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The Roosevelt Women: A Portrait In Five Generations

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The Roosevelt name conjures up images of powerful Presidents and dashing men of high society. But few people know much about the extraordinary network of women that held the Roosevelt clan together through war, scandal, and disease. In The Roosevelt Women, Betty Boyd Caroli weaves together stories culled from a rich store of letters, memoirs, and interviews to chronicle ni The Roosevelt name conjures up images of powerful Presidents and dashing men of high society. But few people know much about the extraordinary network of women that held the Roosevelt clan together through war, scandal, and disease. In The Roosevelt Women, Betty Boyd Caroli weaves together stories culled from a rich store of letters, memoirs, and interviews to chronicle nine extraordinary Roosevelt women across a century and a half of turbulent history. She examines the Roosevelt women as mothers, daughters, wives, and, beyond that, as world travelers, authors, campaigners, and socialites -- in short, as themselves. She reveals how they demonstrated the energy and intellectual curiosity that defined their famous family, as well as the roles they played in the intrigues, scandals, and accomplishments that were hallmarks of the Roosevelt clan. From the much maligned Sara Delano (who sired Franklin and by turns terrified and supported Eleanor) to Theodore's irrepressible daughter, Alice ("I can either rule the country or control Alice," Teddy once said) to the beloved Bamie, who was the only mother Alice ever knew, and the model of everything she never was in life, to the exceptionally beautiful but ultimately overwhelmed Mittie, Theodore's mother, The Roosevelt Women is an intricate portrait of bold and talented women, a grand tale of both unbearable tragedies and triumphant achievements.


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The Roosevelt name conjures up images of powerful Presidents and dashing men of high society. But few people know much about the extraordinary network of women that held the Roosevelt clan together through war, scandal, and disease. In The Roosevelt Women, Betty Boyd Caroli weaves together stories culled from a rich store of letters, memoirs, and interviews to chronicle ni The Roosevelt name conjures up images of powerful Presidents and dashing men of high society. But few people know much about the extraordinary network of women that held the Roosevelt clan together through war, scandal, and disease. In The Roosevelt Women, Betty Boyd Caroli weaves together stories culled from a rich store of letters, memoirs, and interviews to chronicle nine extraordinary Roosevelt women across a century and a half of turbulent history. She examines the Roosevelt women as mothers, daughters, wives, and, beyond that, as world travelers, authors, campaigners, and socialites -- in short, as themselves. She reveals how they demonstrated the energy and intellectual curiosity that defined their famous family, as well as the roles they played in the intrigues, scandals, and accomplishments that were hallmarks of the Roosevelt clan. From the much maligned Sara Delano (who sired Franklin and by turns terrified and supported Eleanor) to Theodore's irrepressible daughter, Alice ("I can either rule the country or control Alice," Teddy once said) to the beloved Bamie, who was the only mother Alice ever knew, and the model of everything she never was in life, to the exceptionally beautiful but ultimately overwhelmed Mittie, Theodore's mother, The Roosevelt Women is an intricate portrait of bold and talented women, a grand tale of both unbearable tragedies and triumphant achievements.

30 review for The Roosevelt Women: A Portrait In Five Generations

  1. 5 out of 5

    Becky Loader

    Excellent scholarship and writing.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    Fascinating women, the Roosevelts. Apparently Bamie, Theodore's sister, could have been president had she been a man. Yet she did not support the right of women to vote. Also interesting that these Roosevelt women were, for the most part, self-educated. Although they certainly had the money to attend college, they rarely chose to go. Fascinating women, the Roosevelts. Apparently Bamie, Theodore's sister, could have been president had she been a man. Yet she did not support the right of women to vote. Also interesting that these Roosevelt women were, for the most part, self-educated. Although they certainly had the money to attend college, they rarely chose to go.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katie Parks

    A fascinating look at all the interesting women who had great influence on the presidents Roosevelt.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Well-worth reading, but it helps to have some familiarity with the Roosevelts before picking up this book. The pedigree at the beginning is very useful.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I'm glad these notable women were given their due. I was put off by the frequent references to their physical appearances - the reminders that one wasn't as beautiful as her mother or that another inherited the family's unpleasant looks. There were pages devoted to Eleanor's need for braces on her teeth. Other than that, I enjoyed the book, although I wish she had devoted more time to Eleanor's life post-Franklin. I'm glad these notable women were given their due. I was put off by the frequent references to their physical appearances - the reminders that one wasn't as beautiful as her mother or that another inherited the family's unpleasant looks. There were pages devoted to Eleanor's need for braces on her teeth. Other than that, I enjoyed the book, although I wish she had devoted more time to Eleanor's life post-Franklin.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Butler

