Monday, February 20, 2012

White House Woman

On this Presidents' Day, let's spend a moment considering the remarkable lady we find here looking quite uncharacteristically benign.  She is, you see, someone rather special in the annals of the American presidency, having been the goad and gadfly of our fearless leaders for the better part of the twentieth Century:  Alice Roosevelt Longworth. 

She started with McKinley (she regarded "the President and poor frail little Mrs. McKinley as if they were two usurping cuckoos" at the inauguration that saw her own father seated as vice president, and she admitted, after his assassination, to the slightest twinge of guilt at having hoped so ardently for his death) and ran straight on through Roosevelts Teddy, her father ("I can be President of the United States or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both," quoth he), and Franklin, her cousin ("nine parts mush and one part Eleanor," quoth she), and ending up with Carter, whom she considered an over-earnest bore and refused to meet. 

She wowed the Dowager Empress of China in 1905 (and therein lies a tale or ten, not to mention gifts of enough fine brocade to keep her in evening gowns for the better part of fifty years), and she was still wowing them 70 years later - her last public appearance was at the official celebration of the Bicentennial.  She played at politics, voting more by instinct than party, and she had, it seems, from start to finish and despite some of the inevitable setbacks and missteps, a fairly marvelous time of it all.  I hope that the current White House daughters give her a thought or two as they head into what we must hope will be their second term - she's a far better role model, heaven knows, than those dreary Bush twins or the dreaded Nixon sisters.  Maybe we'll find them, come 2015 or so, raising a little discreet hell in her memory...


  1. She was fabulous. Too bad she didn't have media at the time in the 'aughts' of the 20th century in order to have a voice. I love her haughty gaze:

  2. Get Dore Schary on the phone.

    This is a Shirley MacLaine movie just waiting to be made.