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.
Meet Coleman “Cole” Blease, the mustachioed governor and later senator of the great state of South Carolina from 1910 – 1915.
As you will soon learn, Cole Blease had some major character flaws. However, nobody is all bad or all good, and it’s more charitable and interesting to consider him as a whole person. So, my goal is simply to present this man to you as he presented himself to the citizens of the day.
When Governor Blease assumed office, South Carolina was in the throes of civil unrest. Many farmers were giving up the land and going to work in the mills, in quest of a living wage. Black and white, men and women, children and adults were thrown together for the first time – with the only commonality being an unfamiliar environment. The results were frequently chaotic and violent.
Cole Blease didn’t create the stormy environment in South Carolina, but he definitely contributed to it. For one thing, the governor worsened tensions between black and white workers with racist tirades. Black men, he told audiences, would gain the right to vote just as surely as poor white men would lose it.
No one asked the governor how he felt about women of any race getting the vote, but it’s probably safe to assume he was no suffrage advocate. He was violently opposed to women “doing society” instead of staying home with their families. He warned mill workers that the aim of women was to “give us their dresses for our pants.” (No word on how the governor figured out our secret plan.)