The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Eighty-Two

September 1-8, 1918

The first week of September, 1918 found Kate Roosevelt once again ranting about the Roman Catholics and their long-winded rituals. But before she did so, she took advantage of attending a service at Old Trinity Church and reveling in the simplicity of the service. Located at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street in New York, this Episcopal church was the tallest building in the city until 1890 when the New York World Newspaper Building was built on Park Row. But until then the church steeple soared over Lower Manhattan.

In 1914, the New York Times reported that it was “distinctly fashionable to be married there and eminently respectable to be buried from there.” The Roosevelt Family neighbor and good friend, the novelist, Edith Jones became Mrs. Edward Wharton there in 1895 and the funerals of many members of the Astor Family were held there. Alexander Hamilton is buried in the adjoining cemetery.

Old Trinity Church

A devout member of the elite Episcopalians, Kate Roosevelt rarely missed a Sunday service. This day posed a particular hardship and Kate did not hesitate to make note of it in her diary. “Did not have motor as this is the first Sunday the government has asked us to do no pleasure riding in motors so as to conserve gasoline to send abroad.” Quite possibly, the sermon at Old Trinity Church did not include embracing other faiths and that would have been just fine with the religiously-rigid Mrs. Roosevelt. Her own sermon, delivered privately in the pages of her diary noted, “Bella, my maid and I to Hippodrome for celebration of Hero Day.

New York World Building 1890

Too many long-winded speeches. Too much of a Roman Catholic atmosphere. The affair was gotten up by the Mayor’s Women’s Committee. Mayor Mitchell arranged the committee. It did excellent work under Mitchell, but under Mayor Hylan and Mrs. Hearst it has become simply one of Tammany’s many tools and is run for and by the Roman Catholic Church. It is supposed to be a patriotic organization. John McCormack sang and the Pelham Boys’ Club band played and Gibson spoke. He was excellent. Ethel Barrymore read a poem but you couldn’t understand a word she said. Ben McIntosh was a nuisance. Also, the priest and rabbi and the other speakers on the program were fortunately omitted!”

Hippodrome at 1120 Sixth Avenue

Hero Day was held in New York City to pay tribute to the men who had fallen on the fields of France during World War One. Ceremonies were held in city parks and praise was bestowed from church pulpits. The day was ended at a mass meeting held at the Hippodrome, then the largest theater in the city, located at 1120 Sixth Avenue. At the event, gold stars set in silver medals were present to 75 mothers whose sons had sacrificed their lives for the world’s freedom. Mayor Hylan personally pinned the medals on each mother. The man named Gibson that Kate had commended was Sergeant Gibson, a soldier cited for bravery.  His speech roused the crowd that was estimated to be between 4,000 and 5,000.

It was a bit surprising to hear a bad review of Ethel Barrymore’s performance. The actress was a friend of the Roosevelts. In years past, cousin, Alice Roosevelt and Ethel Barrymore had been known to get more front-page headlines that Alice’s father, President Theodore Roosevelt.

Mrs. Millicent Hearst, 1916

Mrs. Millicent Hearst, one of the event’s organizers was the wife of the media mogul, William Randolph Hearst and it did not impress Mrs. Roosevelt who thought the whole thing a political not patriotic program, tinged with a heavy dose of Catholicism.

World War One Canteen

After reading Kate Roosevelt’s diary, I was never left wondering where her loyalties lay. She and her daughter, Dorothy Roosevelt Geer, did all they could to support the troops by knitting warm socks and scarves, wrapping bandages and volunteering at the canteens. They were set up around town to welcome soldiers coming home and wishing good luck to those leaving for the front with warm coffee and donuts.

World War One Draft Office

Just after attending Hero Day, Kate wrote, “First day of rounding up slackers who tried to avoid the draft. Every man is supposed to carry his registration and draft card. In the three days of “rounding up” about 60,000 men were taken.  About 500 of them were needed and the others were let go. But the whole thing has created a great row. A good thing nevertheless. Dorothy off to volunteer at the Navy Club.”

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

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

Photo One:
Old Trinity Church
Yale University Library

Photo Two:
Old Trinity Church
wiki

Photo Three:
New York World Building 1890
Public Domain

Photo Four:
Hippodrome at 1120 Sixth Avenue
wiki

Photo Five:
Mrs. Millicent Hearst, 1916
wiki

Photo Six:
World War One Canteen
author collection

Photo Seven:
World War One Draft Office
Library of Congress