BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Betty Boyd Caroli, author of "The Roosevelt Women," there are nine of them in this book. If you had to pick one for a dinner partner, which one would you pick?
Dr. BETTY BOYD CAROLI , AUTHOR, "THE ROOSEVELT WOMEN": Well, of course, Alice Longworth has her reputation already made. But since I know more about her, I would probably choose Bamie, Theodore Roosevelt's older sister. She was supposedly so magnetic, had such a personality, that no matter how many beautiful young women were in the room, everybody gravitated to her, even when she was an aged, crippled, deaf woman. So she intrigues me.
LAMB: How old is she in that picture?
Dr. CAROLI: She's in her 30s in that picture. She always looked old. She's one of those people who, even as an 18-year-old--there's a picture in the book when she's about 15 and she already looks old.
LAMB: What d--what was she like?
Dr. CAROLI: She was--well, her life was complicated, I think we should say, by the fact that she was born--or very soon after, developed some physical problem so that she had a curvature of the spine that kind of crippled her. So for the--for the first five years of her life or so she was kept in these heavy braces, had to be carried from room to room. Maybe that helped her develop this very sharp tongue. I mean, somebody told me that the Roosevelt women had tongues that could take paint off barns, and I think she's a perfect example of that. She had the ability to--to catch the--the absolutely crucial element to somebody that made them ridiculous or funny or special. So she had a--she had a keen mind. Many people said that if she'd been a man, she would have been president instead of Theodore. So she had a lot going for her. She had bad health going against her.
LAMB: Where'd she get the name `Bamie'?
Dr. CAROLI: Her real name was Anna, and in that family, as I say in the book, there are a few names that appear so often, like Anna and Corinne and Theodore and James. So everybody had nicknames, and I had to use the nicknames to keep the people straight, one from another. It comes from the Italian word `bambina,' little girl. She was also called Bye, I should say, as in bye-bye because she was always on the go. Evidently she had so much energy that she was just never still. Theodore wrote her a letter when he was at Harvard, and he said, `Oh, energy, thy name is Bye.' In other words, it was another word for energy. So Bye or Bamie, but her real name was Anna.
LAMB: Here's a picture of her with--at the bottom.
Dr. CAROLI: At the bottom, that's her family. That's a very rare picture. You know, there were very few pictures taken of Bamie with her husband on the right, their one son in the middle. She didn't marry until she was about 41, had one son when she was in her 40s. And this picture was given to me by a great-great-grandson who now lives in the family home in Connecticut. But he admitted that there are very few around, and he had to do some scrambling to come up with that one.
LAMB: How did she meet her husband?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, she met him in London. She had gone to London to help as a hostess in the American Embassy where her cousin, James "Rosie" Roosevelt, was serving. His wife had died and so she had gone over. People say she went over with the idea of marrying him, but I think that's completely wrong. And if you read her letters, she had no intention of marrying him; she had her eye on somebody back here.
But, anyway, she got there, and she always says that--or in her letters she said many times that it took the solitude of a London season to give her time to get engaged. So she met Will Cowles, who was there as a Naval attache, and something took between the two of them, and they married. Th--the marriage ran into a lot of problems before it took place because he had been divorced, and the divorce was, everybody said, granted on flimsy grounds. And so there was a lot of--there was a big flurry of telegrams back and forth between London and Theodore in New York to get lawyers to say that the divorce was--was OK and she could go ahead and marry him. So she did marry him in 1895.
LAMB: Is the Cowles name the C-O-W-L-E-S, the same Cowles that was involved in publishing in this country?
Dr. CAROLI: It would be distant. There are many variations of the spelling, but it's not a direct close connection, as far as I know.
LAMB: You tell a story about what happened to him in the Navy after they were married, the accident on the Missouri.
Dr. CAROLI: Yes. You know, Bamie rarely asked for a favor. I mean, she had people she could ask favors of. Her brother was president of the United States. She was a good friend of Henry Cabot Lodge. She knew a lot of important people in London and in the United States. And she rarely asked for favors for herself or for her husband. But she seems to have intervened to get Will a commander job on a ship, and there was a very bad accident for which he was blamed. It's too distant and perhaps not our job here to say how much fault he had in that, but she claimed that because he was the brother-in-law of the president of the United States, he would be particularly blamed and she would be blamed. And it was not a good time for them.
LAMB: There was a house that you kept mentioning in the book at 1733 N Street here in Washington, and it seemed to have a lot of activity over a lot of years. That--the house still there?
Dr. CAROLI: No, the house is gone. It was a house that--when Bamie came back from London with her husband, they settled in Washington. I think everybody thought that she'd be happier in Washington. She loved to be in the center of politics, and I think she was happy here for--although, they always had the family place in Connecticut. So her house was there. She lived in it with her husband and son. That was the place that Theodore Roosevelt, when he was president--when he became president--remember, it was Mrs. M--McKinley hadn't gotten out of the White House all too quickly, and so he had his first Cabin--Theodore had his first Cabinet meetings at the Cowles' house, and over the years he went there many times.
I mean, Eleanor said that she thought her uncle never made an important decision without talking it over with his sister, Bamie. Later, the house was rented by Eleanor and Franklin when they came down for Franklin to be assistant secretary of the Navy in 1913. And they lived in it until they outgrew it. So the house does figure in the book quite a lot.
LAMB: Y--you have a lot of pictures on the cover. Why don't we just go around, and you can quickly identify them. I'm starting up here--see if I can get it--right--this one.
Dr. CAROLI: OK. That's a picture of Theodore's wife, Edith, and their only daughter, Ethel. Of course, he'd had a daughter with his first wife, Alice, but this is the only picture. Then we have the three--let's see, we have Corinne and Bamie, who are Theodore's two sisters, and his wife.
LAMB: How about right in the middle?
Dr. CAROLI: Right in the middle's Alice, a great picture of Alice. Doesn't she look glamorous?
LAMB: Down to the right of that.
Dr. CAROLI: Down to my right of that is--is another picture of Edith. Now is that your right?
LAMB: And then below that.
Dr. CAROLI: And the very bottom picture is Franklin, of course, and his mother, Sara Delano. One thing I try to do in the book is give a--a new view of Sara Delano Roosevelt. And then we have there on the--in the corner, a very famous picture of Eleanor. I guess everybody recognizes that.
