February 23rd, 2010

history

All political biographies are local

I don't feel like making a list tonight, so here instead is a particularly interesting passage from that biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth I mentioned yesterday:

Nick and Alice also found time to be tourists at Blenheim Palace and Covent Garden. They viewed a debate in the House of Lords and another in the House of Commons. Alice sat in the Speaker's Gallery, and Nick say the "procession with which the Speaker every day enters the House to open the proceedings. MP Sir John Henniker Heaton had them to tea on the terrace, a mixed blessing, Alice thought. (pp. 172-3)

My nephew David wanted to know if Sir John was related to us; I told him that Heaton is a pretty common name in England, but that if we looked back far enough, we probably had some ancestors in common. Here's another passage I found unusually compelling:

[W]hile Alice was glad to appear on podiums, she seldom opened her mouth. She understood the critical need for her presence and appeared at political events and TR memorials. For example, she went—right in the middle of campaign season—to dedicate Roosevelt Road in Wheaton, Illinois, west of Chicago. (pg. 291)

I grew up in Wheaton, and lived about a quarter mile as the crow flies from Roosevelt Road. I don't quite understand why the dedication ceremony was held in Wheaton; maybe Wheaton was the first community to rename that particular road in Roosevelt's honor. (It was originally called 12th Street.) Perhaps I'll drop an e-mail to the author to see if she has any insights.

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