Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Cornelia Van Ness Roosevelt, 1810 ~ 1876

 

The niece of Mrs. Van Ness was universally admired and wielded a personal sway in the society of the national Capital in the winter of 1828-29. She was a Miss Cornelia Van Ness, the daughter of Cornelius P. Van Ness who was chief justice and governor of Vermont. Mrs. C. P. Van Ness, who was the sister-in-law of the wife of General Van Ness, occupied a position not less distinguished than that of her sister-in-law. Her husband was the governor of Vermont and she presided over his home sustaining her position with dignity and added an elevating social influence to its political supremacy. Her house was the resort of distinguished travelers from every part of the United States as well as Europe, and here General Lafayette was entertained when he revisited the United States. She accompanied her husband when he was sent as minister to Spain and made, while there, an enviable reputation for her countrywomen. Their daughter, Miss Cornelia Van Ness, while on a visit to her uncle, General Van Ness of Washington City, became one of the belles of Washington. While with her parents in Madrid she became conspicuous and made a most pleasing impression, receiving marks of honor and personal favor from the Queen. She spoke both French and Spanish with fluency.

After twenty months in the Spanish capital, she went to Paris on a visit, and here at the house of Mr. Reeves in the presence of a most distinguished gathering, among them General Lafayette, she was married to Mr. James J. Roosevelt of New York.

In September 1831, Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt returned to the United States and took up their residence in New York City. In 1840 Mr. Roosevelt was elected a member of Congress and the following year, accompanied by his family, he took up his residence in Washington City, and during the winters of 1842-43 Mrs. Roosevelt became prominent in society and they were among the first to introduce a new fashion of entertaining. During Washington's administration very simple forms of entertainment prevailed, and one of the rules for the President, established with the concurrence of Jefferson and Hamilton, was that the President was never to visit anyone but the Vice-President, or even to dine out. Most of the entertaining was done by the President and foreign ministers but in 1842 Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt brought about a social revolution by frequent and agreeable dinner and evening parties which President Tyler attended as an unassuming guest, and it is related by Mr. Ingersoll in giving an account of social matters in Washington at this time that he had the honor to play a rubber of whist with President Tyler, Lord Ashburton, ex-minister to England.

Many letters were written to Mrs. Roosevelt by statesmen of the greatest distinction in American political life on affairs of national importance, which serve to show the high esteem in which she was entertained and the respect for her judgment and opinions in matters wherein women were not supposed (at that time) to have opinions of value. Mrs. Roosevelt for many years was a leader. In society in the city of New York. Her entertainments were always marked by splendor and refined taste; her dignified manner, her intellectual conversation gave a charm to the social intercourse wherever she presided. She was a patron of many of the charitable affairs and institutions of New York and she aided conspicuously in the Sanitary Fair held in New York City.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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