Although I maintain a short list of what's on the nightstand here on first efforts, I don't usually blog about the books I'm reading. But I'm enjoying the current one so much, I just had to say a few words. It's Stacy Cordery's Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker (Penguin, 2007). Alice was the oldest daughter of Theodore Roosevelt and wife of Nicholas Longworth, who became Speaker of the House in the late twenties. She lived to the age of 96 and had a famous needlepoint pillow that read, "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me." I am only on page 91 but have already learned the following marvelous things:
While still only a teenager in the White House, Alice became arguably the twentieth century's first American female global celebrity. Her choice of clothing would start fashion trends. Songs and dances were named after her. Photographers and newspapers followed her every move and scrutinized her behavior - much of which was, by the standards of the day, borderline scandalous. She is widely recognized to have popularized cigarette smoking in public by American women. She frequently carried a live snake and small bottles of whiskey in her purse. She once shot a pistol off the back of a moving train. She liked to gamble, so much so that as president TR had to work to suppress news photographs of her collecting her winnings at the track. She received so much mail - and so much of it from young men - that a White House secretary had to be assigned to screen the letters before she read them. And this one's my favorite: After her father's famous "race suicide" speech - which accused white, middle-class American women of shirking their responsibilities to the race if they limited the size of their families - Alice and two friends responded by starting a little secret society they called The Race Suicide Club.
Did I mention that up to this point in my reading, she's only 18?