Not many people are aware of the fact that before Franklin Delano Roosevelt became famous as the longest serving United States president, he was overshadowed by his first cousin Ellen Roosevelt, an American national tennis champion. Ellen’s and Franklin’s grandfather was Isaac Roosevelt, the patriarch who built a summer residence along the Hudson River in Hyde Park, New York. He called it Rosedale, and both grandchildren spent much time there. As a matter of fact Franklin Roosevelt made it his summer residence, after he became president, and the Roosevelt Historic Site is still there today.
Ellen Roosevelt won the United States Tennis Singles Championship in 1890 and, together with her sister Grace Roosevelt won the United States Doubles Championship in that same year. Three years later, in 1893, Ellen also won the United States Mixed Doubles championship with an unknown male partner.
In the 1890’s tennis was just in its initial stages as a commonly played sport. It was essentially a sport for the wealthy, and public tennis courts were probably non-existent. In fact the first United States Tennis Championship tournament was first held in 1889. So we must assume that tennis was a developing sport during the early 1890’s.
Ellen Roosevelt’s performances during the 1890’s were recognized by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. Ellen was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1975 posthumously. The Tennis Hall of Fame had been established in 1954, and by 2007 only 200 renowned tennis players from 19 countries had been inducted.
Apparently, during its early years the International Hall of Fame was largely a national Hall of Fame. But in 1986 the International Tennis Federation recognized the International Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. So being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame posthumously, and 85 years following Ellen’s first national championship, was definitely an unambiguous recognition of her tennis prowess.
Ellen Roosevelt’s father was John Roosevelt who lived on the Rosedale Estate during his entire life. Franklin Roosevelt’s father, James Roosevelt was the only brother, and sibling, of John Roosevelt. Since Franklin Roosevelt was an only child, the three only grandchildren of Isaac Roosevelt were Franklin, Ellen and Grace Roosevelt.
There is no information on whether Ellen Roosevelt was married, and if married if there were children. There also is no information on Grace Roosevelt, Ellen’s sister who was the co-winner of the 1890 United States Doubles Tennis Title. Ellen was born on August 20, 1868 and passed away, at age of 86, on September 26, 1954.
For more details on Ellen's Roosevelt family relationships see the appendix at the end of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's bio profile.
The web sites of Wikipedia and of the International Tennis Hall of Fame were the sources for the above information.
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