At only twenty-three years of age, Theodore Roosevelt was elected as a member of the New York Assembly, and within three years he became one of the state’s most prominent politicians. He was a long way from considering a run for presidential office (he would later be the 26th President of the United States), and he was not yet a member of the ‘Rough Riders,’ that would become an iconic piece of his legendary persona.
No, in 1884, Theodore Roosevelt was a state politician content with his lot in life. He was happily married and anxiously anticipating his first daughter. By February, his wife was nine months pregnant. His world, however, would be shattered on February 14th1884, when he received devastating news—His wife and mother were both dead. His wife, Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt, died due to childbirth complication. Roosevelt’s first child, his daughter Alice, was born only two days prior. Theodore’s mother also died on February 14th. She caught ill while tending to the needs of her pregnant daughter-in-law, but she never recovered and eventually succumbed to the illness.
Theodore Roosevelt fled from New York to face his grief in the Dakotas, where he ranched and lived the life of a frontiersman. He spent free time hunting the local wildlife, and even helped chase down a criminal. He proved to be a lackluster rancher, but the rough and gritty lifestyle brought Roosevelt back from his depression. He was ready to return to public life.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- PBS Documentary: The Roosevelts: An intimate History by Ken Burns.