    I really enjoyed this book. Learning about many of the women behind the scenes who helped shaped the Roosevelt Dynasty and the era they lived in was fascinating. Betty Boyd Caroli was able to draw on not just the history we know but also the letters the women wrote to provide an even clearer picture of the times and the motivations of the Roosevelt family.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kendra Watson

    I enjoyed this book. I found it interesting the level of involvement that these women had in politics, as well as their habit of international travel both with their husbands and alone. The family tree at the front of the book is immensely helpful as the women in the family tended to name their children after themselves or other family members, which made keeping them straight difficult.

  8. 4 out of 5

    June Mathews

    A compelling look at the "Theodores" and the "Franklins" and the personal and political forces that often divided them. A must-read for anybody interested in this fascinating family. A compelling look at the "Theodores" and the "Franklins" and the personal and political forces that often divided them. A must-read for anybody interested in this fascinating family.

  9. 5 out of 5

    The six of us

    Interesting information I felt a lot of it was repetitive.and I would have liked a little more about the latter Roosevelt ss

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    Not a novel, but intersting and easy to read. (2021)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sara Veldhuizen Stealy

    If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I wish someone would write a book that delves deeply into the relative physical attractiveness of the Roosevelt women while somewhat adequately summarizing their lives,” this is the book for you. Also glosses over enslavement by the Bulloch family.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    I think the author did admirably with such a diverse work. Particularly interesting was the way the author described the interactions between each of the woman. Each had a good amount of tragedy in life and they all seemed to rise above it as they got older

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Quotes: Mittie evidently caught a glimpse of a special quality in her father that his children would later relish- a combination of spirit and goodness, of vitality and charity. They would call him the best man they ever knew, and singled out the times with him as the most cherished of all their childhood memories. He was one of the most enchanting characters with whom I have ever come in contact: sunny, gay, dominant, unselfish, forceful and versatile…an all round man. Evidence shows that Mittie Quotes: Mittie evidently caught a glimpse of a special quality in her father that his children would later relish- a combination of spirit and goodness, of vitality and charity. They would call him the best man they ever knew, and singled out the times with him as the most cherished of all their childhood memories. He was one of the most enchanting characters with whom I have ever come in contact: sunny, gay, dominant, unselfish, forceful and versatile…an all round man. Evidence shows that Mittie was a far more complex figure than her children acknowledged. By dwelling on her failings they diminished her. This complex woman was a caring loving mother and a patient teacher. She conducted herself responsibly. No one saw Bamie with greater clarity than she saw herself. To her, actions counted in a person’s life- not the publicity surrounding them. She had developed a contempt for some of her father’s friends, one especially who she viewed as calculating and shrewd, acting solely for her own interests. Her closest woman friend outside the family still lived: Elisabeth Reid, widow of Whitelaw Reid, diplomat and publisher of the New York Tribune. She was precisely the kind of woman who appealed to Bamie- one who never doubted that she held the reins to the important things in life. Eleanor: She started placing an important place for herself. The discovery of Franklin’s affair with Lucy Mercer evidently speeded up the metamorphosis. The affair which ended in 1918 certainly had a profound effect on her. When she discovered the relationship “the bottom dropped out of my own particular world and I faced myself, my surroundings and my world tragically but honestly for the first time.” Like most Roosevelt’s, Edith thrived on travel. At sixty two and accustomed to traveling with a maid, the winter journey through Siberia must have been grueling. Food supplies were unpredictable, and the washroom water froze solid. Rather than complain about problems that inevitably arose on the long, arduous journey, especially in that part of the world in the coldest months, she insisted on making do, saying; “Travelers must be content.” For all her nurturing spirit, she had strong opinions. She thrived on travel and adventure. She had a magnetic personality.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Diane Corradini

    Really an interesting book about many of the Roosevelt women you don't normally hear much about - Teddy's mother, Teddy's 2 sisters, some various nieces and of course, Eleanor. They are all very strong women and are actively involved in politics in their own way. It is said that Teddy's sister, Anna (called Bamie) would have been the one to run for president if not for the time period. She was very active in advising Teddy and he respected her opinion about the politics of the day. A well- resea Really an interesting book about many of the Roosevelt women you don't normally hear much about - Teddy's mother, Teddy's 2 sisters, some various nieces and of course, Eleanor. They are all very strong women and are actively involved in politics in their own way. It is said that Teddy's sister, Anna (called Bamie) would have been the one to run for president if not for the time period. She was very active in advising Teddy and he respected her opinion about the politics of the day. A well- researched book and very readable. Fascinating to read about these women, many of whom were not in favor of women getting the vote, as they really had all the resources they neeeded and couldn't imagine why women would even need the vote. Travel around the world in their social cirlcle was very common at that time and they met socially with many important political and literary figures of the time. A fascinating study of that family of women and how the lives of women of their social standing were lived in the time periods covered in the book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    This is one of my favorite collective biographies. It spans multiple generations of women in one of the most prolific American families, introducing us to some of the less-well-known individuals and providing broader context and deeper insight into the lives of the more famous Eleanor and Alice. It spans some critical years in American history and articulates some of the on-going issues in the relationships between the Republican and Democrat sides of the family - in which Eleanor was a pivotal This is one of my favorite collective biographies. It spans multiple generations of women in one of the most prolific American families, introducing us to some of the less-well-known individuals and providing broader context and deeper insight into the lives of the more famous Eleanor and Alice. It spans some critical years in American history and articulates some of the on-going issues in the relationships between the Republican and Democrat sides of the family - in which Eleanor was a pivotal figure. It includes tantalizing tidbits from the more private lives of the venerable Aunt Bamie and in-laws Sarah and Edith. The relationships among Alice, Eleanor, Aunt Bamie, Edith, Sarah, and Alice and Eleanor's other first cousins are fascinating, to say the least.

  16. 4 out of 5

    The Library Lady

    Caroli points out the rivalry between the Hyde Park and Oyster Bay Roosevelts and she herself clearly leans towards the "Teddies". The only exception to this is her attempt to prove that Edith Roosevelt is over venerated and Sara Roosevelt wrongfully dissed as the mother-in-law from hell, and I'm not sure she succeeds on either point. This is well researched and generally well written. But at times it seems to run out of energy. Or perhaps that was my own feeling, in terms of several of the less Caroli points out the rivalry between the Hyde Park and Oyster Bay Roosevelts and she herself clearly leans towards the "Teddies". The only exception to this is her attempt to prove that Edith Roosevelt is over venerated and Sara Roosevelt wrongfully dissed as the mother-in-law from hell, and I'm not sure she succeeds on either point. This is well researched and generally well written. But at times it seems to run out of energy. Or perhaps that was my own feeling, in terms of several of the less well known Roosevelt women. Much like Stalin's daughter as quoted here on Alice Roosevelt--"But what did she DO?"....

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kate Lawrence

    This anecdotal overview of nine of the Roosevelt women covers a considerable period of history. From Teddy Roosevelt's mother--born in 1835, a southerner with strong Confederate sympathies living in the north during the Civil War--to his daughter Alice, an outspoken rebel who lived until 1980 at age 96, their stories are compelling. Because it covers such an ambitious range of subject matter, the narrative is necessarily limited to selective highlights; readers wanting depth on a particular pers This anecdotal overview of nine of the Roosevelt women covers a considerable period of history. From Teddy Roosevelt's mother--born in 1835, a southerner with strong Confederate sympathies living in the north during the Civil War--to his daughter Alice, an outspoken rebel who lived until 1980 at age 96, their stories are compelling. Because it covers such an ambitious range of subject matter, the narrative is necessarily limited to selective highlights; readers wanting depth on a particular person will not find it here. As an introduction to some varied and fascinating characters on both sides of the political divide, however, it is quite inviting and may stimulate further study.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rho

