Tales of the Bizarre: Theodore Roosevelt’s Wife & Mother Die on Valentine’s Day Hours Apart

circa 1905: Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919),the 26th President of the United States (1901-09) sitting at his desk working
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It was a heartbreaking Valentine’s Day for future President Theodore Roosevelt on February 14, 1884. He was working in New York trying to get a government reform bill passed when he heard the news that he needed to head home right away. His brother reportedly exclaimed when he returned home, “There is a curse on this house. Mother is dying, and Alice is dying, too!” Soon his mother, Martha, died from typhoid fever. Just hours later, his wife, Alice, died of a kidney ailment called Bright’s disease after giving birth to their daughter, also named Alice, two days prior.

Roosevelt could not handle his grief. He left politics and took his daughter Alice to live with his sister, Bamie. He headed out West and lived as a rancher and a sheriff for two years while dealing with his heartbreak. In his downtime, he ordered people never to mention his wife’s name and started getting more passionate about reading and writing about history. In 1886, he decided to return to New York after a blizzard had wiped out his entire herd. He got back to work in politics and started raising his daughter.

(Original Caption) Archiboald roosevlet- left and Theodore Roosevelt greet their Mother, Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt (wife of the first President Roosevelt) as she came to New York on the liner Santa Paula. She had to sail through on a cruise of South American parts.

Getty Images

Of course, we know what happens next. In 1900, he was named William McKinley’s vice-presidential running mate. When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Roosevelt took over as President and lived in the White House for the next eight years.

circa 1880: Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt (1861 - 1884), the first wife of American president Theodore Roosevelt. She died of Bright's Disease at the age of twenty-two, leaving her husband a widower with a small daughter

MPI/Getty Images

His daughter grew up and while she loved her father, she admitted that she did resent him for abandoning her in the first years of her life. Things got worse for Alice when he re-married and she received five half-siblings.

Colorized portrait of American President Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919) (second left) and his family as they pose outside, Oyster Bay, New York, 1903. Pictured are, from left, son Quentin Roosevelt (1897 - 1918), Roosevelt, sons Theodore Roosevelt Jr (1887 - 1944) and Archibald Roosevelt (1894 - 1979), daughter Alice Roosevelt (later Longworth, 1884 - 1980), son Kermit Roosevelt (1889 - 1943), wife and First Lady Edith Roosevelt (nee Carow, 1861 - 1948), and daughter Ethel Roosevelt (later Derby, 1891 - 1977)

Stock Montage/Getty Images

She became a bit wild and Roosevelt once admitted, “I can either run the country or I can control Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.” After his run as President ended, she was eventually banned from visiting the White House after she reportedly made a voodoo doll of First Lady Taft and buried it in the front lawn. Oh my!

Want more Tales of the Bizarre? Check out our other stories and get your fill of weird history.

Hollywood's Nastiest Feuds
Want More?

Hollywood's Nastiest Feuds

November 2017

Between gossip and scandals Hollywood has a long history of it!

Buy This Issue
More Of This: