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Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt

(1861 - 1948)

First Lady from September 14, 1901 to March 4, 1909

Edith Roosevelt

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Edith Roosevelt


In office
September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909
Preceded by Ida Saxton McKinley
Succeeded by Helen Herron Taft

In office
March 4, 1901 – September 14, 1901
Preceded by Jennie Tuttle Hobart
Succeeded by Cornelia Cole Fairbanks

Born August 6, 1861
Norwich, Connecticut, U.S.
Died September 30, 1948 (aged 87)
Oyster Bay, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s) Theodore Roosevelt
Relations Charles Carrow and Gertrude Tyler Carow
Children Alice Lee Roosevelt (step-daughter)
Theodore Jr.
Ethel Carow
Archibald Bulloch

Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt (August 6, 1861 – September 30, 1948) was the second wife of Theodore Roosevelt and served as First Lady of the United States during his presidency from 1901 to 1909.



 Early Life

Born in Norwich, Connecticut, the daughter of Charles Carow (1825-1883), a merchant, and the former Gertrude Elizabeth Tyler (1836-1895) and a granddaughter of Daniel Tyler who was a general in the American Civil War, Edith grew up next door to Theodore "T.R." Roosevelt in New York and was best friends with his younger sister Corinne. She was T.R.'s first real playmate outside his immediate family.

She and her sister Emily Tyler Carow (1865-1939) were brought up in an environment of comfort and tradition. An infant brother, Kermit (b. February 1860; d. August 1860) died one year before her birth.

At Miss Comstock's school, Edith acquired the proper finishing touch for a young lady of that era. A quiet girl who loved books, she was often T.R.'s companion for summer outings at Oyster Bay, Long Island; but this ended when he entered Harvard College. Although she attended his wedding to Alice Hathaway Lee in 1880, their lives ran separately until 1885.

 Romance and Marriage

The year after his first wife's death, T.R. ran into Edith at his sister's house. They began seeing each other again; on November 17, 1885, he proposed and she accepted. However, for appearance's sake, the young widower delayed the announcement.

Roosevelt, aged 28, married secondly Edith Carow, aged 25, on December 2, 1886, at St. George's Church of Hanover Square, in London, England. On the day of the wedding, a quiet affair with few guests, the London fog was so thick that it filled the church. The groom was visible however, for he wore bright orange gloves. His best man was Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice, later British ambassador to the U.S. during World War I.

After a 15-week honeymoon tour of Europe, the newlyweds settled down in a house on Sagamore Hill, at Oyster Bay. Mrs. Roosevelt, reserved and efficient, managed the household budget. Throughout T.R.'s intensely active career, family life remained close and entirely delightful.

 First Lady of the United States

Edith at her desk

After William McKinley's assassination, Mrs. Roosevelt assumed her new duties as First Lady with characteristic dignity. She meant to guard the privacy of a family that attracted everyone's interest, and she tried to keep reporters outside her domain. The public, in consequence, heard little of the vigor of her character, her sound judgment, her efficient household management.

As First Lady, she converted the traditional weekly levees to musicales, remodeled the White House at a cost of $475,000 into what the president described as "a simple and dignified dwelling for the head of a republic." During T.R.'s administration, the White House was unmistakably the social center of the land. Beyond the formal occasions, smaller parties brought together distinguished men and women from varied walks of life. Three family events were highlights: the debut of her stepdaughter Alice Lee Roosevelt in 1902, the wedding of "Princess Alice" to Nicholas Longworth, and Ethel's debut. A perceptive aide described the First Lady as "always the gentle, high-bred hostess; smiling often at what went on about her, yet never critical of the ignorant and tolerant always of the little insincerities of political life."

 Later Life and Death

After her husband's death in 1919, she traveled abroad but always returned to Sagamore Hill as her home. She kept till the end her interest in the Needlework Guild, a charity which provided garments for the poor, and in the work of Christ Church at Oyster Bay. She established a second residence in the Tyler family's ancestral hometown of Brooklyn, Connecticut. Mrs. Roosevelt came out of retirement in 1932 and gave a seconding speech on the behalf of Herbert Hoover in his bid for re-election, thus campaigning against her nephew-in-law Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She had never cared for her niece Eleanor and did not want to see her become First Lady.

She died at her Oyster Bay home in New York on September 30, 1948, at the age of 87 and is interred in Youngs Memorial Cemetery of Oyster Bay, NY.

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