LAMB: Yeah, right.
Dr. CAROLI: And right above, Eleanor on her honeymoon in Venice, in a gondola in 1905.
LAMB: From all of the nine that you write about, who would you least like to spend a lot of time with?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, I'll tell you, I became very attached to each one of them. Least like to spend time with? Hmm, maybe Edith, Theodore's second wife. She was one tough individual. And I'm afraid I would just as soon not spend an evening with Edith.
LAMB: When did he meet her?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, probably he wouldn't know when he met her. They grew up together. You know, her family--Edith Carow's family --her father was in shipping. Her father had gone to Europe with Theodore's father in the 1850s, at least they came back together. And so they knew each other from the time they were born. Edith Carow was a very good friend of Theodore's younger sister, Corinne. They had school together. They played together. There's a picture in the book of them in a--in a group called The Paradise of Ravenous Eaters. So they were really childhood friends. There's a very famous picture of her as a child looking out of the Roosevelt window on Union Square for Abraham Lincoln's funeral. So they probably wouldn't know when they first met. They were--they were toddlers, you know.
LAMB: What made her tough?
Dr. CAROLI: I think she probably became tough because of her family's situation. I mean, it's hard to know. Her father--unlike Sara Delano's father, who was also in shipping, her father lost his fortune. And she, Edith, and her younger sister and their mother had to kind of stay around with relatives and live off--live off the others. And I think it made her--it made her very s--in a way, secretive about her feelings. It made her unwilling to expose her feelings to other people. And I think she thought she had to be tough to cover up.
She tells some stories about how--course, because she was born into wealth, a lot of her friends were still wealthy, and she talks about when she would have them over, she would--as a child, she would be ashamed of some of her more shabby toys and try to put them away and--and her mother would say, `Well, maybe those would be just the toys your friends would enjoy.' So she gives a hint that--that it was that kind of--well, it was a great discomfort to her, really, to be--to go down in status.
LAMB: How much money was there in the entire Roosevelt family?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, that's difficult to pin down. When Theodore's father--when President Theodore's father, who's also Theodore, died, he supposedly left his sons each $1 million, which would be worth a lot more than that today.
LAMB: You said somewhere it'd be worth $13 million today.
Dr. CAROLI: Well, you know, there are different ways of figuring it, and--but it's $10 million to $13 million, in that--you know, which is a sizeable fortune. The problem is if you look at the family money, then, later, it doesn't quite add up. For example, Bamie's income later is not what it should have been considering how much she inherited from her father. They were wealthy. They were certainly among the wealthiest New Yorkers. But they never viewed themselves as--you know, the letters--and I read a lot of letters that they wrote. Corinne, Theodore's younger sister, when she had to go around to people like the Astors and ask for money, she said, `Oh, I had to go to those rich people and ask, and it just scared me to death. And they're so difficult to deal with.' So it's funny, although they were wealthy, they never put themselves in the wealthy bracket. They--they considered themselves outside it somehow.
LAMB: What about on the Franklin side?
Dr. CAROLI: Franklin side also--Franklin's father died when he was at--at Harvard and left a--a huge fortune in land and money. There're some letters that I quote in--in the book, Sara saying, `Franklin,' you know, we--`the income was this last year or that, so we're doing pretty well.' So it was a--it was significant.
LAMB: Any of the nine women that you write about work?
Dr. CAROLI: If you mean work for money outside the home at a regular job, the answer would be no, but they became good speakers and they earned money. They liked to earn money for their speeches. You know, lots of people realize that Eleanor said that the money she earned herself from her writing of articles and from giving speeches, that was the best money. She had money from her family she inherited because, after all, her father was Theodore Roosevelt's younger brother. So she inherited from her mother and her father. She had money from Franklin. But the money she earned from her speeches and advertisements was the best money, and she didn't come upon that attitude from nowhere.
Her Aunt Corinne became a very popular speaker in the--in the teens, one of the most-requested speakers in the Republican Party, traveled all over the United States and also spoke to high school groups. And I have letters that she wrote to her daughter saying, you know, `I could make my living from this if I wanted to.' So here, again, a wealthy woman who made money. It was a sense of worth, I think, that she was capable and confident enough to go in front of thousands of people. The same woman, Corinne Robinson, Theodore's younger sister, was the first woman to speak at a major party convention in 1920. She gave a nominating speech, a seconding speech, really, at the Republican Convention in front of 14,000 people. Well, 1920, that was pretty gutsy thing to do.
LAMB: Franklin and Theodore were related how?
Dr. CAROLI: Franklin and Theodore were related because they all come from the same clause--Roosenveldt, really, the Dutch immigrant in the 1640s. There's a diagram in the front of the book that shows. And about two generations later, two--Johannas and Jacobas, and it's those lines that become the Theodore Roosevelts of Long Island. That's the Johannas side over here. And the Jacobas side becomes the--the Hyde Park branch over here. So it happens way back in about 1700.
But I should say that they become--they stay very close. They see a lot of each other. In many ways, they're almost siblings, those two--you know, people who were cousins saw so much of each other that it's difficult to see them as two different branches. They all lived in New York. They visited back and forth. They traveled together. Bamie, for example, Theodore's older sister, introduced Sara Delano to James Roosevelt, Franklin's father. In other words, Bamie brought together Franklin's parents. And they visited back and forth all the time, sent gifts. Now, of course, they split up later. I mean, the two branches split when Franklin's star rises and the Theodores don't have anybody to match him.
LAMB: Any of the people you write about grow up without servants?
Dr. CAROLI: Did any of the people grow up without servants? No. There's a lot of-- -I talk a lot in the book about how--how they had to cut back on servants. You know, if money got tight, you had to cut back on one of the upstairs maids. But, no, one of the things I talk about in the book is that none of the women ever cooked. I mean, there's a line in there, some--one of Theodore's sisters goes to a lunch and writes her daughter about how amazed she was that she went to this lunch and the hostess actually cooked the meal in front of them. She had some kind of chafing dish and she did some sort of asparagus and fondu. And the reaction was it was like a miracle, you know, and she could really cook.
Theodore's wife, Edith, I don't--never went in a kitchen or--there's a--a letter she writes when they bought the cabin outside Washington here while he was president, and would go there--she would go with Theodore for a weekend or a little--a little sojourn, and they went without servants. But you know who did the cooking? The president of the United States and his wife washed up. She--they really did not--cooking was not high on their list.
