Earlier this month presidential daughter Malia Obama celebrated her 16th birthday. She has lived in the White House since she was 11 years old. What is it like to be a teen living in the fishbowl that is the White House? Susan Ford, daughter of President Gerald Ford, was 17 when she lived in the White House and likened it to "a cross between a reform school and a convent." Lynda Johnson, daughter of President Lyndon Johnson, observed: "Children of men in public life--somewhat like the children of preachers--learn early that people expect them to be adults before they are even adolescents" (Angelo, Bonnie. "First Familes". HarperCollins, 2005). Some teens thumb their noses at living up to anyone's expectations, whether or not, their father is president of the United States. Alice Roosevelt was 17 when her father, Theodore Roosevelt, became president. When her father forbade her to smoke in the White House Alice went up on the roof of the residence. She carried a pet macaw around on her shoulder and had a pet garter snake named Emily Spinach. President Roosevelt said of his daughter: "I can do one of two things. I can be president of the United States or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both."
Several presidential daughters had White House weddings during their teens. Maria Monroe, President James Monroe's daughter, wed at age 17. Nellie Grant, who was 13 when her father, Ulysses S. Grant, became president married an Englishman in an elaborate White House wedding when she was 18 (excerpt from newspaper at right). Alice Roosevelt also had an elaborate White House wedding and true to her rebel nature worn a blue wedding dress. Susan Ford had her high school senior prom in the East Room of the White House.
While some presidential teens celebrated joyous occasions while residing in the White House others were not so fortunate. James Garfield, 15, witnessed his father gunned down by an assassin and endured his father's slow, painful demise from his wounds. Calvin Coolidge, Jr. was perhaps the most tragic teen who lived in the White House. While playing on the White House tennis court he developed blood poisoning from a blister on his foot because he was not wearing socks. Antibiotics probably would have saved young John but they had yet to be discovered. John spent several agonizing days in the hospital with his parents by his side, but to no avail, and he died on July 7, 1924 at the age of 16. (Photos of Grant wedding and Roosevelt postcard courtesy of Library of Congress).