Miller Center

Theodore Roosevelt: Family Life

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The nation had never known a family in the White House quite like the Roosevelts. The public loved to follow the adventures of the Roosevelt clan; the President understood that his family was a political asset and made it available, to some degree, to the media. When Roosevelt married Edith Kermit Carow in 1886, he already had a daughter, Alice, from his first marriage. He and Edith had five more children—Theodore, Kermit, Edith, Archibald, and Quentin.

For TR, his family was like having his own private circus. His children were everywhere, having the complete run of the place. They took their favorite pony, Algonquin, into the White House elevator, frightened visiting officials with a four-foot King snake, and dropped water balloons on the heads of White House guards. The grand romp continued at the summer White House, Sagamore Hill, the family's home in Oyster Bay, New York. There, the President led the children and anyone who happened to be visiting on hours-long obstacle hikes, picnics, and swims in the ocean. Roosevelt also loved to engage family, friends, and visitors in grand story-telling sessions about ghosts and the cowboys whom Roosevelt had known out West. He taught the boys to box and the girls to run. He never held back in his affections or in his praise for courage and aggressiveness. He almost drove his wife, Edith, to distraction with his antics, and she often told her best friends that the President was just an ornery little boy at heart.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Sidney Milkis

Professor Milkis is the White Burkett Miller Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia and Assistant Director for Academic Programs at the Miller Center of Public Affairs. His writings include:

American Government: Balancing Democracy and Rights (Co-authored with Marc Landy, McGraw-Hill, 2004)

Presidential Greatness (Co-authored with Marc Landy, University Press of Kansas, 2000)

Progressivism and the New Democracy (Co-edited with Jerome Mileur, University of Massachusetts Press, 1999)

The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776–1990 (Co-authored with Michael Nelson, CQ Press, 1990)