LAMB: When you would find the family with the most servants--butlers, cooks, chauffeurs and all that--which one would it be and when?
Dr. CAROLI: Oh, that's a difficult question to answer because it changes over time. Certainly, the Cowles family always had lots of servants. Bamie always--it was said that Bamie had--ran the--the best--she had the best kitchen. You know, Alice Longworth, who was always very attached to her Aunt Bamie because she was raised--in the beginning, before her father remarried and she had a stepmother, Alice was raised by Bamie and was always very attached to her, and she always talked about the style that Bamie entertained. And she evidently had learned in London how to slice bread, you know, butter it on the top and slice it across like this. And so Alice always did that and served her tea from, you know, the same tea that Bamie served and so forth. And Alice said that Bamie had always the best kitchen in the family, and she--she ran a pretty luxurious household.
LAMB: Now if you're going to have that dinner, by the way, and you had to pick one of the men, Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Theodore Roosevelt, who--which one would you pick?
Dr. CAROLI: Oh, dear, I can't have them both at the same dinner?
LAMB: Gotta pick one.
Dr. CAROLI: You know, I guess I've been influenced a little bit by the Theodore view of Franklin that--and, certainly, in his early years he was not so witty or so sharp or so interesting as Theodore. Theodore had a--was a--was good with quips, was--was, I think, better read, and I guess I'd go with Theodore.
LAMB: By the way, you have--in the last picture here in the book, of all the pictures you've got, you have the woman that l--lived the longest--or lived to the--most recent death was in 1980, Alice Longworth--Roosevelt Longworth, right there on the left, and then there's the columnist Joe Alsop and then Don Graham, who runs The Washington Post.
Dr. CAROLI: This was a dinner party at his mother's, yes.
LAMB: How did they all hook up there? What's the d--what's the setting there?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, you mean what's the relationship between Joe Alsop and--well, let's see now. Alice Longworth is a cousin of Joe Alsop's mother. In other words, Theodore Roosevelt's mother, Mittie--I really center the book on Theodore Roosevelt's mother Mittie and her female descendants. So she had--this woman from Georgia, Mittie, who comes to New York--I mean, how this 18-year-old from a slave-holding family in Georgia gets--manages to live in New York as a young bride with this Roosevelt family, that had to be pretty--pretty difficult to be around because--you know, the--the senior Roosevelts wanted all their sons--they had five--they wanted them all living close by, and they built houses for them so they would.
Well, here she gets to New York as this--from a slave-holding family in the 1850s, when you can imagine what the discussion was in many Northern households. So Mittie--I built the book around Mittie and her two daughters, Bamie and Corinne, whom we've talked about: Bamie, the--the magnetic one; and Corinne, the great speaker, the writer, the one who wrote several books of poetry and a biography of Theodore.
And then in the next generation, Mittie had four granddaughters. So there's Alice and Eleanor and Corinne Alsop, who became the mother of Joe Alsop and Stewart Alsop, the columnists, and then Ethel Derby. So that's how they figure, if you can see. Ethel and--Ethel was the youngest, but Alice, who was her half-sister--Alice's cousin, Corinne Alsop, had a son, Joe Alsop, the columnist, and that's why they're at the party together. By the way, they were very fond of each other, spent a lot of time together and, of course, both lived in Washington and so they get invited to a party.
LAMB: Alice Roosevelt Longworth married who?
Dr. CAROLI: Alice Roosevelt married Nicholas Longworth, the congressman--a Republican congressman from Ohio, in February of 1906. And that--that postcard on the right--well, it's the picture with the--the two of them, I think it's an interesting one. I got it from a woman who collects postcards. It was really sent in February of 1906, the same--just about a week with the--of the marriage. And I think it shows why Alice was called Princess Alice. Because there she is with her bridegroom, and if you can read--you probably can't read what the person has written on there, but the person who sent that postcard wrote something like, `Friend, are you the next in line?'
So I think it shows that, at the time Alice married Nick, she was considered, really, Princess--Princess Alice. You know, she was--she was doing amazingly daring things. Remember, that was a time when few women drove vehicles, and she didn't drive an electric--you know, the electric was a car that most--before 1905, real ladies drove an electric because it wasn't noisy, it didn't go too fast, it wasn't dirty. Of course, you could only drive it on very smooth roads. You couldn't drive it on--on gravel roads. But Alice drove a machine--in other words, a gasoline-powered vehicle, and she drove it.
She and her friend made headlines when they drove from Providence, Rhode Island, to Boston, without stopping, something that young ladies were not supposed to do, you know? It was really out of--there are so many stories about her in the early 1900s. She said--by the way, you know, this was right after her trip to the Orient, when she and Nick were kind of thrown together because they were in a group of people away for several weeks--and she said that it was really time. She knew that she had to get married because if you weren't married by age 20, you were considered an old maid. And so it was one way to get out of the house. Of course, it was--the marriage had many problems.
LAMB: Alice Roosevelt Longworth was the daughter of?
Dr. CAROLI: Of Theodore--Alice Roosevelt was the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, the president, and his first wife Alice Lee. Remember, he had grown up with Edith, as we said earlier, and everybody thought that they were a couple. I mean, I've seen family letters, you know, that they were pairing off when they were in their early teens.
LAMB: You mean his second wife?
Dr. CAROLI: Yes, he and his second wife were a pair--were a couple. You know, people really thought that they would get married, I think. But then something happened just before he went off to Harvard. He said they had a--a--a falling out. She was not so clear what happened. But anyway, he went off to Harvard and met Alice Lee, a Massachusetts family, and married her as soon as he graduated. And then when she died four years later, just after giving birth to her baby, Alice, who became Alice Longworth, Theodore went off to the Badlands for a while, and then he came back and eventually he went to London where Edith had moved. She and her mother being--and her sister being without funds really, they moved to London to--to live more cheaply. So he went over there and married her in December of 1886.
LAMB: What was the impact on Theodore Roosevelt that his mother and
Dr. CAROLI: His wife died the same day.
LAMB: ...first--first wife died on the same day?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, it must have been--I mean, he said it--you know, there are all those things that he wrote that it was the end of his life and all that. I was surprised, in doing the research, to find that there were letters--you know, within three months he was going to political conventions again and writing his sister about what he thought of the candidates. I mean, he must have been--I don't mean to say that he wasn't grief-stricken, but it wasn't as though he simply closed up and didn't do anything for the--for the next two or three years.
