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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • VINTAGE ALASKA, c. 1920s

The Perils of Paulina: 1929

The Perils of Paulina: 1929

Washington, D.C., circa 1929. "Paulina Longworth with mother." Mumsy being the former Alice Roosevelt, oldest daughter of Teddy and wife of House Speaker Nicholas Longworth. Paulina's short life ended with an overdose in 1957, when she was 31. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

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Sadness and beauty

What an exceptionally beautiful little girl! I guess it's not too surprising that the spoiled and extremely strong-willed (and apparently, selfish) daughter of the first Pres. Roosevelt would not want to be raising a child, in her forties. Her father once said something to the effect that he could either run the country or control Alice, but not both. It's obvious from this picture that this wasn't a loving mother and daughter relationship. The mother looks totally detatched, and the daughter's stiffly held hand on her mother's arm was obviously the photographer's idea.

If Paulina had been born 30+ years later, she could probably have been helped to overcome her severe depression, with medication. Hers in another example of how being born into a wealthy family, and/or beauty, does not come close to guaranteeing happiness.

Telling body language

Most moms I know would hold or at least put her arm around her child for a "mother and child" picture like this but here we see the mother holding her own hands in her lap with stone-faced detachment, while her baby daughter tries to hold her mother's arm.

Mumsy Dearest

After seeing this photograph I read up a little on the relationship between mother and daughter. It is easy to feel a sorrow for young Paulina as a beautiful and bright girl was raised by such a domineering mother who would belittle her at every slight and show her no emotional or physical support whatsoever, And as a result she had no self confidence and developed a stutter when around her mother, which Alice found extremely irritating.

Paulina was in a melancholy state of depression her entire life and after the death of her husband this loving young mother committed suicide at the age of 31.

A Sad Life

Born to Alice in 1925 when she was 41, she was unwanted and mostly ignored by her famous but overbearing mother. Widowed at only 26, she overdosed when she was 31.

What a sad life!

The poor girl was a victim of bad mothering, a bad family, and circumstances, according to the Wiki article.

The Roosevelts are celebrated but they were not nice people. In MY mind, "Great" is not the same as famous. They were just rich and ruthless.

More Complicated Than That

It was a fairly well-known secret around Washington that Paulina was not Nick Longworth's daughter, but the offspring of Alice and Sen. William Borah, with whom Alice has a long affair. Paulina was known around Washington, according to her contemporary, Katharine Graham, to have "a crippling lack of self-confidence." When she committed suicide, Richard Nixon was one of her pallbearers.

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