Yesterday’s post made me think of one of my favorite quotes. It comes from Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt.
The social butterfly, Mrs. L, as she preferred to be called, once said, “If you haven’t got anything good to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”
I have that on a pillow.
She had some other great quotes, but I’ll save those for another day.
Alice’s life wasn’t perfect, not by any measure, and that may have attributed to her cynicism.
Her mother and grandmother died on the same day. Alice was two days old.
Her father was so distraught buy their deaths he became unable to deal with life in general, much less a baby, and departed for the West, leaving the infant in the care of his sister.
Her father eventually remarried and fathered five more children with his second wife, Edith Kermit Carow.
But, the relationship between Alice and her step-mother was rife with tension. Wife #2 knew Wife #1 and considered her as “beautiful but insipid.” She made it clear to young Alice that had her mother lived, she “…would have bored Theodore to death…”
Nice, real nice!
Alice, like her mother, was also considered a great beauty and at first blush was sometimes considered shallow. Continuing tension with her stepmother and limited attention from her father helped to develop the young woman she became.
Independent, outgoing, self-confident, and calculating she rebelled when her stepmother suggested she be packed off to a school for girls in New York City. She pitched a fit, threatened mayhem, and was schooled elsewhere.
The questionable treatment from her stepmother helped to create the Alice that history gives us.
Teddy Roosevelt moved his growing family in the 1600 Penn upon the death of William McKinley, and a rapturous Alice became an instant celebrity and fashion icon much like Lady Diana Spencer would decades later.
Seventeen year old Alice wore a blue gown at her debut and created a color still called Alice blue which eventually inspired a song, Alice Blue Gown. She changed fashion forever by adding color.
She was a rule breaker, smoked in public, rode in cars un-chaperoned with men, stayed out late, kept a pet snake, and placed bets with a bookie!
She was a frequent visitor to her father’s White House office and often offered advice.
Onc visitor claimed that after her third interruption during his visit, the President said, “I can either attend to Alice or I can run the country, but I cannot possibly do both!”
With her stepmother, there was forgiveness of sorts: Alice expressed admiration for Edith’s sense of humor, and said in her autobiography, “…That I was the child of another marriage was a simple fact and made a situation that had to be coped with, and Mother coped with it with a fairness and charm and intelligence which she has to a greater degree than almost anyone else I know.”
Yes, she may have made the cynical quote about not having anything good to say, but she did from time to time find the right words.
Maybe we all should try to do the same.