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September 12, 2016

The Gatekeeper: Missy Lehand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency

the-gatekeeperThe Gatekeeper: Missy Lehand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency

by Kathryn Smith

There’s hardly a shortage of books written about our nation’s 32nd president of the United States. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had an indelible impact on our nation’s history and many of his decisions still impact us on a daily basis.  Roosevelt was surrounded by many influential advisors, including his wife Eleanor Roosevelt. However, little has been written about one of his most important advisors:  his personal secretary Marguerite “Missy” LeHand.

Missy began working for FDR during his failed run for vice-president during the 1920 election. For the next 21 years she would be his closest companion through his years as governor of New York and eventually president. She later said privately that FDR was incapable of close friendships but there were few persons who knew the president as well as Miss LeHand. Her devotion to him was so great that she even participated in his private hobbies of stamp collecting and poker despite having little interest in either. Missy was always present for late afternoon cocktails and would share the latest gossip that the president so enjoyed.

She was an encouragement during the initial years of polio at Warm Springs or their trips on his houseboat off the Florida coast. There has always been speculation that she was more than a personal friend to FDR and the author does a great job of exploring the numerous theories from family and friends. However, one can’t deny that her close daily contact with him gave her more insight than anyone to a man typically listed in the top three of our greatest presidents.

Smith’s biography is the first book to focus exclusively on LeHand. As someone who’s read many biographies on FDR, there’s many photos that I had never seen and several personal stories are great at putting a human face on Roosevelt. This book is great for anyone wanting to learn more about FDR as Missy’s life was ultimately devoted to him but it also gives a fantastic look into the influence that Missy wielded during a critical point in our nation’s history.

Review By:  Brad Howell