President Theodore Roosevelt’s oldest child was born at home on February 12, 1884. Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt died two days later, on St. Valentine’s Day, probably of undiagnosed Bright’s disease. She left behind a grieving husband and a tiny 2-day-old namesake, Alice Lee Roosevelt. In a terrible twist of fate, her mother-in-law died the same day, in the same house, of typhoid fever.
TR was nearly broken at the loss of his young, beautiful wife and his beloved mother. He drew a cross in his diary and wrote, “The light has gone out of my life.” He consigned Little Alice to his sister’s care, forbade any mention of his dead wife, and headed west to forget.
The circumstances were sad, but not pitiful. Money was no object for the wealthy Roosevelts and Alice’s unmarried, childless Auntie Bye lavished attention on her small niece. Her father wrote occasionally, referring to his daughter as “Baby Lee”.
Eventually, TR returned but he never again mentioned Alice Hathaway Lee’s name. Perhaps the grief of losing her continued to haunt him, but soon there was another reason for this silence. When Alice was nearly three, TR married Edith Carow.
Edith was more than the second wife. She was engaged to TR before he married Alice’s mother, but they fought and he found someone else – the polar opposite of the austere Edith.