Theodore Roosevelt
Valentine's Day Tragedy 1884

Theodore Roosevelt's Mother and Wife Die On Valentine's Day, February 14, 1884

Theodore Roosevelt was elated when his marriage proposal was finally accepted by the 19 year old Alice Hathaway Lee and on his 22nd birthday, October 27, 1880 she became young Roosevelt's first wife

Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt

The wedding took place in Brookline, Massachusetts at the Unitarian Church. Theodore and Alice later moved to New York, City to live with his widowed mother Martha "Mittie" Bulloch Roosevelt. The couple were optimistic about the future and anxiously looked forward to starting a family of their own.

On February 12, 1884 Roosevelt was In Albany, New York working hard on behalf of the people serving as assemblymen, when he received joyous news.  A telegram arrived announcing the birth of his first child, a healthy baby girl.

A time for celebration of a beautiful new life and a bright happy future suddenly turned ugly and dark when another telegram arrived the following day. This time, an urgent message requesting Roosevelt to hurry back to New york, City.  His mother Mittie and wife were both deathly ill, dying at the Roosevelt family home. Roosevelt had known of his mothers grave illness but, it was  a shocking blow to hear the news of his wife's rapid decline after giving birth.

Without delay Roosevelt rushed to his wife's bedside where she lay after slipping into a coma. Suffering from what was known as Brights Disease, a kidney disorder likely hidden from detection during her nine month pregnancy. Alice and Mittie were in opposite areas of the house and Roosevelt could not be with both women at the same time. But, he was with his mother when she succumbed to the feverish illness of Typhoid. She was only 49 years old.

Within hours of his mothers death, Roosevelt watched in horror as he held his beloved wife take her last breath. Alice was only 22 years old.

Theodore Roosevelt's Valentine's Day diary entry

The diary Entry of Theodore Roosevelt, Thursday, February 14, 1884, was marked with a large black X on top of the page with a brief statement of immense grief:

"The Light has gone out of my life."

A double Roosevelt funeral was held at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church a couple days later. Roosevelt had his daughter christened with her mothers namesake, Alice Lee Roosevelt the following day. However, Roosevelt could not bare to call her Alice and instead referred to her as Baby Lee.

Immediately after the events, Roosevelt threw himself into work in an effort to erase the memory of his loss.  But his job as Assemblyman soon came to an end. Unable to be idle he retreated to the great outdoors of and a strenuous life on his ranch in the North Dakota Badlands. In solitude, away from family and politics he continued his passion for a the writing life he had begun in college. Already a published author, Roosevelt wasted no time and immediately delved into his first western book, "Hunting Trips Of A Ranchman," published in 1885.

" I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota."

Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth christened the USS Theodore Roosevelt in 1959

Roosevelt's daughter, Baby Lee became Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth in adulthood and lived a blessed life. A stark contrast to the short tragic death of her young mother, she lived a very long and fruitful life. The oldest of six Roosevelt children, Alice died just eight days after her 96th Birthday and outlived her five younger siblings.

  • Alice           (1884-1980)
  • T.R.  JR.       (1887-1944)
  • Kermit        (1889-1943)  
  • Ethel           (1891-1977)
  • Archibald    (1894-1979)
  • Quentin      (1897-1918)

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President Theodore Roosevelt

"No Man is worth his salt in public life who makes on the stump a pledge which he does not keep after election."

~Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt