Blog by Kathryn Smith, author of “The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency.”
Thanks, Cathy, for letting me be your guest blogger today.
Missy LeHand was one of Somerville’s most famous residents in the 1920s-1940s, when she was the private secretary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Especially during her White House years, 1933-1941, every visit to her family home at 101 Orchard Street generated an interview by the Boston newspapers. They talked about what she was wearing—she was known for her style—how she spent her leisure time and what it was like working for FDR. Missy was always willing to give an interview, but she never really told the reporters anything about FDR, and always insisted her job was not political. She lied. She was one of FDR’s most trusted advisors and he welcomed her opinions and sound judgement on a variety of issues. For all intents and purposes, she was his White House Chief of Staff. Missy suffered a major stroke in 1941 when she was just 43 years old and came home permanently after that. When she died on July 31, 1944, her funeral at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church was attended by 1,200 people, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Joseph P. Kennedy. She is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery under a marker bearing a quote from FDR: “She was utterly selfless in her devotion to duty.”
The first biography of Missy LeHand, “The Gatekeeper,” will be published Sept. 6 by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. I will be speaking about this remarkable woman on Friday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. at Porter Square Books in Cambridge. Please come and get an autographed copy of the book!