Literary Cocktail Hour spotlights new book on Theodore Roosevelt

BRATTLEBORO-This month's edition of the Brattleboro Literary Festival's Literary Cocktail Hour, on Friday, May 17, at 5 p.m., presents Edward O'Keefe, author of The Loves of Theodore Roosevelt: The Women Who Created a President in an online conversation with Michael Cullinane about Theodore Roosevelt and the women in his life.

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, Martha "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 specimens in his pockets) and toward politics.

Older sister, Anna "Bamie," would soon become her brother's key political strategist and advisor; journalists called her Washington, D.C., home "the little White House." Younger sister, Corrine

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.

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.

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States (1901–1909). He was vice president when President McKinley was assassinated and was actually in Vermont, attending a dinner of the Vermont Fish and Game League on Isle La Motte, when he was notified of the shooting on Sept. 6, 1901.

With McKinley's death, Roosevelt, not quite 43, became the youngest President in the Nation's history. He brought new excitement and power to the Presidency, as he vigorously led Congress and the American public toward progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy.

On Sept. 1, 1902, Roosevelt also made an appearance in Brattleboro as part of a barnstorming tour through New England. Theodore Roosevelt was married twice (his first wife died at age 22), and he was the father of six children. Sarah Alden Derby was the daughter of one of his children, Ethel Roosevelt. Sarah later went on to marry Vermont State Senator Robert Gannett and they resided in Brattleboro.

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.

Cullinane is a historian of American politics, an award-winning author, and the Lowman Walton Chair of Theodore Roosevelt Studies at Dickinson State University. He also serves as a Public Historian for the Theodore Roosevelt Association and contributes to the design and curation of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, due to open in 2026. He is author of several books and hosts the popular podcast "The Gilded Age and Progressive Era."

As always, the Literary Cocktail Hour is presented free of charge by the Brattleboro Literary Festival, but donations are welcome to help continue their monthly virtual programs and support the annual festival. Register at Visit for more information.

This Arts item was submitted to The Commons.

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