    In The Roosevelt Women by Betty Boyd Caroli, the author gives us a fascinating look at the Roosevelt women from primarily the Oyster Bay branch of the family. We all know Theodore's and Franklin's political contributions to our nation's history. We also know of the contributions of Eleanor Roosevelt to her family and to the country before and after WWII. This is more the story of Eleanor Roosevelt the person and her female kin (grandmother, aunts and cousins). This book shows that in some respec In The Roosevelt Women by Betty Boyd Caroli, the author gives us a fascinating look at the Roosevelt women from primarily the Oyster Bay branch of the family. We all know Theodore's and Franklin's political contributions to our nation's history. We also know of the contributions of Eleanor Roosevelt to her family and to the country before and after WWII. This is more the story of Eleanor Roosevelt the person and her female kin (grandmother, aunts and cousins). This book shows that in some respects these women are more remarkable than the Roosevelt men.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Caroli tells the stories of women in the Roosevelt family, both the Teddy branch and the FDR branch. She starts with Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, TR's mother, and eventually picks up Sara Delano Roosevelt, FDR's mother. She writes about Eleanor Roosevelt, naturally, and even though I've read a two-part biography of ER, I found new perspectives here, with ER set amidst a host of other strong, independent, capable Roosevelt women. Well-researched, well-paced, with helpful genealogy chart and several Caroli tells the stories of women in the Roosevelt family, both the Teddy branch and the FDR branch. She starts with Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, TR's mother, and eventually picks up Sara Delano Roosevelt, FDR's mother. She writes about Eleanor Roosevelt, naturally, and even though I've read a two-part biography of ER, I found new perspectives here, with ER set amidst a host of other strong, independent, capable Roosevelt women. Well-researched, well-paced, with helpful genealogy chart and several sections of black and white photos.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Miryam

    I picked this up wanting to learn more about Eleanore Roosevelt in particular. I did learn more about her, as well as her family going back two generations and the generation that followed her. Although it was interesting to see the link between all these women, and how so many of them had led really unusual lives especially for the time, having so many main subjects necessarily left me feeling like there was a great deal I didn't know about each of them. I picked this up wanting to learn more about Eleanore Roosevelt in particular. I did learn more about her, as well as her family going back two generations and the generation that followed her. Although it was interesting to see the link between all these women, and how so many of them had led really unusual lives especially for the time, having so many main subjects necessarily left me feeling like there was a great deal I didn't know about each of them.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Hanes

    Good brief survey, but everyone who has an interest in the early 20th century as I do needs to read about some of these terrific woman in more detail, such as ALICE, No Ordinary Time, etc. etc. I have read many books on the Roosevelts over the years -- I was born in the years of FDR and that, I suppose, moves me to learn more about those times and the 20th century generally. Recommend THE ROOSEVELT CHRONICALS for early history of this extended family.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    There have been many biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt and the complex relationship she had with her late mother and ultimately her mother-in-law. This work includes many other Roosevelt women including Teddy Roosevelt's infamous daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth and other, less public women. Each woman has her own chapter and the author's style is easy to read and enjoyable. There have been many biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt and the complex relationship she had with her late mother and ultimately her mother-in-law. This work includes many other Roosevelt women including Teddy Roosevelt's infamous daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth and other, less public women. Each woman has her own chapter and the author's style is easy to read and enjoyable.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    Informative & well-researched biography of not only the well known wives & mothers of TR & FDR but also the sisters and daughters of both.I enjoyed reading it.I especially liked reading about TR's sister, "Bamie" Roosevelt. Many thought she would have been a better president than her brother and he often sought her advice. Informative & well-researched biography of not only the well known wives & mothers of TR & FDR but also the sisters and daughters of both.I enjoyed reading it.I especially liked reading about TR's sister, "Bamie" Roosevelt. Many thought she would have been a better president than her brother and he often sought her advice.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    A charming book for those of us interested in the Roosevelt's. It revealed, without spelling it out, that this family had a huge thread of alcoholism along with intelligence, energy, writing skills, and political genius. Made me wonder how much is due to nurture and environment and how much is hard-wired in our genes. A charming book for those of us interested in the Roosevelt's. It revealed, without spelling it out, that this family had a huge thread of alcoholism along with intelligence, energy, writing skills, and political genius. Made me wonder how much is due to nurture and environment and how much is hard-wired in our genes.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    7 very engaged historical women figures, strattling dichotomous social/political philosophies. Very influential in their own times despite for the most part, their smothering, ponitificating husbands.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    A balanced, well written book about an extraordinary family. I liked getting to learn more about some of the Roosevelt women who are not as well known as well as the familiar Roosevelts. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn a little bit more about the women in this family.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    Well-written and informative, uses many primary sources that had not before been used.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I gave up on it. It started feeling like a transcription of lives, summarized, with very little heart or soul or insight to it. But maybe it's a guy thing. I gave up on it. It started feeling like a transcription of lives, summarized, with very little heart or soul or insight to it. But maybe it's a guy thing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Veronica Hernandez

    Knowing each Roosevelt Lady is inspiring. My favorite is Eleanor!!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    Only if you are a history buff.

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