Books: Swordplay Alice Roosevelt Longworth

by Carol Felsenthal Putnam; 320 pages; $19.95

Her smile could raise welts, and her dinner-table conversation regularly drew blood, some as blue as her own. She dismissed her cousin Franklin Roosevelt as "two-thirds mush and one-third Eleanor." When Columnist Joseph Alsop, another cousin, attributed grass-roots support to Wendell Willkie, the Republican hope to topple F.D.R. in 1940, she said yes, "the grass roots of 10,000 country clubs." It was she who demolished Thomas E. Dewey, the 1944 G.O.P. candidate, with the gibe that "he looks like the little man on the wedding cake."

Such swordplay was what the world expected of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt's oldest child,...

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