15 Scandalous Facts About Alice Roosevelt, America's Wildest First Daughter

Alice Roosevelt was a legendary First Daughter. Among all of the naughty First Daughters who have come and gone in the White House, Alice and her antics stand out. She was wild, she was unpredictable, she was sharp and intelligent, and she was one-of-a-kind.

Born and raised in New York in 1884, Alice moved with her family to the White House in 1901, when her father, Theodore Roosevelt, became president. This rambunctious, snarky young woman made life difficult for her father and caused him numerous presidential woes. Her tenure as First Daughter led to some wild White House tales. Alice Roosevelt stories are usually full of humor, wit, and a heavy dose of mischief.

The Roosevelts left the White House in 1909, but Alice’s connection with the political elite didn't end there. She spent the vast majority of her 96 years in the nation’s capital, becoming a fixture of Washington high society. Anyone who was anyone in 20th century political culture knew Alice Roosevelt. The Wilsons, Trumans, Eisenhowers, Kennedys, Johnsons, and Nixons: they all knew and courted the celebrated and storied First Daughter.

These scandalous Alice Roosevelt facts reveal a bright, badass woman who consistently disregarded rules of respectability - and who knew how to have fun.

  • She Flouted Rules Of Respectable Behavior, Sometimes Carrying A Pet Snake Around

    She Flouted Rules Of Respectable Behavior, Sometimes Carrying A Pet Snake Around
    Photo: Frances Benjamin Johnston / Public Domain

    Despite - or maybe because of - Alice Roosevelt’s celebrity, she often pushed the bounds of respectable behavior. In an era of gender respectability and transition - when women were demanding the right the vote in large numbers - Alice Roosevelt challenged ideas about what it meant to be a young American woman.

    Though she attended parties and dressed tastefully, she also behaved unpredictably and without regard to social constraints. Among her renegade ways: she often concealed mini whiskey bottles in her evening gloves; was photographed riding in cars with young men; smoked cigarettes; and carried around a pet snake.

    During this period in her life, she wrote in diary, “I pray for a fortune. I care for nothing except to amuse myself in a charmingly expensive way.”

  • She Cut The Cake With A Sword At Her Legendary White House Wedding

    She Cut The Cake With A Sword At Her Legendary White House Wedding
    Photo: Frances Benjamin Johnston / Public Domain

    The wedding of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt and Republican Congressman Nicholas Longsworth was one of the biggest events in the history of the White House. On February 17, 1906, Roosevelt and Longworth married before a thousand guests and, as crowds of thousands gathered outside the White House for a glimpse.

    Flanked by a huge wedding party, the new Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth was said to have cut into her wedding cake with a ceremonial sword she took from her father's military aide. 

  • She Was Banned From The White House After Her Family Moved Out

    She Was Banned From The White House After Her Family Moved Out
    Photo: Frances Benjamin Johnston / Public Domain

    When the Roosevelts left the White House in 1909 to make room for the family of new president William Howard Taft, Alice buried a voodoo doll in the White House garden as a hex on the incoming First Family. The curse, it seems, worked, since William Howard Taft only served one term as president.

    Both the Taft and Wilson administrations banned Alice from the White House, the latter because she made a rude joke at Wilson's expense.

  • She Was The Wit Of Washington For Several Decades

    She Was The Wit Of Washington For Several Decades
    Photo: US Navy / Public Domain

    Alice Roosevelt was perhaps Washington’s Queen of Quips. Her deep connections in DC meant she met all of the most important American politicians of the 20th century, and her verdict on them could be sharp and cutting. Her unofficial motto has since been muttered by generations of gossips: “If you haven’t anything good to say about anyone, come and sit by me.” 

    Alice famously claimed a Hoover vacuum was more exciting than President Herbert Hoover. When Senator Joseph McCarthy, who launched a Communist witch hunt in the early 1950s, made the mistake of calling her Alice, rather than Mrs. Longworth, she sharply retorted, “You will not call me Alice. The truckman, the trashman, and the policeman on the block may call me Alice, but you may not.”

  • She Challenged Her Father At Every Turn, Even Interrupting White House Meetings

    She Challenged Her Father At Every Turn, Even Interrupting White House Meetings
    Photo: Frances Benjamin Johnston / Public Domain

    It is no secret Alice had a difficult relationship with her father, since she spent her life craving attention he never bothered to or could give. Alice’s stubbornness and strength meant she was a handful for her father and step-mother, who struggled to manage her. They once attempted to enroll her in a rigid girl’s school, and she was definitely not on board with the plan, threatening: “If you send me I will humiliate you.”

    Alice’s behavior during her father's presidency kept Roosevelt’s hands full. At one point, she repeatedly interrupted a meeting between her father and the novelist Owen Wister. Exasperated, Roosevelt exclaimed, “I can be President of the United States or I can attend to Alice. I cannot possibly do both!”

  • On A Diplomatic Trip To Asia, She Began A Scandalous Affair With A Congressman

    In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt wanted to keep his 21-year-old daughter occupied in the hopes it might keep her out of trouble. So, he sent her as the head of a goodwill delegation to Asia, which was meant to coincide with his efforts to bring about peace during the Russo-Japanese War, a task that ultimately won him a Nobel Peace Prize.

    Alice’s diplomatic mission wasn't quite what her father had in mind. Though she went through the motions of diplomacy, the young woman also had plenty of fun along the way, including flirting with government officials who joined her and learning how to do the hula in Hawaii. She made a splash in more than one way: she even jumped fully clothed into the ship’s pool.

    Perhaps the most scandalous part of Roosevelt’s trip was her affair with Nicholas Longworth, a thirtysomething Republican congressman from Ohio. By December 1905, the two were engaged.