Teddy Roosevelt once said, “I don’t think any family has enjoyed the White House more than we have.” Indeed, Ethel (whom her father called “Ethelybyekins”), her sister Alice, and their four siblings had a blast walking on stilts across the White House lawn and sliding down stairs on tin trays they stole from the kitchen. The President would take them on “scrambles”—hikes along Rock Creek, plus picnics and horseback rides on an island now known as Theodore Roosevelt Island on the Potomac River. The children had a plethora of pets: dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, lizards, frogs, squirrels, birds, raccoons, white mice, a Kangaroo Rat and a blue macaw named Eli Yale. Alice alone had a pony named Algonquin and a garter snake named Emily Spinach. Both Alice and Ethel had society debuts during their time in the White House—Alice’s on New Year’s Eve, 1902, and Ethel’s on December 28, 1908. Ethel, who was fluent in French and German, enjoyed an extravagant party packed with 400 guests, a 4-course dinner and two orchestras. Alice, however, was bitter that there was punch instead of champagne at her event—“a horrible blow to my pride,” she said.
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