T.R.'s 1884 Diary
Two inspiring women left T.R.'s life on the same day: Valentine’s Day, 1884. Early that morning, Roosevelt said his final goodbyes to his mother Mittie as she tragically succumbed to typhoid. Just eleven hours later, his wife Alice passed in his arms, a mere 36 hours after their daughter was born.
Alice Hathaway Lee caught Theodore Roosevelt’s eye the moment he met her, and he pursued her single-mindedly. His letters to her are far from what one might expect of the rugged Roosevelt; his passionate tributes describe her fairness, her beauty, and her spirit with the utmost tenderness. The couple was engaged on Valentine's Day, 1880 and married on October 27th, T.R.'s 22nd birthday. Alice was 19.
Martha Bulloch “Mittie” Roosevelt was a picture of Southern gentility, who faced a jarring adjustment after marrying northerner Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. and moving to New York from Georgia not long before the Civil War. T.R. inherited his mother’s sharp wit and described her in his autobiography as “a sweet, gracious, beautiful Southern woman, a delightful companion and beloved by everybody.”
The Diary Entry
His diary that tragic day was marked with a solemn and sorrowful “X”, and a few devastating words: “The light has gone out of my life.” Two days later, a double funeral was held at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian and Mittie and Alice were interred at Green-Wood Cemetery. Wearing a locket of her mother's hair, T.R.'s newborn daughter was christened Alice.
T.R. Escapes to the Badlands
Stricken by loss, unmoored from his former life, which crumbled just as it seemed to begin to take shape, Theodore Roosevelt sought refuge in the west. In the jagged hills and the impossible buttes of a broken land, a broken man found resilience, and first lived what he would later call "the strenuous life." The Badlands are the fulcrum of the hero's journey in T.R.'s incredible life story.