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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 20 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; a long overdue tribute to one of the most important female figures in American history.
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By Jean on 01-22-17
I have long been curious about Marguerite (Missy) LeHand. This book “The Gate Keeper” came out in September of 2016 and has been on a stack waiting for me to read. Missy has been in every book about FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt that I have read. It is great to find a book all about her.
Missy went to work for FDR in 1920 when he was running for Vice President as his personal secretary and all around aide. She worked for him until her stroke. She was with him through his ordeal with polio. She helped him build the Warm Springs Center for Rehabilitation. She went to Albany from 1928 to 1932 when he was Governor of New York and of course she was still at his side in the While House from 1933 until her stroke in June of 1941. FDR paid for Missy’s medical care. FDR said Missy had a genius for getting things done.
Smith says Missy was a formidable multi-talented multitasker. When in the White House she oversaw a staff of 50 people and in-fact functioned as Chief of Staff, the only woman to do so. This freed up Harry Hopkins for meeting with people and to work the politics. Eleanor hated the role of hostess so Missy took on this role in her place and was extremely talented at it. Missy took care of all of FDR’s personal and business affairs and was his constant companion. Missy also had excellent relationship with Eleanor. There is no question Missy was a central figure in FDR’s personal and political life. Smith says there were rumors of an affair between them particularly when they lived and work on his houseboat named Larooco not long after he came down with polio. Smith goes on to say there is no proof of an affair. Missy dated William Bullitt in 1933; Bullitt went on to be FDR’s Ambassador to the Soviet Union.
The book is well written and meticulously researched. Apparently, Smith had access to letters, photos and notes not seen before. Smith is a journalist and the writing is in the style of a reporter. It is well documented and easy to read.
Bernadette Dunne does an excellent job narratoring the book. Dunne is a multi-award winning audiobook narrator.
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