From the Fall 1991 issue of "The Columns"

Theodore Roosevelt and the Legacy of His Offspring

By Mark Hollmer
Site Interpreter

"We have only begun to consider our duty toward the the child; to realize that the child – drudge is apt to turn into the shiftless grown-up..."

T.R., (Metropolitan, May 1917)
Mem. Ed. XXI, 97; Nat. Ed. XIX, 84.

With the great leaders in history, is arguable that their offspring were not always as fortunate in having the greatness passed down to them. One only need look at the latest Oldsmobile commercial to see the depths to which Hemingway’s and Webster’s offspring have fallen. But what of Theodore Roosevelt? His presidency and tenure in American political life were strong and forceful but how was his effect felt with this own children?

The answer? His children all established themselves with distinction, though their father’s shadow remained.

The Roosevelt children grew up in a flurry of activity. There was always intense exercise, learning experiences with nature, and frequent correspondence with their father, which continued as they went away to school. Theodore Roosevelt was constantly in motion throughout his political career and his various safari expeditions, and so correspondence was a staple.

So what did the children become? All distinguished themselves in different avenues, and generally seemed to have thrived under his legacy. This is made clear by looking at some facts about some of the Roosevelt children.

Quentin, the youngest, fought bravely in WWI, and was shot down over enemy lines in 1918.

Archibald Roosevelt was a hero of both World Wars and a father of four children. He died in 1979.

Alice, the oldest Roosevelt child, married Senator Nicholas Longworth and lived a colorful life within the Washington, DC social scene. Her stature was noticed even under Jimmy Carter’s presidency. She passed away in 1980, having been a presence in Washington since Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. She also had one daughter.

Ethel Roosevelt worked admirably in the Red Cross during WWI and WWII. In addition, as Mrs. Richard Derby, she raised four children and was instrumental in saving Sagamore Hill, the Roosevelt family home. She passed on in 1977.

Theodore Junior, like his brothers, served in WWI. He later went on to such posts as Assistant Secretary of The Navy, Governor-General of the Philippines, and the chairman of the Board of The American Express Co. He was the father of four children, and served admirably in WWII as a General in the Army. He died in France in 1944.

Kermit Roosevelt was an adventurer. He pursued countless safaris, and became adept in several languages. According to Sylvia Jukes Morris in Edith Kermit Roosevelt: Portrait of a First Lady, "Kermit was a skillful taxidermist, allegedly able to skin a mouse, while riding on a pad elephant." (442) He served in both world wars, and died in Alaska in 1943. Kermit had four children as well.

The Roosevelt children were a success on many different levels. And so it seems they escaped the "Oldsmobile" syndrome that other children of celebrities have gone through.

If you wish to find out more about the Roosevelt family, a good book to read would be Edith Kermit Roosevelt: Portrait of a First Lady, by Sylvia Jukes Morris (NY: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1980). It was the main source for this article, and contains some fabulous documentation about Mrs. Roosevelt, her husband and her children. It is also available in the Site Gift Shop.

Additionally, Theodore Roosevelt’s letters to His Children, a compilation of his letters made in 1919, also proved to be an interesting source. The letters showed the warmth and unexpected surprises in the Roosevelt family.

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