Hands up if you remember Steve Allen’s great 1970’s PBS show, “The Meeting of the Minds?” Historical figures were brought to life in a talk-show format. Allen asked the questions and they gave their version of the event or their opinion on a subject or whatever. It was wonderful and I LOVED it. (Yes I was a geeky teen! My first t.v. crush was Simon Williams on “Upstairs, Downstairs”.) While each episode feature a variety of historical figures, for my version I’m selecting only one person per episode and giving them the questions I want answered. These guests have not been selected in any meaningful order–the first isn’t the one I “most” want to talk to or anything.
In White House history, few marriages have been as happy and devoted as that of Theodore and Edith Roosevelt. Childhood sweethearts, their relationship was abruptly terminated one day in young adulthood. Theodore then met the lovely Alice Lee and married her. Alice gave to a daughter and died on Valentine’s Day– Theodore’s mother died that day as well. For Theodore the trauma was apparently life-long. He never mentioned Alice’s name again—not even to her namesake daughter. He gave the baby to his sister, “Bamie,” and threw himself into work. Finally, though he thought it a moral weakness on his part, he got back in touch with Edith, healed whatever the rift had been, and married her. They had five children together and loved each other in a very endearing way.
My Questions for the “Other E.R.”
- It’s the 21st Century. We live for prurient details. You two were clearly in love. What happened to break up the relationship? Did Mr. R. get fresh? Did you? What was it?
- Now that we’ve cleared that up….Why did you insist Alice leave her aunt and come “home” to you and her father?
- Given that you and Alice such a difficult relationship did you ever regret it? Or Did Mr. R. tie your hands and not let you properly discipline her out of his own guilt?
- Why did you love Mr. R? What made him “the one?”
- Did you agree with Mr. R on eugenics? Is this why you had such a large family?
6. On film you flinched when Mr. R said he would not seek another term and effectively rendered himself a “lame duck” president. What was his thinking when he said that? You two must have discussed it.
7. There was little love lost between you and Mrs. Taft. How did you feel about Mr. R anointing Mr. Taft as his chosen successor?
8. What was it like for both of you when Taft turned his back on the Progressive Agenda?
9. Did you agree with Mr R on his Bull Moose candidacy?
10. Would you have rather been called on to mother Eleanor or Alice?
11. What was your relationship like with Eleanor before Theodore Jr’s first political campaign?
12. What was your opinion of both women as adults?
13. What would your late husband have thought of Alice’s daughter with Senator Borah?
14. Who is your favorite First Lady? Why?
15. Should the First Lady be an active part of her husband’s political team?
16. Who would have been the better president–Franklin or your Theodore, Jr.? Why?
17. How did you cope with your husband’s restless spirit–with his travels and exploring–especially the Amazon trip when both Mr. R and your son, Kermit, were in such danger?
18. Any advice for wives of adventurous men?
19. What do you think of today’s safety obsession in raising children? Any advice for mothers of high-energy, risk-taking boys?
20. Anything you want to add?
Thank you, Mrs. Edith Roosevelt.