The Hats of Corinne Roosevelt

Particularly close to Theodore Roosevelt was his younger sister, Corinne.  Here, decade by decade, along with some appropriate headwear, is her narrative.

1870

Teedie!  Ellie!  Wait for me!  I’m eight years old but I just can’t keep up with my brothers!

Teedie’s asthma is so much better here in Switzerland that he walked 19 miles yesterday.  We NEVER would have imagined him doing that at home in New York City, where he spent so much time in his sick bed.

Mother and Aunt Annie told him stories to pass the time, wonderful stories about growing up on a plantation: Bre’r Rabbit, the adventures of her daring brothers, and ancestors who fought the Indians!  I think that’s why Teedie likes to make up tales for me.

He does love to talk.  Here in Europe he talks to everyone: why, on the boat over he talked for hours with a man who knew all about nature.  He loves animals, and especially birds.  But we are missing our dear Grandpapa Roosevelt, our cousins, and my best friend Edie.  They are all waiting for us to come home.

I suppose we will just have to make the best of it.  I wrote in my little diary how we have a new hotel to explore tonight.  When our sister, Bamie, and the rest of the Big People are talking, maybe we’ll chase the help again, and throw more wads of newspaper at them!

1880

This fall will be so exciting.  My big brother Theodore is getting married to Miss Alice Lee of Boston.  Weren’t we just so proud of him when he graduated from Harvard this spring, and since then we’ve been busy having teas and social engagements for the bride.  But she said to me the other day, “I do enjoy Teddy’s friends, but I don’t know why I can’t get anywhere with Edith Carow.”

Teddy is thinking he will donate his large number of stuffed birds to  museums…I remember how he and Fred Osborn used to go hunting in the Hudson Highlands.  They took such pride in their collections.   He should have become a scientist, but he didn’t like looking at specimens under a microscope; he always wanted to be outdoors,  in the field.  Now he’s talking about studying law with our uncle.

Our father, the first Theodore Roosevelt, would be so proud of him.  Dear Father.  Greatheart, as my aunt used to call him.  His sudden death stunned us two years ago.  We will never recover from the loss of his guidance and love.

1890

No Name Hats 1890s To Early 1900s

I still don’t believe it.  I have rassled a calf!  My brother and his wife took us to his Elkhorn Ranch on a holiday.  His hired hands taught me how to rope the thing and hang over its back as it was running in the mud.  I grabbed one leg and over we went, both of our legs waving in the air.  A grand time we all had, in Dakota and the Yellowstone.  Theodore growled outside our tent like a bear to scare us.

Theodore, Edith, and the bunnies, as they call their children, will soon move to Washington D.C.  My, what a challenge to be a Civil Service Commissioner.  And what a change from the cattle business here in the west.  That WAS good for him, even though he lost a lot of money on the venture.  He built up his health after grieving for Alice Lee’s and our mother’s deaths, which most tragically happened  on the same day.  Now he has Edith, whom we have known for always, to help him.

It will be hard for them to leave their lovely home, Sagamore Hill, on Long Island.

1900

Image may contain: one or more people and food

How exciting it is for Theodore to be elected Vice President of the United States!  I always knew he would do great things for our country.

I am sure he will make his mark, as he did in his other positions.  He began as a New York State Assemblyman.  Theodore, whom we called “Teddy” at the time, was such a young upstart.  When he was appointed to Civil Service Commissioner in Washington, he went after corruption in the Postal Service.  Next it was back to Manhattan to shake up the New York City Police Department as one of their Commissioners.

Let’s see — he became the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and influenced the beginning of the Spanish-American War.  He resigned to organize a volunteer regiment, the Rough Riders.  And he was just as vigorous as Governor of New York as he was charging up Kettle Hill.  No wonder he said, “I rose like a rocket.”

I wish our poor brother, Elliott, could see him now.  May he rest in peace.

1910

I AM growing uncomfortable with our national leaders.  Theodore just returned from his African trip, and to the adulation of great crowds.  He’s been troubled, I know, by President Taft’s actions and especially his  inactions on conservation.

I believe Theodore’s accomplishments in that office from 1901 to 1909 will stand firm for many years.  After the tragic assassination of President McKinley, he proved himself a true leader.   He negotiated settlement of the coal strike when the mines were shut down and people were shivering from lack of fuel.  He sued the business trusts to break up their monopoly.   He sought to make life better for the poor with the Food and Drug Act.

The little boy who toured Europe with us three decades ago understood the dynamics of monarchies, and stopped Russia and Japan from going to war.  For this he earned the Nobel Peace Prize.  He strengthened our navy and sent the Great White Fleet on a world tour to show other nations we “speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Many times we joined him for supper in the White House — oh, and he was responsible for changing the name people used for the executive mansion, which he and Edith remodeled so beautifully.  Theodore thought he should use the power he had  to do what was best for the American people.  He called it a “square deal.”  He wanted to protect the natural world which we began our love affair with  so many many years ago at our summer homes in the country.

1920

Last year, after my husband died, I remember Theodore talking about the severe illnesses which plagued him ever since he was a child.  “I promised myself I would work to the hilt until I was 60, and I have done it,” he told me last year, hitting his fist on the arm of his char.  And now…he is gone.

Splitting with the Republicans in 1912 was hard for him.  The political bosses betrayed him again, taking the nomination which was rightfully his, and so he campaigned under a new party, the Progressives.  Even though he received more votes than President Taft, Wilson won the election.

Being refused permission to form a volunteer regiment in the recent world war, and losing his dear son Quentin in France in the summer of 1918 were terrible blows.  He never recovered from them.

I do think I shall write a book about my brother.  I must focus now on the task at hand, to present a speech for General Wood at the Republican National Convention.  It should have been you, Theodore.  I miss you so. We will carry on for you.

 

At Sagamore the Chief lies low–

Above the hill in circled row

The whirring airplanes dip and fly

A guard of honor from the sky;–

Eagle to guard the Eagle, –Woe

Is on the world.  The people go

With listless footstep, blind and slow;–

For one is dead — who shall not die —

At Sagamore.

 

Oh!  Land he loved, at last you know

The son who served you well below,

The prophet voice, the visioned eye,

Hold him in ardent memory,

For one is gone — who shall not go —

From Sagamore!*

 

*Poem from My Brother Theodore Roosevelt by Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, Scribner’s, 1920.

I am available beginning in the fall to present this narrative in costume for schools and civic groups at no charge.  Contact me in the comment section if interested!

4 Replies to “The Hats of Corinne Roosevelt”

  1. I love this! Learned so much about TR thru his sister’s words. He was a man of so many varied interests and talents. And how interesting about him saying he’d work hard until he was 60 — then died shortly thereafter. I would love to see you present this. If you do it someplace locally, please let me know.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: