Teddy Roosevelt had known Edith Carow since they were children together in New York, the Carow family home being just a short distance from the Roosevelt home. Edith’s father suffered from alcoholism and was frequently absent for long periods. The disease likely contributed to his failing finances and business, and Edith’s childhood was a difficult and often unhappy one. She took refuge in books and in the home of her best friend, Teddy’s sister Corinne.
Teddy, like Edith, loved to read, and the two became friends as well. There may have been a budding romance between the two but when Teddy went off to Harvard he met his future wife Alice, and if there had been a romance with Edith it was soon extinct. Edith met and was friends with Alice during her brief marriage to Roosevelt so there was no animosity between the two, at least not expressed publicly. Teddy, not yet 30, had a small daughter and still retained his desire for a large family. When Teddy proposed to Edith is uncertain, but on December 2 1886, over the objections of his sisters who believed it was too soon, Teddy and Edith were married in London.
After the wedding the Roosevelts moved to the famous house at Sagamore Hill, taking Teddy’s daughter Alice with them, whom Edith would raise as one of her own. With Edith Teddy produced the large and boisterous family he had wanted. Between 1887 and 1897 Alice gave birth to four sons and a daughter, and Teddy insisted that his children embrace the active life which he found so beneficial to himself. Edith loved Sagamore Hill and wanted to spend as many summers as possible there. On more than one occasion she overruled her husband when he was considering a political appointment which would force them to relocate.
Eventually, as First Lady of the United States, Edith created much of what is the modern White House. Before the Roosevelt’s occupied the Executive Mansion there was no clear delineation between the living spaces for the President’s family and the working offices of the administration. For example, what is today known as the Lincoln Bedroom was not a bedroom in Lincoln’s day. He used the room as an office when he needed refuge from the patronage seekers which were so large a part of his day. Edith worked with architects and contractors to redo both the interior and grounds of the White House.
Teddy and Edith’s relationship was such that they set aside an hour or so every day (when Teddy was home) for private conversation, during which he often sought her counsel. Her love of privacy led her to destroy the many love letters she had received from Teddy over the years of their marriage, sent while he was off on one of his many long trips. By all accounts, the marriage was a happy one, although Edith and Alice, Teddy’s daughter from his first marriage, had an often stormy relationship. Alice grew up to be Alice Roosevelt Longworth. She was part of many stormy relationships.