Within three months he was attending political conventions, making comments about people running for office. And I think Bamie, with whom he was very close at that point, still hoped that he would get back into politics. You know, he'd been a state legislator in Albany, and I think the whole family wanted him to get himself together. And, of course, he did run for--for mayor in 1886 in New York. Course, he didn't win, but it--he got himself together pretty fast consid--but it must have been devastating.
LAMB: Can you find any evidence that he ever mentioned his first wife, Alice Lee, anywhere after she died?
Dr. CAROLI: Oh, yes. He definitely meant--I think there's a misunderstanding. Alice, his daughter, said that he never discussed her mother with her. In other words--and I have that -people told me that and I've seen it in letters. In other words, Alice told people and they told me. So I think he didn't discuss, but there are certainly letters where he talks about Alice and he mentions the name `Alice' and so forth. So I think it's a misunderstanding that there was no mention. There was never a discussion with his daughter, and that must have hurt a lot. I think that's what she was objecting to.
LAMB: When Alice Roosevelt Longworth died, she was how old?
Dr. CAROLI: When Alive Roosevelt Longworth died, she was about 96, wasn't she? She died in 18--in 1980 and she was born in 1884.
LAMB: And when she met Nicholas Longworth, what was he doing?
Dr. CAROLI: When Alice met Nicholas Longworth, he was a congr--an up-and-coming Republican congressman from Cincinnati, Ohio, a wealthy family with their own vineyards and a mother who was a--a social rock in Cincinnati and two sisters who were very accomplished, one of them very politically active and one who had written several books. So Alice was marrying into a family of achieving women and strong-minded women, and, of course, that made for a lot of problems. They didn't think too much of Princess Alice.
LAMB: As you know, there are three major House office buildings: Rayburn, Longworth and Cannon. What did Nicholas Longworth do to get a n--building named after him?
Dr. CAROLI: Spe--Nicholas Longworth went ahead and served--I think he was re-elected every time, except he lost one election--and Alice had some comments about that--in 1912. It was a bad--remember, her father was running on the Progressive ticket for re-elect--for--as a third-party ticket, and that turned a lot of people. Nicholas lost that by a very close--in a very close vote. But otherwise, he served continuously in the House of Representatives, until his death. And he was speaker of the House for part of that time in the 1920s. So speaker of the House--I suppose everybody you mentioned is a speaker--was a speaker of the House, right?
LAMB: And how old was he when he died, and what did he die of?
Dr. CAROLI: He died in 1931 and--of a heart attack while he was vacationing in South Carolina, as I recall.
LAMB: And so she lived 49 years longer?
Dr. CAROLI: She lived a long time af--1931--well, you can do the math. It's--she lived a long time. I think most of us think of her in those--you know, she really established her reputation as the other Washington Monument in those years after--I mean, her famou--her--her quips about people and--and her--her house becoming really a--a pilgrimage for--all presidents went over there, I think, to her house and visited her. H--there's she's shown with the--the Kennedys at a horse show in 1962. She was--I guess she was like the Dolly Madison, you know, of the--of the 1900s.
LAMB: Did she have children?
Dr. CAROLI: Alice and Nick Longworth had one daughter, Paulina, who died in the--at a very young age and way--in a way that's--many people thought it wa--she died of a--she had taken a combination of alcohol and medicine and she died. Her daughter told me she thought her mother was an alcoholic. In any case, it was a very sad time. The daughter was only 10 years old, and Alice Longworth then took in her granddaughter and raised her after that. So, yes, they did have one daughter, who died at a very young age, and then Alice raised the one daughter from that.
LAMB: What was her relationship with her daughter, Paulina?
Dr. CAROLI: It must have been very difficult. I talk in the book--one of the things I tried to do in the book was not to just s--repeat th--I mean, it could never be a biography of Alice Longworth--there've already been several--or of Eleanor Roosevelt, but to talk about the family relationships. And Paulina, the daughter who was born very late in that marriage, after, I think, about 18 years of marriage, six--more or less 18 years of marriage, so very late into the marriage. Her father was absolutely devoted to her, and she turned out to be a person really quite different from her mother. Her mother with the sharp tongue, brilliant wit, social animal, had a daughter who, by all accounts, was not comfortable in the s--that setting. She was not very social. She was not very confident. Maybe that's the way daughters of confident, brilliant women turn out. But anyway, it was a very uneasy relationship, I think.
LAMB: Who is the--who's the father...
Dr. CAROLI: Of the d--of P--of Paulina?
LAMB: ...of Paulina? Yeah.
Dr. CAROLI: Well, of course, in the d--book I talk about the--there was a lot of discussion that it might have been one of Alice's other men friends. Certainly, the marriage on both sides--and Nicholas Longworth--there are all the stories about his womanizing, repeated--many----everybody has a story, and Alice had a few stories about which window he jumped out when he wanted to go visit a particular woman. She had a--a very close relationship with Senator Borah, and there is speculation that he was the--the father of the daughter.
There's a funny family letter that I talk about how when Alice gave birth to her only daughter, she went to Chicago. There was evidently a famous obstetrician there, and so she went there to give birth. And the letters came back about the discussion over how the daughter would be named. And one of the suggestions that the family was glad to see put aside was that she would be called Deborah (pronounced Deb-ra), which as you see, would be Deborah, (pronounced Dee-bor-ah), if--for people who were--who were gossiping about who might possibly be the father of the child.
LAMB: Was she ever seen in public with William Borah...
Dr. CAROLI: Was she ever seen in public with William Borah?
LAMB: ...the senator? I mean, was that a relationship that people...
Dr. CAROLI: People knew about it, yes. I don't have a picture of them.
LAMB: Was it written--was it written about back in those days?
Dr. CAROLI: I would doubt that it was written about in a place that you and I would read about it because, in doing my work on first ladies, I realized that people--journalists or write--people didn't write about those things until, really, the 1960s. I mean, even Franklin's relationship with Lucy Mercer, you won't find that written about. The family letters are full of it, but you won't find it written about in books that you and I would read, or newspapers, or magazines until after both Franklin and Eleanor were dead. And I would suspect that's the same thing. I've never seen a--a--a reference to it earlier.
