As some of you will know, my other three books concern the Theodore Roosevelt family. Although I have been interested in writing about Juliette Low for over two decades, my fascination with the Roosevelts has led me on a long and absorbing journey.
Ninety-two years ago yesterday, 6 January 1919, was the day that Theodore Roosevelt died. His resume had been lengthy: naturalist, author, husband, rancher, state assemblyman, father, civil service reformer, soldier, governor, vice-president and president of the United States, explorer, big game hunter, grandfather. He was an advocate of the strenuous life, and had forceful views about boys and masculinity. TR served as honorary vice president of the Boy Scouts of America. He knew General Sir Robert Baden-Powell.
Theodore Roosevelt also supported the larger mission of the Girl Scouts. While he believed strongly that girls should grow up to be mothers and homemakers, his thoughts were not one-dimensional. Here are just three of his ideas, taken from the Roosevelt Cyclopedia:
- “If [a wife] is worth her salt, she is a full partner; and the man is not worth his salt unless he acknowledges this fact and welcomes it.”
- “The nation’s most valuable asset is the children; for the children are the nation of the future. All people alive to the nation’s need should join together to work for the moral, spiritual, and physical welfare of the children in all parts of our land.”
- “Women should have free access to every field of labor which they care to enter, and when their work is as valuable as that of a man it should be paid as highly.”
The above photograph of Theodore Roosevelt was taken in 1918, during World War I. The Girl Scouts flanking him are holding silver items that the Roosevelts had just donated. The New York Times stated that some of the pieces had been “unearthed” from the family’s attic, while others were “silver desk articles which he had used for many years.”
The Girl Scouts were assisting the National Special Aid Society which headed a drive to collect gold and silver to be sold (or melted down and sold) “to supply needs of aviators going to France which have not been filled by the Government.” Airplanes were a new weapon in WWI, and the Roosevelts’ 20-year-old son, Quentin, was one of those heroic American pilots fighting the war in the skies over Europe.
Quentin died just eight weeks after this photo was taken, in July of 1918. Edith Roosevelt believed their son’s loss hastened TR’s death the following January.
This photograph brings together my two research worlds splendidly.
Katherine Knapp Keena, Program Manager at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace
in Savannah, Georgia, made this blog possible by sharing the photograph with me, and allowing me to share it with you. Thanks a million, Katherine.
For the attic, see “Col. Theodore Roosevelt Presenting to New York Girl Scouts,” New York Times, 15 May 1918. This story has a different photo, but one clearly taken just moments later. For the desk items and “needs of aviators,” see “Mrs. Wilson Gives Thimble,” New York Times, 5 May 1918. See also “Girl Scouts: They Are Observing Their 40th Birthday,” Life, 24 March 1952, pages 109-115. Life magazine has printed on page110 the photo from the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace.