He didn’t quite understand what was happening. He was in Albany working when he received a telegram stating that his beloved wife of four years had delivered a healthy baby girl. They named her Alice Lee, same as her mother. Now there was another cable advising him to hurry home.
It was midnight when he rushed into the house on West 57th Street finding her semi-unconscious in the throes of preeclampsia, a condition in which convulsions occur in a pregnant woman, before or after birth. Its main symptom is high blood pressure often followed by coma posing a threat to the health of mother and baby…in this case, the baby was fine, but the mother wasn’t.
He held her for hours, helplessly watching as nothing could be done to save her. She died in his arms in the early morning of February 14th, 1884. The light has gone out of my life, he wrote in his diary that night.
She was beautiful…tall and willowy with blue-gray eyes and wavy, golden hair. Her nickname was Sunshine because of her cheerful disposition. According to lore, every head turned whenever she entered a room.
Theodore Roosevelt met Alice Hathaway Lee in the spring of 1878.
It was love at first sight, he said. I had never beheld anyone more lovelier than she. Although Alice showed no interest at first, Theodore besieged her relentlessly determined to have her for his bride.
He proposed on Valentine’s Day, 1880…and she accepted. 22 year old Teddy, was over the moon.
They were married that October, she dying on the four year anniversary of their sweetheart engagement. He was positively heartbroken, releasing some of his grief onto the page as writers often do…he wrote:
She was beautiful in face and form, and lovelier still in spirit; As a flower she grew, and as a fair young flower she died. Her life had been always in the sunshine; there had never come to her a single sorrow; and none ever knew her who did not love and revere her for the bright, sunny temper and her saintly unselfishness. Fair, pure, and joyous as a maiden; loving, tender, and happy. As a young wife; when she had just become a mother, when her life seemed to be just begun, and when the years seemed so bright before her—then, by a strange and terrible fate, death came to her. And when my heart’s dearest died, the light went from my life forever.July 29, 1861 – February 14, 1884SB