the spotlight after his 1901 inauguration. She was just 17 years old and was soon making headlines as much for her daring behavior as for her beauty and style. Yet the real story behind the woman who drove the 26th president to despair is as fascinating as her actions.
She got banned from the White House
Over the course of her father’s presidency — and, indeed, for the rest of her long life — Alice’s sharp tongue and unconventional habits won her many admirers. But this was a time when women were meant to be seen and not heard. Cigarette in hand, she kept America entertained with her scandalous antics, even getting banned from the White House on more than one occasion.
A force to be reckoned with
Teddy Roosevelt himself once remarked, “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.” While Alice once claimed, “Father doesn’t care for me, that is to say, one-eighth as much as he does for the other children.” So, what exactly was it that made her such a force to be reckoned with? And how did she remain America’s darling, long after even her father had left Washington for good?
A childhood marked by tragedy
Like many future first daughters, Alice had politics in her blood from the very beginning. Born on February 12, 1884, she was the first child of Theodore Roosevelt — then a member of the New York State Assembly — and the only child of heiress Alice Hathaway Lee, an American socialite. But sadly, just a few days after baby Alice's arrival, tragedy struck.