Tags: Presidential History | first lady | Theodore Roosevelt

Edith Roosevelt: The Causes That Defined President Theodore Roosevelt's First Lady

By    |   Friday, 12 Jun 2015 10:28 AM

Edith Roosevelt, 26th President Theodore Roosevelt’s first lady, was unsuspectingly thrown into the role after President William McKinley’s assassination in 1901.

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Edith was President Roosevelt’s 2nd wife although he had proposed to her several times before meeting his first wife, according to a biographical sketch on whitehouse.gov.

While living in the White House, Edith was well-liked and "always the gentle, high-bred hostess; smiling often at what went on about her, yet never critical of the ignorant and tolerant always of the little insincerities of political life,” according to a White House aide.

Below are some of the causes that most defined the “gentle, high-bred hostess:"

Motherhood
In addition to raising her own 5 children, Edith insisted on bringing up her stepdaughter as her own as well. Her children were always her first priority, and even her first action as first lady was to make them comfortable.

Renovation of the White House
Edith’s interest in the White House and her relationship with former first lady Frances Cleveland, caused her to be among the first to view the mansion as a national symbol, rather than just a house she lived in.

Edith first expanded the family living quarters to accommodate her own large family and then began renovating the rest of the edifice.

She removed the gaudy chandeliers and Victorian style elements and replaced them with more patriotic colonial style furnishings.

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To honor first ladies, Edith placed their portraits in the East Wing for tourists to see. President Roosevelt was the first to call the former "Executive Mansion" the "White House."

Helping the Sick
Unlike other first ladies, Edith did not adopt any single set of charities to support. She was however, supportive of several hospitals geared towards helping the poor in which she donated large sums of cash.

Some of these institutions were the Washington Hospital for Foundlings, the Hope and Health Mission, and the Children’s Hospital.

Dislike of the Media
Edith blatantly expressed disdain towards the media. She refused to participate in any interviews or be featured in any stories that invaded her privacy.

In an act of resistance, Edith frequently wore the same dress to political events so that reporters could not write about her clothing. However, she did allow her children to be photographed.

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Edith Roosevelt, 26th President Theodore Roosevelt’s first lady, was unsuspectingly thrown into the role after President William McKinley’s assassination in 1901.
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