The first biography 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 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 and the Roosevelt children.
With unprecedented access to Missy’s family and original source materials, journalist Kathryn Smith tells the captivating 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.
About the Author
Kathryn Smith is a journalist and writer with a life-long interest in FDR and his circle. She has lived all her life in Georgia and South Carolina, and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Georgia. She worked as a daily newspaper reporter and editor, and has been the book columnist for the Anderson Independent Mail for twenty years. She has been involved through Rotary International in the worldwide effort to eradicate polio, called PolioPlus, and she has lectured and spoken on FDR’s leadership in that arena. Smith is the author of an oral history of World War II told by living veterans and civilians called “A Necessary War.”
"[A] fine biography....Ms. Smith has filled a small gap in Roosevelt historiography with this compelling personal story." — The Wall Street Journal
"Highly readable....Smith's biography represents her subject perfectly." — Washington Post
“Kathryn Smith’s The Gatekeeper offers a contrasting glimpse of Roosevelt, a personal view of the man’s humanity rather than his geopolitical prowess...it is quite successful in cracking the emotional steel shell the president constructed around himself.” — The Buffalo News
Kathryn Smith’s The Gatekeeper is a vivid, much-needed life of one of the least-known but most consequential figures in FDR’s immediate circle, Missy LeHand. Anyone interested in Roosevelt, the New Deal or the path toward global war will want to snap it up. — Geoffrey C. Ward, author of A First Class Temperament: The Emergence of FDR
“For too long historians and the public have remained unaware of Marguerite “Missy” LeHand’s key importance role in the personal and political life of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Kathryn Smith has uncovered new evidence showing how FDR’s constant companion for twenty years helped him overcome polio, win the presidency, and lead the nation. This is a book for Roosevelt scholars, fans of FDR, and lovers of history.” — Frank Costigliola, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, University of Connecticut
“For the two decades between 1921 and 1941 no one spent more time with Franklin Delano Roosevelt than Marguerite 'Missy' LeHand. From modest Irish Catholic Boston roots, Missy rose to become an indispensable intimate confidante, adviser, chief of staff and exclusive conduit to the most consequential personality of the Twentieth Century. No woman has ever wielded more influence in a presidential administration. Likewise, Missy was admired and respected by Eleanor, the Roosevelt children, and every other key member of the Roosevelt administration. Because of a severely disabling stroke at just forty-five years of age, Missy’s contribution to history has been marginalized and nearly forgotten. This definitive biography, published with the authority of her family and containing much information never before revealed, is long overdue,and will finally afford Missy the credit she deserves as one of the most important female figures in American History.” — Dr. Steve Lomazow, assistant professor of neurology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, author of FDR's Deadly Secret (Public Affairs, 2011), and Trustee at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library.
"Behind every great president is a small group of advisors selflessly devoting themselves to the task of making their president as successful as possible. Missy LeHand was one the people who enabled Franklin D. Roosevelt to become the FDR of history. Kathryn Smith makes a brisk and compelling case that Missy LeHand was one of the most important women of the twentieth century." — Bob Clark, Director of Archives, Rockefeller Archives Center; former Supervisory Archivist and Deputy Director, FDR Presidential Library
“Missy LeHand was one of the most powerful women of 20th-century Washington, yet since World War II her name has faded from public awareness. Kathryn Smith has restored LeHand to her proper place with a rich and poignant biography, deeply researched and thoroughly absorbing.” — James Tobin, author of The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency
"In The Gatekeeper, Kathryn Smith does full justice to the fascinating and heartbreaking life of Missy LeHand, who rose from a working-class background to become a close confidant and trusted adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt and one of the most influential figures in his administration. Although Missy’s total devotion to FDR made her indispensable to him, she sacrificed much in the process, including other personal relationships and, ultimately, her life. Thanks to Smith,she is — at long last — getting the recognition she deserves." — Lynne Olson, author of Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941
"LeHand has been given her rightful due --- a lively, intimate, exhaustively researched biography." — Book Reporter
"A much-needed, balanced...marvelous portrait of a professional woman ahead of her time whose relationship with FDR sheds new light on his personality and decisions." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“A fascinating account of one woman’s involvement in an important administration.” — Publishers Weekly
"Engaging." — Library Journal
"A well-written, informative, and valuable biography, and an important addition to the many faceted and perpetually fascinating Roosevelt story." — Booklist
"Kathryn Smith offers a superb portrait of Missy LeHand the woman who ran the White House for F.D.R. More than the story of Missy it is the story of a remarkable team of characters who helped make history at a time of peril, domestic and foreign, for the United States. This volume makes an invaluable contribution to making the critical Roosevelt years come alive. The Gatekeeper is a must read."