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The President who couldn’t win

For The Madera Tribune

Alice Roosevelt, shown here, was a constant thorn in her cousin’s side when he was President.


The election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the Presidency in 1932, represented a desperate move by the voters to find something solid to which they could cling. With 25 percent of the people out of work and the economy in shambles, they looked to this Hyde Park Roosevelt to save them.

During F.D.R.’s first hundred days, many found hope in his daring new programs, but a few looked at his plans with a jaundiced eye. One of Roosevelt’s most severe and vociferous critics was a woman whose public denunciations he could not ignore, especially after she gave him that long cigarette holder that became his tilted up trademark.

Never one of her favorites, Franklin crossed the line with his adversary when he decided to take the country off the gold standard. She happened to be in the Senate gallery when the president’s bill passed, and she let it be known in no uncertain terms that she thought the idea to be financially foolish. This female gadfly on Roosevelt’s back then decided to drive her point home at an upcoming White House reception, which was held just a short time after the vote on Roosevelt’s monetary measure. According to historian, Stacy A. Cordery, the President’s nemesis showed up “wearing her ideology.”

The woman was “bedecked in gold: a gold pendant hanging on a gold necklace, a gold watch, and gold hair combs.” Not suprisingly, she was quickly surrounded by a crowd, so she performed for them. Wearing huge golden earrings, she made them jump and swing by wiggling her ears.

With the president looking on, the woman made her point. One of the guest joked, “If F.D.R. could have taken her to the Treasury and deposited her, the deficit would have turned into a surplus.”

President Roosevelt never did get into the good graces of this ideological opponent. When he boasted to her that he was saving the nation 50 million dollars with the stroke of a pen, she responded, “That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what you are costing the country.”

Still, in spite of her acid remarks and antics, the woman continued to be an invited guest at every White House function, for it would have been socially unacceptable to ignore the First Lady’s first cousin and Franklin’s fifth cousin. You see, that woman who showed so much contempt for President Franklin Roosevelt was Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of that other President Roosevelt — Theodore.

In a political twist in time, the Oyster Bay Roosevelts sharpened their claws on the backs of their Hyde Park cousins, and Franklin had to endure the iconoclastic Alice with only a cigarette holder to show for his trouble.

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