The Dowager’s Diary: Week One Hundred and Eighty-Seven

October 10-17, 1918

“It is Shippen’s birthday. He is three years old.” Edward Shippen Geer was the son of Kate Roosevelt’s daughter, Dorothy Roosevelt Geer. His older brother was five-year-old, Langdon Roosevelt Geer. Both boys were being raised by their widowed mother, Dorothy and under the watchful eye of their grandmother, Kate. Their father, Langdon Geer, had passed-away just three months before Shippen was born. He died in June, 1915, after a boil on his nose became infected and caused the blood disease that killed him. If antibiotics had been invented he would have lived to see his second son born and enjoyed teaching his first son how to play polo and as the two boys grew, taking them to see his alma mater, Princeton University, play football. But like her mother, Kate, who had lost her husband, Hilborne Roosevelt, at a young age, Dorothy was left a widow at only thirty-one-years-old. Losing spouses at an early age seemed to run in the Roosevelt Family and none so sad as the passing of Theodore Roosevelt’s young wife, Alice, in 1884 just after giving birth to their baby girl, Alice Lee Roosevelt. When she died, Roosevelt wrote in his diary, “The light has gone out of my life.” He never spoke of her again but continued to mourn the loss and commiserate with family members going through the same sad ordeal.

Shippen Geer

So, it was not surprising that when Dorothy’s husband died, cousin Theodore wrote, “My Dear Dorothy: It is with great sadness that I write this note. Remember to be strong for the born and the unborn.” That was just four months before the birth of baby Shippen Geer, named in honor of his grandmother, Kate Shippen Roosevelt.

No mention was made of a party for the toddler, who was visiting the Shippen family home, The Anchorage in Sea Bright, New Jersey. The only things Kate seemed concerned about was were where Dorothy was volunteering during World War One. “Dorothy back to New York City to help set up the canteen at the Navy Club” and watching the Liberty Loan Parades marching through New York City.

Mrs. Robert Bacon Marching in Liberty Loan Parade, New York City

After all, the country was entrenched in World War One.  Everyone on the home front was doing their bit to support the troops overseas. Knitting warm socks and scarves, rolling bandages and raising money through the Liberty Loan Drive were on the agenda almost on a daily basis for Kate Roosevelt and her group of friends and acquaintances. “Big parade in New York, President Wilson here. Liberty Loans are lagging.” One of the women marching in the parade was Mrs. Robert Bacon. Her husband was ambassador to France during the war and gave his life for the cause in 1919. Ambassador Bacon supported the Allies overseas and his wife, supported them back home by raising money to purchase ambulances for the American Field Hospitals.

Dorothy Roosevelt Geer and Langdon Geer

Kate Roosevelt and her daughter’s contributions to the cause were not always monetary but certainly appreciated. Even on her son’s third birthday, Dorothy raced back to the city to “man the booth” at a canteen that distributed donuts and hot coffee to soldiers and sailors embarking and de-barking, often coming through Pennsylvania Station and ports along the Hudson. Even being in the midst of so many men, Dorothy Roosevelt Geer remained a widow as did her mother, Kate.

Sharon Hazard’s Dowager’s Diary appears on Thursday.

On WAT-CAST, listen to Sharon talk about the series.

Photo One:
The Shippen Cousins
Sam Chapin Photo

Photo Two:
Shippen Geer
Sam Chapin Photo

Photo Three:
Mrs. Robert Bacon Marching in Liberty Loan Parade, New York City
Library of Congress

Photo Four:
Dorothy Roosevelt Geer and Langdon Geer
Noel Siefert Photo