The “fine biography” and “compelling personal story” (The Wall Street Journal) of arguably the most influential member of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, FDR’s de facto chief of staff, who has been misrepresented, mischaracterized, and overlooked throughout history…until now.
Widely considered the first—and only—female presidential chief of staff, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand was the right-hand woman to Franklin Delano Roosevelt—both personally and professionally—for more than twenty years. Although her official title as personal secretary was relatively humble, her power and influence were unparalleled. Everyone in the White House knew one truth: If you wanted access to Franklin, you had to get through Missy. She was one of his most trusted advisors, affording her a unique perspective on the president that no one else could claim, and she was deeply admired and respected by Eleanor Roosevelt.
With unprecedented access to Missy’s family and original source materials, journalist Kathryn Smith tells the “fascinating” (Publishers Weekly) and forgotten story of the intelligent, loyal, and clever woman who had a front-row seat to history in the making. The Gatekeeper is a thoughtful, revealing unsung-hero story about a woman ahead of her time, the true weight of her responsibility, and the tumultuous era in which she lived—and a long overdue tribute to one of the most important female figures in American history.
Journalist Smith (A Necessary War) grants readers an unusual insider's view of F.D.R.'s political career by profiling his longtime private secretary. Marguerite "Missy" LeHand, a young woman with a modest background, an agile intellect, a pleasant personality, and remarkable stenographer's skills, began working for F.D.R. in 1920, when he ran for vice president. Smith writes particularly well about F.D.R.'s struggle to bounce back from being struck with polio in 1921, explaining the disease and the origins of the Warm Springs, Ga., health spa that he frequented. LeHand was F.D.R.'s most constant companion during the 1920s, sparking rumors convincingly dismissed by Smith that they were lovers. The real core of the story is the White House years from 1933 until 1942, when LeHand helped create the vast New Deal bureaucracy. She decided who would see the president and when; today her title would be chief of staff. LeHand worked long hours but took time to enjoy the perks of the job, including a barrage of social invitations and fawning press coverage. Though Smith overstates her claim about LeHand's importance to F.D.R. and his work as president, she delivers a fascinating account of one woman's involvement in an important administration. Illus.