Theodore Roosevelt: Early Life & Education

Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn about the early life and the education of one of America's most popular presidents. We will highlight key figures, themes, and developments surrounding the early life of Theodore Roosevelt and we will see how his experiences shaped him.

Theodore Roosevelt: A Dynamic and Popular President

In recent political climates, it is not uncommon for roughly half the population to have unfavorable opinions regarding the current President of the United States, whoever they may be. For us today, it may be difficult to imagine a U.S. President being overwhelmingly popular. However, that was the case for President Theodore Roosevelt: he was adored by the American people and was one of the most popular presidents ever. Mount Rushmore bears witness to this fact: Roosevelt is carved into stone alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

Theodore Roosevelt was a popular and dynamic American president.

Roosevelt was a dynamic and charismatic president who was profoundly shaped by his early life experiences. His early life was not without pain and heartache, however. Perhaps it was even the painful early life experiences that made him into the robust man that he became. In this lesson, we will be learning about the early life and education of America's 26th president. Let's dig in!


Theodore Roosevelt was born in 1858 in New York City. This is important because it is in New York politics that Roosevelt would make a name for himself. Theodore was the second of four children of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. and his socialite wife, Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, or ''Mittie''. The Roosevelts were a fairly well-to-do family; they loved their children deeply and provided them with all things necessary for success in life.

As a young boy, Theodore suffered from debilitating asthma. He was a timid, shy, and physically weak boy who could hardly be considered athletic. While his mother tended to ''baby'' him, his father would not have it. His father was determined to push him to his physical limits in order that he might grow into a strong, tough man. At the insistence of his father, Theodore began weightlifting and later took up boxing. As a teenager, Theodore put on muscle and incredibly overcame his debilitating case of asthma. As an adult, Roosevelt would be known for his hunting excursions, love of sport, and other ''manly'' interests.

Next door to Theodore lived a girl named Edith Carow. Edith and Theodore practically grew up together from the time of their births. As young children, they were best friends and constant playmates. As the years passed, their friendship would blossom into love.

Education and First Marriage

Theodore had been home-schooled as a young child, but in 1876 entered Harvard College. He had always been interested in natural science, and he pursued this field at Harvard. He excelled in both academics and athletics, as he was involved in rowing, boxing, literary clubs, and other student organizations. Theodore thrived at Harvard and was shaped by his success there. After graduating from Harvard in 1880, Theodore enrolled at Columbia Law School.

Theodore Roosevelt in 1883.
Young TR

In addition to a love for nature, Theodore had a profound love of history. While at law school, Theodore spent much time and energy studying naval strategy, specifically the War of 1812. This would prove useful as he would later become the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy. Theodore's love of history and politics prompted him to drop out of law school and pursue a career among the ''governing class.''

While at Harvard, Theodore had fallen in love not with his old childhood playmate but with someone else: socialite Alice Hathaway Lee. In 1880, on his 22nd birthday, Theodore married 19-year-old Alice.

Alice Hathaway Lee, the first wife of Theodore Roosevelt.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account