Shelley Fraser MickleNov 11, 2023
White House Wild Child
How Alice Roosevelt Broke All the Rules and Won the Heart of America
“I can do one of two things, I can be President of the United States or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”—Theodore Roosevelt
During Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency—from 1901 to 1909, when Mark Twain called him the most popular man in America—his daughter Alice Roosevelt mesmerized the world with her antics and beauty.
Alice was known for carrying a gun, a copy of the Constitution, and a green snake in her purse. When her father told her she couldn’t smoke under his roof, she climbed to the top of the White House and smoked on the roof. She became the most famous woman in America—and even the world—predating Princess Diana and Jackie Kennedy as an object of public obsession.
As her celebrity grew, she continued to buck tradition, push against social norms, and pull political sway behind the curtain of privilege and access. She was known for her acerbic wit and outspoken tendencies which hypnotized both the social and political world.
In White House Wild Child: How Alice Roosevelt Broke All the Rules and Won the Heart of America (Imagine, 2023), Shelley Fraser Mickle places the reader in the time and place of Alice and asks what would it have been like to be a strong-willed powerful woman of that day. Drawn from primary and secondary sources, Alice’s life comes into focus in this historical celebration of an extraordinary woman ahead of her time.
Jeannette Cockroft is an associate professor of history and political science at Schreiner University.