LAMB: Did you talk with Alice Longworth's daughter--granddaughter?
Dr. CAROLI: Yes, I did. Joanna Sturm lives here in Washington. She was very kind. I found--really, all the people that I asked--the Roosevelts must get tired of answering the same questions over and over again, but she talked about her grandmother. She told me some stories that--she talked about the very warm relationship. You know, because Alice had such a difficult relationship with her daughter, I think people thought she lacked all kindliness toward young people. And the granddaughter, Joanna Sturm, talked about how they--Alice did have her own routine. She was a late sleeper. She stayed up late at night. Probably not the ideal setting for a--a girl of 10 to grow up--you know, that's how old she was when she moved in. Probably not the best place for a granddaughter to grow up.
But Joanna told me about how Alice would take her on these summer trips to Wyoming, they'd take the train all the way across so that Joanna could go horseback riding. They traveled in Asia. It was--she said that, in many ways, she raised herself. You know, she had to get up in the morning and make her breakfast, with the help of the--the family maid. She didn't see her grandmother before 1:00 in the afternoon--but that it was, really, a very warm relationship and I think it's an important part of the Alice story.
I think, also, it's important to point out, you know, because Alice somehow is treated as a character unto herself--to point out that in the family letters, Alice is always--always viewed as very reliable. For example, her half-sister, Ethel, would say, `You could always count on Alice.' Somebody needed money, and for many years Alice had lots of money and she could, you know, help out. Or if you needed somebody to be there for a certain event, you could always count on Alice. But the other side of Alice Longworth was that she would make these outlandish statements about her father, or somebody else, and the others in the family would just sort of tear their hair and say, `Oh, what are we going to do about her?' So she's a multifaceted figure.
LAMB: You quote Stewart Alsop, Joe Alsop's brother, as saying, `Alice wasted her life being a spectator.'
Dr. CAROLI: Several people said something like that, and Stewart was one. I think the feeling was that with her wit, her intelligence, her connections, she could have run for office. She could have--she could have done--I know her granddaughter told me the thing that she hated most was do-gooders. You know, the idea of being a do-gooder did not appeal to Alice Longworth. She preferred to make the outlandish statement that people would--would quote. But I think a lot of people thought that she had the--she had the ability to make a bigger contribution, and somehow they couldn't just write that off.
I mean, certainly she'll go down in history as one of the most interesting people of the 20th century, but what did she do? You know, there's that famous comment by Stalin's daughter when she was at a party, and everybody gathered around Alice Longworth. And afterwards--after the party was over, Svetlana Stalin said to the hostess, `Who was that woman?' And they said, `Well, we'll explain. She was the daughter of the president of the United States.' And Svetlana said, `Well, what did she ever do?' you know.
And when you look at her record, what did--she made some wonderful statements, she contributed a lot of style, but there's no do-good, you know. And that way she and Eleanor--see, Eleanor and she were born only about seven months apart, Alice being seven months older, and there is--I mean, you couldn't find two women who took such different paths. I--I think they--for Eleanor, it was very important to make a contribution, to do good, to help other people. And for Alice, it was not important.
LAMB: Is it true that Nicholas Longworth and Franklin Delano Roosevelt's--in each case, their mother moved to Cambridge to live there while they went to school?
Dr. CAROLI: Yes. I've begun to think that that was a--a pattern for wealthy mothers, if they were widows. They have sons at college. Here you had Sara Delano gets tired of Hyde Park, and while Franklin is at--at Cambridge, Mass., she moves up and gets a place so she can be there to have dinner with him as often as possible. And Nicholas Longworth's mother did the same thing earlier--about five years earlier did the same thing. So I guess we need a bigger sample to say that it was a pattern, but if we look at those two cases, it does not seem to be unusual.
LAMB: What's this picture?
Dr. CAROLI: On the left?
Dr. CAROLI: That's Sara Delano Roosevelt and Franklin, down in the corner, and two of Franklin's children at Campobello. You know, Sara Delano Roosevelt is supposed to have said to the children--to Franklin's children, `Eleanor's not your mother. She just gave birth to you. I really raised you.' She did spend a lot of time with them. Comments like that must have annoyed Eleanor tremendously.
But one of the things I try to do in the book is show that there is another side to Sara Delano Roosevelt. For one thing, she's a much more interesting person than I had thought when I started the book. I mean, she grew up in -back and forth between China. She spent years in Europe. She's--going to school, she spoke perfect French and German. And her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren--I interviewed her great-granddaughter, for example, who said that she absolutely did not deserve the picture that she's been-- given. She's been described as--as a kind of anti-politics, a shrew who shouted at people and that, really, she was a loving--loving grandmother.
Of course, she was a snob, and maybe most of us would not have liked her for a--a mother-in-law, but she's far more interesting, I think, and--and far more likable than she's been pictured in--in history. Her granddaughter said that she thought--I should say her great-granddaughter said that she thought Sara Delano got the bad reputation as a result of the play "Sunrise at Campobello," where she's depicted as somebody who's so against politics, who shouts at people when she doesn't like them. And the great-granddaughter said, `You know, she never shouted. She was a woman of her class and time, but she never shouted. She was not a shrew. She didn't deserve to be shown as that.'
LAMB: You point out in the book that her first place that she bought was really Campobello and then later--I don't think it's in your book, but that FDR's first place that he was able to buy was Warm Springs, Georgia. Did they need to buy places because the original Hyde Park wasn't--didn't belong to either one of them, really? It was in the--the father had bought them?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, no, I don't think Sara Delano thought Hyde Park didn't belong to her. He had lived there with his first wife, Rebecca Howland, and that's one thing I was interested when I spent some time up at Hyde Park. She moved in as a second wife, a lot younger than he.
Dr. CAROLI: Sara. But she--she left the things of the first wife. You know, when I was shown around Hyde Park a few years ago, when I was working on the book, they said, `You know, this platter's from the first Mrs. James, and these are s--these are some pieces of silver,' and so forth. So, no, I think she--Sara Delano Roosevelt had so much confidence that is--I think it was--she thought as soon as she walked in a room, it was hers. I think Campobello was a retreat that served a different purpose. You know, it was a getaway. In those days before air conditioning, it must have been great to go up to that cold little island and--and just really get away from everything. Warm Springs, of course, was Franklin's hope for recovery after being paralyzed.
