Book Review: Edith Kermit Roosevelt, Portrait of a First Lady by Sylvia Jukes Morris


I did an earlier post when I finished the first book of these three. I am now halfway into the second book titled Theodore Rex. Theodore Roosevelt is gone from his family for long periods of time, campaigning, living in New York City, going out west on hunting trips, and doing what public officials do during the late 1800’s and the first 10 years of the 1900’s. He has a large family and is away often. I wondered what Edith Roosevelt was like and if she minded these absences. I decided to find a book about her which is written by the wife of Edmund Morris, the author of the Theodore Roosevelt books.


I enjoyed this book immensely Not only did it give much description of Sagamore Hill. which I could see since we had visited there a few months ago in July, but it read like a story book and flowed easily. Edith was a very private person and she and Theodore burned their letters to each other at her urging. She and Theodore adored each other. She put up with his absences well until after he came back from the River of Doubt trip. They were both in their 50’s and she tried to get him to stay home with her but he didn’t get it because he had always done what he wanted. As the book put it, she had not kept a tight leash on him so why would it change. She decided that she just needed to accompany him instead. They were a great first family and she did many things for the White House. She revamped it and brought it back to it’s original glory. Started the white house china collection, Had the west wing built so that there would be a separation of the living quarters and the working quarters. Made the hall for the First Lady’s portraits. She really was devastated when Theodore died and a bit of her died also. I am sure she felt that she did not have enough time with him since he was gone so often. She lived to be in her eighties. After Theodore died she traveled much, went and bought a house of her ancestors to stay in the summertime. Did some speaking engagements. Spoke out against Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore’s 5th cousin, but then they made up at how he handled WWII. She ran Sagamore Hill which was a working farm, paid the bills, took care of the children and Theodore when they were sick. Theodore had no sense of finances. Edith would give him $20.00 each day and when he came home at night he had no idea what he spent it on. Edith understood this highly active, highly intelligent man and knew that he needed to go on these trips. .


When Theodore died the book explained that they took him up the hill to Young’s Cemetery, which we visited. Here are their graves in that small, lovely, quaint cemetery. I give this book high recommendation if you are into history and learning about people. .


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