tv The Presidency Theodore Roosevelts Sisters CSPAN July 31, 2022 3:20am-4:01am EDT
well when i was very little i fell in love with american history and abraham lincoln was my first hero. and i was so so much in love with abraham lincoln that the summer between first and second grade. we my family took a trip cross country from california to new york and my parents made a detour in springfield, illinois. so that i can see lincoln's home and all the things connected with lincoln and one day i asked my mother.
who's your favorite president? and she said oh, i think roosevelt. i always loved him. and i knew there were two roosevelts and somehow i knew she meant meant franklin roosevelt. so i started to read all of the children's books. and then grown-up books about the roosevelt family. and i've been hooked from that day to this. and i think the thing that i have always loved the most about them. is the courage and joy that they showed? in the face of the vicissitudes of life i'm thinking of theodore the way he overcame asthma. franklin the way he dealt with polio and eleanor with her crippling shyness. i just i can't say enough about them and just the more i've read i could go on and on all day talking about theodore
roosevelt's wonderful sons. and someday i hope to write a biography of tweets grandfather archie who was just an extraordinarily brave man? he was the only man who was discharged with a what's called a total disability meaning he was shot to pieces in world war one. and then 20 years later. he received a total disability in world war two. and was just an extremely brave man with a lot of moral and physical courage all his life but today. i want to talk to you about theodore roosevelt's extraordinary sisters because they too. were full of courage and joy and grace in the face of a lot of pain and sadness now i want to begin. with a story from a wonderful book that was written by corrine roosevelt robinson. who was theodore's younger sister? it's called my brother theodore roosevelt.
and i highly recommend it very very loving book as you may well imagine. now the night. um, well when mckinley died and the very first night that theodore spent as president of the united states, he invited his sisters to come to the white house and have dinner with him. and this is what corrine writes about that evening. she says as we sat around the table, he turned and said do you realize that this is the birthday of our father, september 22nd? i have realized it as i signed various papers all day long. i feel as if my father's hand were on my shoulder. as if there were special blessing over the life, i am to lead here. and she goes on to say at that time. it was the habit at the white house to pass with the coffee a little boutonniere to each gentleman. as the flowers were passed to the president.
the one given to him was a yellow sophronia rose. he said is it not strange. this is the rose that we all connect with my father. he always picked one for his buttonhole from that bush. again, my brother said with a very serious look on his face. i think there is a blessing connected with this. and surely it did seem as if there was a blessing on in the white house. those merry happy years of family life those ardent loving years of public service those splendid peaceful years of international amity. a blessing there surely was over that house. now who were these sisters of theodore that he would make sure that both of them were there on his first night as president of the united states? well, there was an older sister and a younger one theodore and his brother elliot were sandwiched in between the two sisters.
and the older one was the first lady ever to be named anna eleanor roosevelt. she was born in 1855 a 2080 east 20th street in new york city. and she was called bammy after the italian word bambina for baby. as she grew older she was known as by because she was always on the go they called her by. no, antibi is figures prominently and all those children's biographies of eleanor roosevelt. and as i grew in my knowledge of the family, i realized that benny tr's sister was antibi one in the same. now ellis roosevelt longworth one of her nieces said that there has always someone in every family who keeps it together in ours. it was eddie. bye. no, edibai is the subject of a lovely book written in 1963
called demi theodore roosevelt's remarkable sister. but both of his sisters were remarkable, and i'm going to tell you a little bit about them. no, they were both devoted to both of their brothers theodore and elliot. but as theodore said he said i rose like a rocket. in elliot's case in the words of his niece alice longworth the slide downhill was spectacular. but they i would say a bammy i think was closer to theodore and corinne was a little closer to elliot. now benny suffered from something called scoliosis, which is curvature of the spine. i've read it also might have been a form of tuberculosis. but in any case she was in a lot of pain for most of her life. but you'd never know it from the way she she dealt with life in the way. she and the effect she had on
other people. um, not long before her death a friend who knew her well searched in vain for the source of her magnetism her power over over other humans. and this is the quote it says she is a woman no longer young. she is very deaf. she is badly crippled with arthritis. from all ordinary standards. she is very plain. and yet when she is in a room every man in the room old and young wants to sit beside her listen to her and we'll dessert the younger and more beautiful. ladies. now this is from lillian rixie's book. and she says the the three most important women in the roosevelt family. bammy ellis and eleanor all had in common a generous share of that remarkable family's outstanding traits offstage and on each of them possessed and exhibited courage. and all three were gallant.
