Edward O’Keefe

The Loves of Theodore Roosevelt: The Women Who Created A President

A History Camp Discussion with Edward O’Keefee about his book, The Loves of Theodore Roosevelt: The Women Who Created A President.

From the publisher

A spirited and poignant family love story, revealing how an icon of rugged American masculinity was profoundly shaped by the women in his life, especially his mother, sisters, and wives.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his senior thesis for Harvard in 1880 that women ought to be paid equal to men and have the option of keeping their maiden names upon marriage. It’s little surprise he’d be a feminist, given the women he grew up with.
His mother, Mittie, was witty and decisive, a Southern belle raising four young children in New York while her husband spent long stretches away with the Union Army. Theodore’s college sweetheart and first wife, Alice—so vivacious she was known as Sunshine—steered her beau away from science (he’d roam campus with taxidermy specimen in his pockets) and towards politics. Older sister Bamie would soon become her brother’s key political strategist and advisor; journalists called her Washington, DC, home “the little White House.” Younger sister Conie served as her brother’s press secretary before the role existed, slipping stories of his heroics in Cuba and his rambunctious home life to reporters to create the legend of the Rough Rider we remember today. And Edith—Theodore’s childhood playmate and second wife—would elevate the role of presidential spouse to an American institution, curating both the White House and her husband’s legacy.
A dazzling and lyrical look at one America’s most significant presidents as we’ve never seen him before, The Loves of Theodore Roosevelt celebrates five extraordinary yet unsung women who opened the door to the American Century and pushed Theodore Roosevelt through it.
Reviews selected by the publisher

“Edward F. O’Keefe has given us an elegant and illuminating account of the human side of one of the most consequential Americans in our history. By detailing Theodore Roosevelt’s emotional connections to the women in his life, O’Keefe reminds us that leaders are not made of marble but of heart and flesh. This is a wonderful book.”
—Jon Meacham, New York Times bestselling author of And There Was Light

“A graceful, powerful book that lets us into the lives of the remarkable women who shaped an extraordinary man. If you want to truly understand Theodore Roosevelt, this book is an essential guide.”
—Candice Millard, New York Times bestselling author of River of Doubt

“It is not only feasible but advisable to make women equal to men before the law,” Theodore Roosevelt wrote as a Harvard senior, anticipating suffrage by 40 years. The sentiment was consonant with the life, one shaped, advised, fortified, and energized by women. O’Keefe assembles that extraordinary cast here, nimbly cataloguing the strategic, transformative power of Roosevelt’s mother, daughter, sisters, and wives, all of them complicit, to different and often remarkable degrees, in TR’s meteoric career.”
— Stacy Schiff, New York Times bestselling author of The Revolutionary

“An extraordinary portrait of the women who nurtured, advised, and propelled one of America’s most compelling leaders. The Loves of Theodore Roosevelt is history unearthed and more fully understood, at last.”
—Susan Page, New York Times bestselling author of The Matriarch

“A brilliantly written and entertaining look at the crucial role women played in our 26th president’s political career. Highly recommended!”
—Douglas Brinkley, New York Times bestselling author of The Wilderness Warrior

“Entertaining…. [O’Keefe] celebrates [these extraordinary women’s] devotion, skills and accomplishments. In doing so, he leads us to a better understanding of an equally extraordinary man, Theodore Roosevelt.”
The Wall Street Journal

“The language is beautiful… and seeing Theodore’s life through the lens of his female family members gives it an intimacy sorely missed in many other biographies.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Forget all that Rough Rider stuff; Roosevelt was a mushy romantic at his core, and… also quite progressive, which is another pleasant shocker in this very fine book.”
Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan

“O’Keefe presents a perceptive and persuasive argument that adds a sensitive dimension to the masculine persona of Theodore Roosevelt.”
Washington Independent Review of Books

“A fascinating celebration of women who helped make an iconic president…. [O’Keefe’s] prose brings vitality and nuance to his subjects.”
Kirkus Reviews

[Recorded on May 23, 2024]

History Camp Authors

    America's Summer Roadtrip 2020

      Edward F. O’Keefe is the CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation. He previously spent two decades in broadcast and digital media, during which time he received a Primetime Emmy Award for his work with Anthony Bourdain, two Webby Awards, the Edward R. Murrow Award, and a George Foster Peabody Award for ABC News coverage of 9/11. A former fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, he graduated with honors from Georgetown University. He was born in North Dakota and lives in New York with his wife, daughter, and son.

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