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Edith Carow Roosevelt was born on August 6th, 1861, in Norwich, Connecticut, to a wealthy mercantile family. In Norwich, she lived next door to future husband Theodore Roosevelt and was close friends with his sister, Corinne. The Carow’s eventually moved to New York City. At age four, Edith and the Roosevelt children watched the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln as it passed through New York City. Edith spent a lot of time with the Roosevelt’s during her childhood and like Theodore, developed a passion for the natural world. Edith and Theodore loved to take long boat rides together and camp under the stars. Theodore even named one of his boats after Edith. Theodore proposed to Edith when she visited his family in 1877, but the apparent disapproval of Theodore’s father prevented their union. Instead, Theodore married Alice Hathaway Lee in 1878. For the time being, the relationship between Theodore and Edith faded.
Marriage to Theodore
In 1886, Edith visited Corinne Roosevelt and learned that Theodore’s first wife has passed away. Theodore and Edith quickly fell in love and he proposed to her. They were married a little more than two weeks later in a secret, subdued ceremony in London, England. Theodore wore bright orange gloves which were visible through the day’s thick fog. Theodore and Edith then embarked on a 15-week honeymoon through Europe. Upon their return, they moved to Theodore’s estate in Oyster Bay, New York, which would eventually come to be known as Sagamore Hill.
Becoming First Lady
Edith and Theodore would have five children together. In 1889, the Roosevelt’s moved to Washington, D.C., when Theodore was appointed Chairman of the Civil Service Commissioner by President Benjamin Harrison. In 1895, the family moved to New York City when Theodore was appointed to the position of New York City Police Commissioner. From 1899-1901, Edith served as First Lady of New York while her husband was the state’s governor. It was during this time, where Edith developed a mistrust of the press. In 1901, following the assassination of William McKinley, Edith became First Lady of the United States when Theodore ascended to the presidency.
Modernizing the White House
As the First Lady from 1901 to 1909, Edith was uncomfortable with the idea that her life was on display for the press. She rarely granted interview requests and spent much of her time entertaining and making large-scale changes to the White House. For instance, she was the first First Lady to hire a Social Secretary that assisted in the planning of events. She also developed White House renovation plans and oversaw the construction of the West Wing, which added more living space for the First Family and provided a new location, away from the living quarters, for the presidential offices. She also redecorated the ground floor of the White House with portraits of each of the First Ladies, including herself, and changed the style of the formal rooms to reflect more modern design.
After her Husband's Death
After leaving the White House, Edith continued as a public figure. She made trips around the world with Theodore, until he contracted a fever while they were on a trip to the Amazon River. He passed away six months later from a heart attack. Despite her husband’s death, Edith made public appearances and speeches about politics well into her retirement. She died on September 20th, 1948.