on high family occasions as in times of family crisis they acted in concert across party lines and often on the world stage with regal grace and dignity. all three had political influence alice following her ants example was a behind the scenes power in the republican party. eleanor unlike her aunt in that respect achieved high visibility as the democratic party's elder states woman. but first there was bammy and indeed. it was her early enthusiasm for politics that greatly influenced her brother theodore and his choice of a career. just as it was bammy's own highly developed political talent always exercised in his support that helped make him the president he was now the thing about bammy is she really didn't think it was proper for a woman to to seek the limelight. she believed absolutely in theodore and in his talent and every single thing every effort.
she undertook was to advance his interests and his career. neither she nor korean believed in in suffrage that that a woman should have the right to vote. i don't think they objected strenuously. it just wasn't an area of tremendous concern for them. no. bammy, as i said, her name was anna eleanor roosevelt. she always seemed more mature than everybody else in the family in theodore's childhood journals. he explained that when he referred to the big people. he meant himself his parent. well, he met his parents and bammy and then we three were himself and elliot and corrine. it was bammy to whom elliot's distraught wife turned for advice. it was she who accompanied elliot and anna to europe in an attempt to keep elliot on the straight and narrow. a family friend wrote of her
capacity for quote cheerful independent thinking based on brains goodness and kindness. that's a nice combination, isn't it? she was the dearest buy and darling byze of theodore's frantic correspondence on over the best way to deal with elliot. in 1893 bammy accepted an invitation to live in england as assistant to a man named james roosevelt roosevelt. he was known as rosie. he was the much older half-brother of franklin d roosevelt. and if anyone remembers thurston howell the third. you might have some sense of what james roosevelt roosevelt was like. at that time he was the first he was the first secretary to the american embassy in in britain
and he was married to a lady named. he was married to one of the asters. i think he was married to helen astor andy had two children aged 14 and 12 and his wife died suddenly. so he asked bammy if she would come over and help. you know, just take charge of his children and comfort them in their grief and just be the lady of the house and she did that. now while she was there. she met a lieutenant commander in the united states navy named william sheffield cowles. and she married him when she was 40. to the great shock of everyone in the family. they'd all dismissed her as a as an old maid or a maiden lady as they used to say in those days, but she married umtenant commander cowles. he was always called captain even though well, he did make captain eventually he retired with the rank of rear end rear admiral. but when theodore heard about
this, well actually when her friend henry cabot lodge who was one of our greatest historians and a great friend of the family when he heard that she was getting married. he said why on earth should you get married you have theodore and myself and in a in a letter to a friend theodore said well, i'm glad it wasn't an englishman. i should have hated that. and i'm glad it was a naval officer. i have a very strong feeling for the navy. but they had a very happy marriage. they they went to live at a at an at his family home, which was called old gate in farmington, connecticut. and when she was 42, she had a baby. she had a son named william sheffield cowell's jr. and he was known as chef. and she was very devoted to him and he grew up to be a fine man.
he had a really devoted mother. well now all her life as i mentioned bami suffered from a slightly misshapen appearance because of this spinal condition she had and she had never expected to marry although many men admired her. she possessed his superior intelligence that rivaled that of theodore. the roosevelt's referred to bammy's gentleman friends as her jobobs. for they included joseph elsa jr. and future rough rider robert, monroe ferguson. now fdr's father james roosevelt had also been a suitor. bammy did not return his interest but made us a major contribution to history by introducing him to her friend sarah delano. so we have bammy to thank for fdr. now bami proved indispensable to theodore's career during his tenure as civil service commissioner at regular dinner parties in her
washington dc home and even when he was president of the united states, he would walk down to her house at 1733 n street in washington, dc. um, he she entertained artists intellectuals and prominent men of the day he would tell her whom he wanted to be there for he knew they would come if she invited them. they all found her invigorating intellectually for she had the roosevelt charisma and a nuanced understanding of international and and domestic policy. and she had possessed in abundance a roosevelt trait that was called elbow in the soup treatment. and then that meant she was so interested in what you had to say that she would, you know, put her elbow in the suit. now eleanor wrote that her antibiot quote had remarkable judgment. i used to think she might have governed and governed an empire either in her own right or through her influence over a
king or an emperor. she was subtle interesting tactful and had the great gift of being able to listen to others as well as to talk delightfully herself. i'm sure that all my generation would have taken any amount of trouble to spend an hour with mrs. cowles even in the days when she could no longer move from her wheelchair and her body was racked with pain. only a little black box on the table made it possible for her to hear us. and yet her spirit rose above all physical trials and shown out of the most beautiful eyes i have ever seen. no. that same bammy loved england when she was over there helping james roosevelt roosevelt and the feeling was mutual. and now this is from betty boyd. corolla's book the roosevelt women. she says anyone who sized up bammy simply on appearance was not impressed.
helen that's rosie's daughter described her this way quote no good looks whatever really plain. even her figure was bad don't be looking. but bammy had mastered a skill that her niece eleanor and other roosevelt women also perfected. they projected such a keen interest such an animated intelligence and curiosity the people who met them saw only beauty. helen remembered when her face was animated it was extraordinary. she gave out a light and an animation. very very rare. it was contagious. bammy also seemed to have an innate ability to make other people appear at their best a skilled particularly useful among the english. whom helen considered quote a curiously stiff sort of people. after only a few months among them bammy broke through the reserve and converted many acquaintances into loyal friends. no. this this was indispensable to
theodore when the few years later when he became president of the united states. um what was mentioned before about the russo japanese war and when he negotiated the peace between the russians and the japanese a lot of this was done through bat channels with the british foreman office and bammy had so many friends there that he turned to her and said i need your help with this and also during the venezuelan crisis when the monroe doctrine needed to be enforced theodore and henry cabot lodge wrote to her and said you have to make our position the american position intelligible to the british you have to work on them and convince them to do the right thing. no. let's see bamically as a little eleanor recalled and antibi would say now this is what i think i can only give you my best judgment it is of course for you to decide.
however, bammy dealt with theodore whom she called her best of brothers. and as well, she wrote to him later as dearest mr. p mr. president. whether by subtle suggestion by simply listening or more forthrightly as was her nature. she was undoubtedly most helpful to him in foreign affairs keeping the channels open to the british through her friends. in their washington embassy and in london now these channels between the two great english-speaking nations had since the war of 1812 shown a surprising tendency to become clogged. but bammy in her time certainly helped unclog them. now she was very successful hostess while she was in england. um her own personality consolidated her position and this is from lillian rixie's book. benny was nearing 40. but her direct deep set eyes
still held their electric blue. they're almost hypnotic depths tolerantly bathed the reflections of even the biggest boars in an ambience of interest. which was decidedly decidedly an asset in an unofficial person. not that she was ever hypocritical. she truly found all manner and sorts of people fascinating and these veiled blue eyes searched and seemed to find something to interest her in everyone. for in the phrase of the day. bammy knew how to draw people out chiefly because she liked them. and that's another roosevelt trait. just they were so comfortable in their own skin that it made them open to all different kinds of people. no. in her teens bammy was a student at le roush in fontainebleau, france where she met educator marie suvest. when eleanor was 15 and her grandmother decided it was time for her to study abroad.
it was adibai who suggested alan's wood the boarding school in england of which mud mazel suvest was then the head when franklin d roosevelt was appointed assistant secretary the navy it was antibi who tutored eleanor in the fine points of naval customs and courtesies as well as washington protocol and the art of paying calls. in later life by and the admiral lived at old gate the family home near farmington, connecticut she lived to see elliot's daughter first lady of new york. she was pleased with eleanor's idealism and tireless energy, although she didn't always approve the directions. they took especially when eleanor fractured family solidarity by campaigning in 1924 on behalf of al smith against teddy roosevelt jr. in the new york gubernatorial race in case you don't know that story.
theodore jr. had been assistant secretary of the navy in warren g harding's cabinet and the harding had died, but the teapot dome scandal involving oil leases in the navy department had broken and ted junior was really in no way involved. but eleanor who was a loyal democrat by that point toward the state of new york in a campaign car rigged up with a paper mache teapot. you know implying something about about ted junior. well since the rose since theodore's children had grown up with with eleanor the reaction of allison ted and other members of that branch of the family was how could she do that to us? but maybe this is just my personal opinion, but maybe there was an undercurrent this idea that oh, well, you know my father is up on mount rushmore and yours was a falling down drunk, you know, maybe this was
this was eleanor's way of asserting a little a little something. um, no, addie buy said, oh here we are. right. eleanor is more bohemian friends were not to her aunts liking either. quote, i just hate to see eleanor. let herself look as she does by wrote to her niece. karin robinson alsop. quote though never handsome. she always had to me a charming effect, but alas and lackaday since politics have become her chiefest interest. all her charm has disappeared and the fact is emphasized by the commit by the companions. she chooses to bring with her. even so during this period bammy's son witnessed a scene redolent of the true roosevelty and ethos when franklin paid a visit to the cowles family. quote, this is from peter collier's book the roosevelt's in american saga. benny was all what was bent
almost in half now. immobilized by her arthritis and so deaf that people had to shout into the bucks like hearing device called an acousticon. she kept beside her chair. franklin maneuvered his wheelchair next to hers and shouted jokes into the primitive listening device to make her and the admiral laugh. sheffield jr. was struck by the quiet courage with which these afflicted roosevelts went about dealing with their ailments. quote you felt such gallantry in all of them remarked a family friend. who was there also such humor such complete elimination of any problem about bodies. now i want to tell you about a little bit about bammy's last last year's and then we'll go into corinne for a few minutes. um, it was to eddie by franklin called her too. and two old gate rather than any other home that franklin first
chose to come in his wheelchair. when he emerged from home after he decided with eleanor and lewis howe the polio would not blight his political career. franklin's mother cousin sally was with bammy at old gate only nine days before bami died in august of 1931 at the age of 76. her pain was great. but she petted cousin sally's hand and said firmly to shut off the flow of sympathy. never mind. it's all right. these were the last words from bammy anyone remembered before she went into a coma. out of which the doctors said she would never emerge never emerge and then truly old gate was for a time a quiet place. corinne jr. was karin's daughter could not bear watching sheffield and his wife day after day at their bedside vigil and one afternoon. she managed to get them out of the house for a little exercise.
they were on the second green at the farmington country club when they saw running down the fairway bammy's secretary companion. miss helen scarth. hurry, miss garth shouted as soon as she got within range mrs. cowles is coming down to tea. they managed to reach the library just as the butler wield her in dressed as usual in her white tea gown. remember she's just come out of a coma. she opened her eyes and fixed each of them for a moment with a lucid. indomitable look then without a word for she could not speak. she showed her eyes for good as the butler wielder to the elevator and up to her room. and there she died that evening. remembering how she had lived and died at old gate the old ladies of farmington said mrs. admiral cowles went down like a battleship with all flags flying. the last of our great ladies
well, she wasn't quite the last because corinne corinne was still around. and i want to tell you a little bit about her now. no, these dramatic pauses just simply mean that i've lost my place in the notes, but but i've read about these ladies for a long long time. so you know what? maybe i don't even need to speak with speak from notes. oh here they are. okay. no, korean, roosevelt robinson. who never gave up on elliot and was the only sibling he still trusted at the end of his life. spent 36 years as the wife of scottish-born douglas robinson who died in 1918 they had four children and through her daughter corrine robinson elsop corrine became the grandmother of columnists stewart and joseph ellisop very well known when widely read men in their day.
corinne was active behind the scenes and republican republican politics and occasionally played a more visible role. at the 1920 gop convention in chicago corinne became the first woman to give a speech at a major party convention when she seconded seconded the nomination of guess who general leonard wood who probably would have made a very good president, but he lost the nomination. she enjoyed making speeches and thereafter was in great demand as a speaker. corinne was also a poet with four published volumes of poetry to her credit. now back there at the convention in june 1920. um, she drew a comparison between leonard wood who commanded the rough riders? and woodrow wilson who was nearing the end of his term and who had waited too long in her view to enter the world war. she declared we want not the man
who waits for the psychological moment. we want the men who makes the psychological moment. now as you listen to this poem by corinne i want you to bear in mind the observation of cs lewis that quote we laugh at honor and then are surprised to find that we have traders in our midst. well the roosevelt's never left at honor. and here is another dig at wilson who wanted peace without victory. this poem is called two peace with victory. and she says i could not welcome you a longed four piece unless you're coming had been heralded by victory. the lessons, excuse me, the legions who have bled and elsewise died in vain for our release. but no that you come sternly let me kneel and pay my tribute to the myriad dead. who counted not the blood that
they have shed against the goal their valor shall reveal? what had been the shame had all the stars? and stripes of our brave flag drooped still unfurled when the fair freedom of the weary world hung in the balance. welcome them the scars. welcome the sacrifice. with lifted head our nation greets dear peace as honor's right and ye the brave the fallen in the fight had ye not perished then were unor dead. and you shall live? because my heart has said to death. that death itself shall have no part in you. no, edith wharton. encouraged encouraged korean to write um, lost two sons both very very tragically and seemingly meaningless way one of
her sons monroe robinson had a drinking problem and whose life really in an eerie way patterned the trajectory that elliot's life took and she had another son that she was especially close to named stuart. and in a really strange freak accident stewart fell out the window of his dorm at harvard. and and died when he was 20 years old. and that was in 1909 and if anything could have really plowed corinne under that that almost did but but still, you know, she was a roosevelt. so she she knew how to deal with it. now what corinne got out of writing poetry? was very much the same sort of thing that that theodore got from going out to the badlands after his wife and his mother died the same day the wonderful writer peter collier says that that mournful landscape drew out his inner torment like a poultice.
and writing poetry had that same effect on corinne. that's the way she dealt with her pain. no, edith wharton. wrote to her. i hope you are still writing and writing more and more every writer will corroborate that nothing is more blessed writing is the surest of refuges and much more than a refuge. and the more one does it the more absorbing it is. no. her cousin mud elliott wrote to her brother said corrine impresses me more and more each time. i'm with her such strength and tenderness of both mind and heart a truly wonderful and most attractive woman. she sorrows so over elliot and his life still. corinne in eleanor's words was entirely different than bammy who was in england when elliot died and had given up on him. she said greater charm, perhaps greater gentleness a more easily lovable quality and feeling for
the arts. she had a gift for writing poetry but her appreciation of others talents illuminated their work for those of us with duller perception. she could join with youth in joy or sorrow as though she was of their generation. time with her was a precious gift granted to all of us. not only appreciated by my generation. but by those even younger eleanor remembered corinne quote with a tender gaiety and all of us are grateful for the windows of her soul that she opened to us. corinne was a lifelong stalver to the gop. but in 1928 and 1930 she voted for franklin d roosevelt for governor, and again in 1932 this time for president because quote eleanor was her niece after all. a grateful sarah delano roosevelt her contemporary wrote there is no one there is no one on earth like you. some people have find minds
others have warm hearts, but you have both both theodore and elliot indeed all who knew karin would have agreed. on the night of january 17th 1933 a party was given at the waldorf astoria hotel in honor of first lady elect eleanor roosevelt. karina had been feeling unwell. but nothing could keep her away on this bitter cold night. from the celebration for her favorite brothers favorite child she died exactly one month later. the last of the affectionate family that had lived at 28 east 20th street. now just want to end with another one of corinne's poems because we're going to sagamore hill and tomorrow. we're going to tour the cemetery. or theater or the family burial plot there. this korean wrote this poem the day i think the day after theodore died.
she said at sagamore the chief lies low above the hill encircled row the whirring airplanes dip and fly. a guard of honor from the sky eagles to guard the eagle. woe was on the world? the people go with listless footstep blind and slow for one who is dead who shall not die at sagamore? olante loved at last you know the son who served you well below. the prophet voice the visioned i told him in ardent memory. for one who is gone. shall not go from sagamore. okay. thank you. my pleasure. thank you. so questions? sir so baby taking care of alice
as tr goes off to the dakotas some perspective from you on that. yes. as as you probably know alice is entry the world was. front with with tragedy her grandmother and her mother died within hours of each other and needless to say theodore's. his circuits were blown and he really couldn't function so he he went off to this property. he had bought in the dakotas and he left his baby with bammy. who raised her for the first three years of her life, and she wanted to keep her? she really loved alice alice was like her daughter to her and it would have added some focus and direction to her life. but when theodore married edith it was it was edith carroll who said no, you and i are going to
raise your child. so he wanted her back and he came and got her and surely this this must have upset baby alice's emotional equilibrium. i was i often wonder if maybe that's why she had some of the problems that that she did and well alice is a story in her in herself as you know. but you know bammy had she had said, you know my my little alice left me, and i've i don't think i will ever again allow myself to get that attached to anyone or anything. it was just so painful, but of course. you know, nobody stays in that state. it's it's easy to think that way at the time but she went on and married and had a son of her own and had a wonderful life. but but alice alice was always
good evening, everybody and welcome to tonight's. lecture on the fly girls and what a pleasure it is to welcome a live audience once again to dot auditorium. for the first time in almost two years and of course to those of you who are streaming the program tonight, welcome to you as well. incidentally, i'll tell you it's our plan at this point subject to change. i need not say subject to