LAMB: One of the things they suggest is that he went to Warm Springs to get away from his mother because she only, supposedly, went there once.
Dr. CAROLI: She didn't go there very often, and Eleanor didn't go there very often, really. I mean, she went there some. But, no, th--they--they didn't. There are many--you know, there are many stories and many letters that I quote in the book about how scared Franklin was of his mother. Somebody--one of the cousins, the Alsop cousin, said that once Franklin had been out drinking very late and came in and didn't think he could make it down for breakfast, and his mother insisted that he show up--you know, here was a grown man with a wife and children, and his mother insisted that he come down, no matter what--how he felt, and be there for breakfast. So she--around him, she was quite--quite firm.
LAMB: What do you make of--and you mention in the book that in the big room up at Hyde Park there are two chairs around the fireplace; one for FDR, one for his mother, no chair for Eleanor?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, when you go in the dining room and Franklin's at one end, and his mother's at the other end, and Eleanor sits on the side...
LAMB: And what about the bedrooms upstairs?
Dr. CAROLI: The bedrooms upstairs is Franklin's big room, and there's Sara's big room, and then there's Eleanor's little narrow room. Y--you do have to wonder why Eleanor put up with that, don't you? Her cousin left a--a long kind of interview done in the 1950s and said that, in the family, they could never really figure out why Eleanor obeyed so much the mother-in-law. She didn't need to. What--what made her not rebel against that? It's--of course, one of the things I do in the book is talk about how very little Eleanor and Franklin lived with Sara. You know, there's that impression that Sara lived with them most of their married life, which isn't true because when they married--first married, they had an apartment, while he finished law school. Then they had a house in the '30s in Manhattan. And then he got--well, she built them then the house on 65th Street next door to hers, so there is that--but very soon after that, in 1910, he got elected to the state Legislature and they got a house in Albany, Eleanor and Franklin. Then in 1913 they moved down to Bamie's house, which they rented, in Washington. And then, of course, after he gets polio in 1921, there is that period when they pretty much lived with Sara, while he tries to--to get back his strength and his ability to walk. But very soon after that, Eleanor builds her own place at Hyde Park, Val-Kill, where she moves with her friends.
So, you do--if you added up the months, it wouldn't be very long, really, that Sara and Eleanor and Franklin lived side by side. She never really lived with them. It was always--I mean, they might have spent time with her at Hyde Park. In that sense, they lived there, but the houses on 65th Street were separate houses. Of course, they had connecting doors.
LAMB: Where did you get the idea to write a book about the nine Roosevelt women?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, when I was working on my book on first ladies in the '80s, I came across a statement from Eleanor saying that her Uncle Theodore never made an important decision without talking it over with his sister. And I thought, `That's pretty interesting,' but I didn't have time to follow up on it, and so, it was always kind of in the back of my mind. And so I decided--about 1990, I think, I did the first--started through the first letters.
You know, when you think about it, there are very few American political dynasties. There's the Adams, there--well, the Kennedy, and what other--so we've had a--one book on the Adams women. We've had a couple books on the Kennedy women. We've even had a book on the Rockefeller women, but we never had a book on the Roosevelt women. And I think the reason may be that they left so many letters. They must have been the most letter-writing family you can think of. I mean, thousands of letters. And it shows, I think, the very tight relationship in the family. I mean, there's one mother and daughter--Theodore's younger daughter, Ethel, lived on Long Island. Her daughter lived--her married daughter lived in Seattle. Every Sunday Ethel would sit down at her desk in Long Island and write a letter. The daughter got it on Tuesday--I guess the mail worked better then. And she would answer it on Wednesday, and the mother would get it on Saturday. And that correspondence goes on for about 35 years.
It's like--except when they'd--were together, when they vacationed together, spent time together. It's like a soap opera. You know, you read--those letters were all given--the mother's letters were all given to Harvard, and I can sit there and read them one after another. The correspondence between Corinne Robinson and her daughter, Corinne Alsop, it's just something you read--you know, in--in the archives you read one side. You read one set of letters, and then you read the other set. And you--and it's--it's really like a soap opera. You--I think we--we become--we feel like we're one of the family.
LAMB: Would the Tafts of Ohio, or the Harrisons of Ohio, qualify as dynasties?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, the Taft women would make an interesting book, I guess. I don't know what we--you know, the Rockefeller women--I mean, Rockefellers never had a president, so in a way they are not a political dynasty, although perhaps a--a wealthy dynasty in the sense of wealth. No, I--the Tafts, or the Har...
LAMB: William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison. There were lots of Harrisons.
Dr. CAROLI: Yeah, well, that--that would be because you have a grandfather and a grandson both presidents of the United States. Maybe that's a good idea to look at that.
LAMB: Y--if we were to follow you around during this period that you were doing your studying and reading, where would--where did you go to get your grasp of the Roosevelt family?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, most of the letters--and I really tried to--to get as much as I could from the letters. You know, letters tell a lot. They may sometimes mislead us, but when you're sitting there with the real thing, and you see the words that have been crossed out and--and, things that are written in the margin, and things that have been underlined, I mean, you--you form a strong impression of--of what's going on, why the person is writing what the person is writing.
So I spent--the biggest collection is at Harvard, the manuscript collection at Harvard. Most of the Theodore papers are there. That is, Theodore's and his two wives, and some of Alice's papers are there, and Bamie's papers, and Corinne's and so--there. Some are here at the Library of Congress. Some more of Alice's papers are here, and some of Theodore's son's picture--letters and the daughters-in-law are here. Some are at Hyde Park. I spent some time there. Then I spent a--a week in Tucson, Arizona, looking at the correspondence between Bamie--you know, there was a--a--a fashion among wealthy women to have very young men who were--they were very fond of, and they spent a lot of time with them. And Bamie was very friendly with a young man named Robert Ferguson. And the letters are very touching, and I don't know exactly what the relationship was, but it was very close. And those letters from Bamie to Robert Ferguson are in Tucson, so I used those.
LAMB: Have they ever been written about before?
Dr. CAROLI: Not that I know of, no. And that's where Bamie says that--she talks about how she felt when she had to give up Alice, when Alice was taken from her, when Theodore remarried and his second wife wanted to raise Alice, it--it--the letters are--and, also, I got the impression that Bob Ferguson was one of the most important people in Bamie's life ever. She didn't marry him. She married somebody else, and he married somebody else, and the relationship changes. But you think about Eleanor's relationship with Joe Lash, and people talk about--you know, it's not a mother-son, but it's the older woman, younger man, very close relationship. I think there's a pattern for that in that family.
Anyway, to continue your question about other places I went, I got very interesting papers from John Alsop, who's the son of Corinne Alsop, the younger brother of the columnists Stewart and Joe Alsop, the man who invented the term `egghead,' as you recall, in the 1952 election. He's the only one of those four children still alive. He lives in Connecticut. And when I walked in to interview him, I said--because I'd been looking for his mother's autobiography. I'd heard that his mother had left a--an autobiography, never published, but--but typed out, you know. And so I walked in and I said, `Do you have any idea of where your mother's autobiography is?' And he said, `It's here, and you can take it home with you.'
So he gave me that and some other--her diary, something she had written for Stewart Alsop. It's a--it's a wonderful source talking about what it was like in the early teens. She married in 1908 and lived in Connecticut. Her husband was a--a legislator and a tobacco farmer.
LAMB: And her name was?
Dr. CAROLI: Corinne Alsop.
LAMB: Married name?
Dr. CAROLI: Her--her married name was Corinne Alsop, yeah.
LAMB: And her other--Corinne Roosevelt...
Dr. CAROLI: Her--Corinne Robinson. Yeah. In other words, her mother was Corinne--yeah, all these Corinnes. That's what--so in the book I call her Corinine. Her mother was Theodore Roosevelt's younger sister, Corinne, the one who spoke at the Republican Convention, and so forth. She married Joe Alsop--not the columnist, but by the same...
LAMB: That was Joe Alsop. The columnist was their son.
Dr. CAROLI: Right, th--their first son. And--and went to live in this--on this tobacco farm in--outside Farmington, Connecticut, Avon.
LAMB: Did you go there?
Dr. CAROLI: Yes. I didn't actually--I mean, I saw the farm. I didn't actually go in the house.
LAMB: Did you go to Oyster Bay and Sagamore Hill?
Dr. CAROLI: Oh, yes. But they're--I didn't use the papers there. I mean, I've been--you know, I walked through the house to get a feeling of it and describe the rooms and so forth, but there aren't many papers there.
LAMB: Where else? Did you go to Campobello?
Dr. CAROLI: I've--yes, I was at Campobello.
LAMB: And did you get a sense--of all of the places that the Roosevelts had, which one was the--the most interesting. Most--you know, the--Hyde Park?
Dr. CAROLI: You know, the thing I would...
LAMB: Who lived the best?
Dr. CAROLI: Yeah, but I think--I came up with the idea that there's not a great deal of luxury in the way the Roosevelts lived. I mean, the house at Oyster Bay is kind of an unattractive house. You know, sort of added on here and added on there. It's certainly big, and there's certainly all the conveniences, but it's not as though it's this--I mean, it's not J.P. Morgan gold faucets, you know.
LAMB: How do you think the Roosevelts have done in history, as far as the public relations of history?
Dr. CAROLI: Well, I think most people would agree that they are responsible for two of the most outstanding presidents of the 20th century, if that's what you mean. S...
LAMB: But you--but you studied it. Has there been revisionism over the years about the Roosevelt women, or are you--are you changing the image of some of these women from what you saw? A--and--well, let me--I wrote down something. I--that's what I wanted to ask you, because how do you know what's right and wrong? You quote two well-known historians in here talking about Mattie...
Dr. CAROLI: Mittie, uh-huh.
LAMB: I'm sorry, Mittie...
Dr. CAROLI: Mittie, mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...who's the mother of...
Dr. CAROLI: Theodore, the president, mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...Theodore Roosevelt. Mittie, M-I-T-T-I-E.
Dr. CAROLI: Right.
LAMB: Edmund Morris--you quote him as saying, "She was small, vague and feminine to the point of caricature."
Dr. CAROLI: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And then you point--quote David McCullough as saying, "She's the most fascinating of them all."
Dr. CAROLI: Mm-hmm. And I would side with McCullough on that. And the reason I would do that is, I would look at the letter--I looked at the letters. As far as I know, nobody had really used her handwriting. Her early letters, before she married, are very definite. I mean, when she writes her husband-to-be in New York, she says, `I want you to arrive on this day and not a day sooner. And the marriage will take place here, and this is how it's going to be'--very definitely woman. It doesn't sound vague, and feminine and incompetent to me.
In her later years, just--though she didn't live, you know, to be 50, so when we say later years we're not talking--we're talking about her in her 40s. But her letters from Europe--when her husband was in New York and they were building a new house, the letters were also very definite, very--very confident: `We'll do it this way. I want this kind of carpet for my room.' People talk about her being extravagant. Well, her husband was one of the richest men in New York. She didn't really have to hold back. David McCullough says, for example, that she was arranging, I don't know, dozens of dinner parties, receptions for hundreds. She was moving her household twice a year, you know, because they had a winter house and a summer house. I mean, she doesn't sound too incompetent to me.
It's funny how things like this get into print and then somebody repeats them. Edmund Morris and--and somebody else picked it up, said, `Mittie wrote in a very delicate Italian hand.' I've seen lots of Italian handwriting, and there's nothing Italian about Mittie's handwriting. And I wouldn't even describe it as delicate. As a young person, it was fairly small, but it gets more definite as she gets older. So I--there is--I think in each case I've offered some revision. I hope, in Mittie, I--well, that's the--my stand on Mittie.
Certainly, Sara Delano I think I cover in a more--I--I show another side to her. I first got interested in her when I was doing work on another book on a settlement house leader in New York, and I realized that Sara Delano was giving money to that settlement house in 1902 when Eleanor didn't know what a settlement house was, you know. And that interested me, and I thought, `Well, she's not--you know, she's not the Sara Delano that I--that I thought I knew.' So over the next--until she lived--as long as she lived, Sara Delano was a big contributor to Greenwich House, a settlement to help immigrants in New York. So I hope I've revised a little bit her--Edith, I think I've seen a nastier Edith. When I wrote my book on first ladies, I--I described Edith as the perfect first lady, so organized, you know, a good PR job, but within the family--well, Alice's granddaughter said that she was mean as a snake to her own children, so I think there is some--some revision in each of the chapters.
LAMB: Talking about an Italian hand, the name Caroli is--where did you get the name?
Dr. CAROLI: From my marriage to my husband, Levio Caroli. And as I mentioned to you, it's only Caroli in the United States. In--in Italy, I have to say Caroli (Italian pronunciation) or they don't know who I am.
LAMB: Where did you meet him?
Dr. CAROLI: I met him in Venice.
Dr. CAROLI: A long time ago. More than 30 years ago.
LAMB: But wh--what were you doing in Venice?
Dr. CAROLI: I was there as a tourist and I was riding on the vaporetti in the Grand Canal. And I didn't speak mu--much Italian, but I do now.
LAMB: What was he doing?
Dr. CAROLI: He's a musician, and he lived in Venice.
LAMB: Well, what kind of an instrument or...
Dr. CAROLI: He plays oboe...
Dr. CAROLI: ...with the New York City Opera and the American Ballet Theatre.
LAMB: And did he move--did you marry over there, or did you...
Dr. CAROLI: In 1965, we came to New York and were married in New York, yes. And t--we've lived in New York since then.
LAMB: And what have you done in New York over these last so many years?
Dr. CAROLI: So it's more than 30 years, right. Well, he is a musician, obviously, and I've written and I got my PhD. Actually, we came to New York thinking that I would get my PhD and we would go back to live in Italy, but I got my PhD and we did not go back to live in Italy, although we go back twice a year to--to see people and do things, we--we've basically stayed in New York. And I've taught. I taught City University women's history and immigration history for a long time. And I've quit that now, and I'm writing full-time. But I've written on both immigration and women's history.
And I consider this book women's history because even though, in many ways, it's a wealthy family and I think--I--one of my friends said she didn't want to read the book because she was tired of reading about wealthy women. In many ways, their problems were just the same as everybody else's, and I do talk about some patterns that were different. Certainly class, in many ways, defines that family. I mean, their education; the women were educated in a--at home. None of them went to college until World War II, which I found really--I kept saying, `Why didn't they go to college?' And they said, `Well, th--you know, they didn't have to.' I even talk about class being important in explaining why Eleanor's teeth were never straightened.
You know, it's always been a--a sort of a mystery. She should have had braces, and she should have had them when she was about 11 years old. And the question's always been why her grandmother, who had plenty of money, did not arrange for that. And so I interviewed a couple of professors of orthodontics at Columbia, and they explained that there was a class bias in the early 1900s and that wealthy people thought that it was somehow low class to put braces on your teeth, because--it was OK to put braces on your legs. You know, your ankle, if you had a--an ankle that turned in, or--that was all right because you had to have strong...
LAMB: Or your whole--the spine problem.
Dr. CAROLI: Spine. I mean, the--the Roosevelts were big on braces everywhere else. Theodore's kids, seemed to me--A--Alice wore braces for a while, one of the sons wore braces for a while--maybe two on them. So they're big on braces for the legs and the rest of the body, but not on the teeth. And the explanation was that if you had to put braces on your teeth, it was--maybe you were trying to be a showgirl or an actress. You know, it was low class.
LAMB: Where did you personally grow up?
Dr. CAROLI: I grew up in Ohio in...
Dr. CAROLI: In the middle of Ohio right--Mt. Vernon, Ohio.
LAMB: Where'd you go to school--to college?
Dr. CAROLI: Oberlin. I went to school in northern Ohio at Oberlin College.
Dr. CAROLI: Majored in government. And then I went to Penn, University of Pennsylvania, and got a master's com--in mass communications. And then I did some--I studied in Europe, in Italy and in Austria, and then I came back and got a PhD in American civilization.
LAMB: And this is what book for you?
Dr. CAROLI: I think it's my eighth.
LAMB: Got another one in the works?
Dr. CAROLI: Oh, there'll be another one, but I'm not sure exactly what it's going to be. There's several women in there that were candidates, or the next generation. You know, one of the criticisms of the book has been that there's not enough on the--the next generation, as though the book--What is it, 486 pages or something?--is not big enough. And I would have liked to have done something with the following generations. Remember--there are some very interesting ones around: journalists, Susan Weld, the--the wife of a former governor of Massachusetts. I interviewed her for this book, and...
LAMB: She's a Roosevelt.
Dr. CAROLI: She's a Roosevelt, right. I would--I would really like to do something with those next generations, but the--I don't know how soon I'll get to it. And, besides, they get to be so many. You know, it's hard to--to find a focus.
LAMB: Whose idea was it for the cover?
Dr. CAROLI: That was my publisher's cover, but I like it a lot. It's a very nice cover, I think. They chose the pictures, too. My only regret is there's not a picture of Corinne Alsop on there, and she's a major character in the book, you know. So if I had been asked, I would have liked to get a picture of Corinne Alsop.
LAMB: Did you have one of her?
Dr. CAROLI: They didn't ask me. No, there--there are some inside, yes, but they didn't come across one to put--that they thought would make a good jacket.
LAMB: Very little time left, but how much tragedy in all these families? And you write about a lot of it.
Dr. CAROLI: Enormous tragedy. I mean, people who think the Roosevelts had it easy don't know--alcoholism. Somebody said if you look at the index under `alcoholism'--remember that both Eleanor Roosevelt and her--her cousin, Corinne Alsop--they were first cousins, not too far apart in age--all their lives dealt with alcoholic brothers that they--they were always bailing them out. Eleanor was always trying to get her--her--the families that her younger brother started, she was always trying to get them to gather and to see him. You know, he'd start a family and then he'd just go off and leave. And Corinne Alsop had so much trouble with her alcoholic brother. Alcoholism was certainly a big problem.
Also, health problems. I mean, Bamie's arthritis, and she was crippled for the last 10 years of her life. She had to be carried from room to room. Health was not--you know, Bamie wrote, in fact, to Corinne--Corinne had--her sister Corinne, Corinne Ro--Robinson, had something, like, 16 eye operations in the 1920s, always trying to--to--to improve her sight. And they s--Cor--Bamie wrote to Corinne once and said, `What did we do to deserve this very, very bad health?'--in spite of this, what we think of as energy and vitality that characterized the family.
LAMB: Once again, looking at the cover, our guest has been Betty Boyd Caroli. The book is "The Roosevelt Women." Thank you very much.
Dr. CAROLI: Thank you.
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